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How big an issue is herpes?

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    Hi guys - as the title suggests. Some background information is below. Any advice would be really appreciated, particularly from people who have been in similar situations before.

    I'm a 23 year old guy who has never really bothered much with dating, and I've recently been dating a 22 year old girl. The first couple of times we went home together she seemed quite reluctant to have sex, which I was totally OK with and I didn't want to pressure her into anything. Then the next time she said it was her time of the month, which again I totally understood.

    The fourth time we went home together we were making out and I tried to take things further, but she grabbed my hand and stopped me. She looked really upset and when I asked what was wrong she told me she'd had some trouble "down there" recently while on holidays and went to a doctor abroad, who said it looked a lot like genital herpes. They didn't give her a test though, and when she got back to the UK she did a test, but by then the symptoms had gone and the test result came back negative.

    I was a bit shocked, but I was reluctant to say anything in the heat of the moment because she's such an amazing girl and I was getting along so well with her, so we just cuddled for the rest of the evening. We've kept chatting and have seen each other a few times since, but haven't had sex yet (she's given me quite a few hand jobs though). In total I've seen her about 8 times and we've been chatting almost every day for a couple of months.

    We went home together last night and made out for ages but didn't have sex. We were chatting about our feelings - we're both crazy about each other and from what she said, if I asked her to be my girlfriend I'm pretty sure she'd say yes. We're both recent grads and have both got good jobs in London, so I honestly could see myself spending my future with her.

    The only issue is that she probably has herpes, and if I have sex with her it's pretty likely I'll get it too. Should I just end things with her and find someone who doesn't have an STD? My concern if I do this is that I'll never find anyone else like her (she's by far the nicest girl I've ever met). On the other hand, if I have a relationship with her I'll probably get herpes, and if the relationship ends (let's face it, the chances are that it will end at some point in the future) I'll have to tell every new girl I meet that I have herpes for the rest of my life.

    The logical person inside me tells me to end things with her, but my heart tells me that she's amazing and to have a relationship with her. Has anyone got any advice?

    There are two strains of HSV (Herpes simplex virus). Have you ever had a cold sore, typically on the lips? If so, you've already got at least one of them.

    You would not be alone in that: the large majority do, often caught as children.

    The only thing that makes (some) people go 'OMG genital herpes' is that the drugs companies who came up with a treatment - for cold sores caused by either strain - in the 1970s found that no-one was interested in buying it until they came up with a campaign that portrayed genital herpes as The.. Worst.. Thing.. Ever. The attitudes that their marketing created are still around, decades after things like HIV showed that there really worse things than having a cold sore appear with decreasing frequency.

    HSV is very common. Around 70% of the population are believed to carry the type 1 strain which prefers to live in the mouth and is the usual cause of cold sores. The type 2 strain typically lives below the belt and causes genital herpes, however BOTH strains can cause genital herpes. For example, type 1 can be transmitted to the genitals through oral sex. The general rule of thumb is that each strain likes to live in their preferred location. When away from that it is less likely to recur, so type 1 genital herpes is usually less severe than type 2. If this girl presents further symptoms it may be a good idea for her to get tested again and determine which strain it could be. Tests can sometimes be inaccurate and give false negatives.

    In terms of cures, Herpes has no known cure.... There are drugs you can take which lessen the frequency/severity of the outbreaks other than that if she definitely has it its something you'll both have to square with some day.

    As others said though there are two varients of it, neither has a cure and if said out break is on her lady parts the odds are it's HSV-2. Seeing as this virus can be spread via skin contact with an infected person with or without an outbreak i'd advise you bolt if you dont want it too.

    My view is that there is massive unnecessary herpes concern. The virus is ubiquitous, many people have natural immunity, its not serious only very unpleasant (and that is mainly just the first outbreak) and the risk of transmission is reduced if you don't have an active outbreak. I think it is very much to her credit that she told you up front. My gf had herpes and I have never caught it to my knowledge and it has had no effect on her after the first time. So perhaps go to the sexual health clinic together to get some advise or if she is symptom free just get on with it.
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