Expert Answers Factual Answers to Your Sexual Health Questions
I know I was exposed to the herpes virus. When should I get tested?
I was exposed to herpes, got tested and found out that I’m negative for the virus. Should I get tested again to be sure I am not infected? In the meantime, can I still have sexual contact?
Terri Warren, MS, RN, ANP on August 25, 2011
Thanks for your question. It sounds like you’re on the right track to taking care of your health. I’ll try to help you understand where to go from here...
First, do you know what type of herpes you were exposed to? There are two types of herpes simplex virus...type 1 and type 2 (HSV-1 and HSV-2). A herpes test looks for antibodies that your body makes if there’s an infection...if you know what herpes type you were exposed to, it will make the testing process simpler because you’ll know what antibodies to look for.
That said, the type-specific HSV-1/2 IgG blood test screens for both HSV-1 and HSV-2 antibodies to cover all your bases.
When you should get tested or re-tested for herpes? The vast majority of people who test positive for herpes antibodies will do so three to four months from the time of possible infection, although sometimes the test will turn positive as early as four weeks after exposure. (Note: people who have HSV-1 infection already, and then become infected with HSV-2, will take a little bit longer to make antibodies to HSV-2 than a person who doesn’t have HSV-1.)
For more information about when to get tested, see our STD Testing Windows Guide.
In the meantime, until you’ve been tested again and know your results, I would advise you to be careful about sexual contact...either don’t have oral, vaginal or anal sex between now and then, or be sure to practice safer sex to reduce the risk of passing the virus to a partner.
To learn more about herpes, you might want to visit our Expert Guide to Herpes 1 + 2.
I wish you good luck and good health.
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.