Anonymous asked: How important is it to use a dental dam for women having sex with women? Can cold sores (oral herpes I suppose) be passed to a partner's genitals?
Cold sores or oral herpes is caused by the herpes simplex-1 virus (HSV-1), which is different from the virus that causes genital herpes (HSV-2).
The most important thing you should know:
HSV-1 can be transmitted from mouth to genitals, and HSV-2 can be transmitted from genitals to mouth. They are two different viruses, but they can be transmitted to both parts of the body. When you have HSV-1 on your genitals, you have “oral herpes” on your genitals. When you have HSV-2 on your mouth, you have “genital herpes” on your mouth.
Though you are more likely to transmit either during an outbreak—when the virus is active—both can be transmitted whenever contact is made. If you are having a sexual encounter with someone who carries HSV-1 or HSV-2, it is advised to use a dental dam.
Also, symptoms for both viruses are often confused for symptoms of something else. Open sores can increase the risk of transmitting other STIs, including HIV, which is why it’s best to use a dental dam if you or your parter a) are not monogamous, b) have not been tested for STIs in the last six months, or c) are unsure of you or your partner’s STI status.
And a quick fact: The CDC estimates that 1 in 5 people have HSV-1, or oral herpes. Most people are exposed to it during childhood.