This is a question we see a lot on our Herpes Opportunity community forums. “How did I get herpes? My partner said they didn’t have it. How is this possible?”

Here are a few possible answers to consider …

“How did I get herpes? My partner said they didn’t have it. How is this possible?”
  1. Your partner had herpes, but didn’t get tested, assuming they didn’t have herpes because they never saw any herpes outbreaks or symptoms.
    This is a big assumption a lot of people make around their sexual health, which is based on our culture of denial. Not many people are very proactive about going to get tested after/before new sexual partners. A lot of people just assume if they have something, then they’ll start showing symptoms for it. They think that if there aren’t any symptoms, then they must not have an STD. Wrong! This is part of the reason why 70-80% of people who have herpes aren’t aware that they have it! Also, know that 20% of people who have herpes will never develop any visual symptoms, but that herpes is still spreadable via asymptomatic viral shedding.
  2. Your partner had herpes, went to get tested, asked to be tested for “everything” but wasn’t actually tested for herpes.
    Yes, this happens a lot, believe it or not. The CDC doesn’t see herpes as a societal health risk, so it’s not included in the standard STD panel. So when people request to be tested for “everything,” they need to tack on “… including herpes.” A lot of people have gone through with getting a “full” STD test (that didn’t test for herpes), then getting a clear bill of health, and (incorrectly) assume that they don’t have any STD, when in reality they do have herpes but just unwittingly wasn’t tested for it.
  3. Your partner had herpes, and got a blood test for herpes within the 3-month window that herpes antibodies take to get to detectable levels.
    Blood tests won’t give you an accurate result if you have been exposed to herpes within 3 months of administering the test. That’s because on average, it takes 3 months for the body to build up enough antibodies in the blood stream that the herpes blood tests can actually pick up. This is known as a “false negative” result. You can actually have the herpes virus in your body, but your antibodies aren’t numerous enough for the text to read them. The test doesn’t look for the actual herpes virus; it looks for the antibodies.
  4. You had herpes before this new partner, but weren’t aware of it (because of the reasons mentioned above) and only had an outbreak now after you had sex with this new partner.
    The timing of when people have herpes outbreaks differ depending on a whole host of things: What strain of herpes you got (HSV-1 or HSV-2), how healthy of an immune system you have, where you were initially exposed to herpes on your body (the thinner the skin membrane, the more permeable it is to the virus), etc. Some people don’t even realize that their first herpes outbreak was an actual outbreak (they may assume it was an ingrown hair or just an itchy pimple). Some people have a first outbreak within the first few weeks of exposure, but for others (myself included) it can take many years between exposure and an actual outbreak.

Ultimately, when it comes down to it, trying to figure out how you got herpes might just drive you crazy and lead to a whole host of possible conclusions. If you find yourself at a loss and spinning your wheels, best thing to do is accept that you now have it, and figuring out exactly how you got it won’t change that fact. You have herpes. Now starts the process of accepting it and moving on with your life. Talking about it with people who understand you on our Herpes Opportunity community forums is tremendously helpful. And if you’re ready to take the next step of healing, consider attending our next Herpes Opportunity weekend workshop. herpes forum

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