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Dr. Andrea Pinto Lopez

Jul 06, 20227 min read

Condom Effectiveness Against Herpes

The information provided herein does not constitute an expert or medical advice, nor intended to replace such advice.


Herpes is caused by the herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1) and herpes simplex virus type 2 (HSV-2). Although HSV-2 is responsible for most cases of genital herpes, HSV-1 can also be transmitted during oral sex.

Using condoms correctly is one of the best ways to protect yourself against numerous STDs, but what is the effectiveness of condoms against herpes? Keep reading to find out.

FAQ: Condom effectiveness against herpes

Can a condom protect you from herpes?

Condoms protect against herpes to a certain extent. However, it’s important to keep in mind that herpes transmission doesn’t require penetrative sex. According to the World Health Organization, herpes can be transmitted through contact with genital or anal surfaces, skin, sores or infected fluids. Additionally, HSV-2 can be transmitted from skin that looks normal, although the risk is much higher when there are active sores present.

According to NAM Aidsmap, increasing the correct use of condoms can reduce your risk of acquiring HSV-2 by at least 26%. However, you can still get genital herpes if you use a condom.

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Can herpes be transmitted with a condom?

Yes. As mentioned above, using condoms can’t fully protect you against herpes transmission. However, using a condom correctly can still decrease your risk of getting herpes. And more importantly, condoms can also protect you from many other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), such as HIV/AIDS, gonorrhea, chlamydia, and syphilis.

In order to avoid catching herpes with a condom, you should avoid having sex with a partner who is currently having an active herpes outbreak, and avoid intimate contact until their sores have fully healed. You should also get tested for STDs regularly.

Always keep in mind that even if you’re using an additional contraceptive (such as the pill or an IUD), condoms are the only birth control method that can protect you against STDs.

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Can you get herpes from protected oral sex?

Just like with other types of sex, you can still get herpes from protected oral sex. However, your risk will be much lower during protected versus unprotected oral sex. As Planned Parenthood reminds us, using condoms and dental dams during oral sex is the best way to prevent the transmission of different oral STDs. You should also avoid giving oral sex to your partner if they have active genital herpes sores.

Can condoms cause herpes outbreaks?

No, you can’t get herpes from using a condom. Friction during intercourse can trigger herpes outbreaks for some people, but the condom itself isn’t the cause of the outbreak. According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, other herpes triggers can include:

  • Viral or bacterial infections
  • Stress
  • Menstrual periods

Best condoms for herpes prevention

Latex condoms are a great option for herpes prevention. Female condoms are also a good option, and since they cover a larger surface than male condoms, they could be even more effective. It’s very important to use a condom everytime you have sex if you have herpes, whether you’re having an active outbreak or not.

If you’re allergic to latex, you can also use condoms made of polyurethane or polyisoprene. Lambskin condoms aren’t effective for STD protection, and they should only be used to prevent pregnancy in monogamous relationships where both partners have been tested for STDs. You can learn more about convenient, affordable, and easy at-home STD testing at STDWatch.com.

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Herpes simplex virus - who.int

Condoms reduce genital herpes risk for both men and women - aidsmap.com

How is herpes prevented? - plannedparenthood.org

Genital Herpes - hopkinsmedicine.org

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