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Can you get genital herpes from oral sex...with a prostitute?
I’m a 22-year-old male. I always had protected sex with only one girlfriend. Then, six months ago, I got drunk at a bachelor party and received oral sex from a prostitute. I’ve developed red bumps with white heads that come and go in the area around my penis. The most recent bump is larger, darker red and filled with pus (like a large pimple) and is now getting smaller and a little crusty around the edges. I also have similar bumps on the edges of my eyelids and around my mouth. I’m concerned...what do you think?
Terri Warren, MS, RN, ANP on September 15, 2011
Thanks for your question. Without a visual examination and some tests, it’s hard to know what your symptoms indicate...but I’m happy to answer your questions and offer you some suggestions about possible causes of your discomfort.
Can you get genital herpes from oral sex? Yes. And if you were to contract genital herpes from oral sex by a prostitute, it would likely be herpes type 1 (HSV-1) because that's the herpes type that is most often given off from the mouth. Your risk might be lower, however, if you’ve ever had a cold sore on your lip. Why? Because then it’s likely that your body already has an immune response to HSV-1 that would likely prevent a genital HSV-1 infection from happening.
What else could your genital bumps be? It’s possible that your symptoms indicate a bacterial infection, a fungal infection, or a viral infection...including a herpes infection.
To get the most accurate diagnosis about the cause of your symptoms, I would encourage you to get tested. One option is a specific kind of herpes test called a PCR swab test. For this test, you’ll need to see your doctor the next time a bump shows up. Your doctor will take a sample from the sore to analyze it. For best results, go in right away when you first see the bump.
If you don’t have any sores present, I would recommend a type-specific IgG blood test which screens for antibodies to both types of herpes simples virus, HSV-1 and HSV-2. Again, if you have had cold sores, your HSV-1 antibody test will probably be positive, so that should come as no surprise. To learn more about herpes symptoms and testing, as well treatment and prevention, you might want to check out our Expert Guide to Herpes 1 + 2.
I also encourage you to get tested for other common STDs. If you do test positive for herpes or any other STD, I would advise your girlfriend to get tested, too, so that both of you can know each other’s STD status for sure...and get treated, if necessary.
As for the bumps around your eyelids and mouth...that’s hard to say. One possibility is that you’re noticing normal bumps that were always there. Sometimes when people notice something out of the ordinary, they begin observing other parts of their body more closely, too...so there’s a chance that you’re seeing something harmless for the first time that’s been there all along.
In any case, your eyes and mouth are not at risk of infection from your encounter with a prostitute. But I would still encourage you to have these symptoms checked out by a healthcare provider.
You might also want to consider talking to someone about the stress this situation has caused you. It might be helpful to talk about your situation with a therapist or trusted friend who can help you to cope with what happened, and get on track to find some concrete answers from another healthcare provider. I would also encourage you to talk with your girlfriend about what happened, and practice safer sex going forward.
I hope this information has been helpful to you, and that you’ll take the next steps toward resolving your symptoms.
Warren is a Nurse Practitioner and owner of Westover Heights Clinic in Oregon. She is a renown expert and author in the field of genital herpes research, diagnosis and treatment. Warren was educated at Oregon Health and Sciences University and the University of Portland.