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No outbreaks - possible false negative?

A little background (OK a lot):
I’m a male in my late 50’s. I’ve been “running” from HSV-1 and HSV-2 for 10 years since my divorce. I’ve “mostly” had monogamous relationships in that time. I’ve always tested for STD’s (including Herpes) before becoming sexually intimate with my girlfriends and after the relationships ended. My relationships usually lasted a year or more. Most of the tests were performed months after the relationships ended. Several of the girls have had HSV-1 and one with HSV-2. I’ve been tested at least 10 times. But I’ve ALWAYS tested negative for both.  My current relationship is 3 years old. Prior to us being sexually active we both got tested. I was negative and so was she. But in November 2019 she tested positive for HSV-2. I got tested several times between then and June 2020 with negative test results each time. In July 2020 I tested again, this time with positive results for HSV-2. My numbers were 3.2. Turns out my girlfriend didn’t specifically ask to be tested for Herpes. Her doctor took it upon herself to NOT test my girlfriend for Herpes because “everyone has it”. I was so pissed to say the least. Her doctor failed her patient in my opinion. Needless to say, this has been the most depressing period of my life. We are still together by the way.

I haven’t had a breakout or other symptoms. We don’t always have intercourse , but if we do, we always use condoms. Not to be too graphic but we usually use our hands. She always washes her hands before touching me and I never touch myself after touching her.

So here’s my question:  I want to get the Western Blot test. What are the chances that I could actually be negative? I’m holding out hope that I am negative.  Any input would be greatly appreciated!
1 Responses
207091 tn?1337709493
COMMUNITY LEADER
There is a chance you could have a false positive. Anything below a 3.5 on an hsv2 IgG (and please, check to make sure it's an IgG that you were tested with) needs to be confirmed. There are also people who have had no symptoms that have false positives with higher than a 3.5.

As to hsv1, it's kind of futile to try to run from that. By our 50s - my age group as well - easily half the population has it, if not more. The hsv1 IgG test misses 30% of infections. Has it missed yours? The Western Blot will tell you, but if you don't actually have it, try not to get too paranoid about it. You'll miss out on some fantastic people if you do.

How was your partner tested? She needs to get her test results. She could easily have a doctor who doesn't understand that false positives happen, and her doctor - though she pissed you off - is correct that testing often leads to more harm than good. I disagree with the reasons why, though. False positives are very common, and if you have no symptoms, there's not a huge reason to test.

If your partner has hsv2, and you don't, you can still enjoy a sex life with her. Here are transmission stats for hsv2:

Ghsv2 transmission, female to male, over the course of a year, assuming sex 2-3 times a week (I use "female" and "male" for brevity, but I mean nothing more than the parts you have. Your gender identity is yours.):

Only avoiding sex during an outbreak - 4-5%

Adding condoms OR daily suppression - 2-3%

Adding condoms AND daily suppression - 1-2%

You can do all things sexual that you like.

You're in your late 50s. You've made it this far in your life. Don't let herpes scare you. Obviously, no one wants it, and I'd never encourage anyone to just get it, but herpes isn't nearly as scary as you think it is, and it's no reason to not have a fulfilling sex life with someone you care about and enjoy.

Also, a final note - She is never infectious from her hands, nor would touching yourself after touching her infect you if you don't have it. Please consider how you may be making your partner feel with all the hand washing. If she does have hsv2, are you making her feel dirty or shameful? Like a walking, talking, infectious biohazard? I've had hsv2 for a really long time, and she may not feel that way, but I probably would if my partner took those kinds of steps to be intimate with me.

If you have told her that this has been the most depressing period of your life (which congratulations, by the way - that means you've had a blessed life, sincerely, if this is the worst thing), then she may feel terrible.

I don't say this to shame you, but to just point out something that you may be doing unintentionally.

Do you have a doctor who will give you the Western Blot? I think it's a good idea that you get one. I think you need to know for sure. If your doctor won't give you one, you can get one from Terri Warren - https://westoverheights.com/getting-a-herpes-western-blot/
5 Comments
auntiejessi,

I’m following up to let you know that I finally received the results from my Western Blot test.

First, my initial test last year that showed positive was an IgG blood test with a 2.15 value for HSV2. Well below the threshold of 3.5, although as you’ve indicated, higher values could be in the false positive range as well. And 1.08 for HSV1, which is designated as Equivocal. I did not follow up with a second test for HSV1 as stated on the Equivocal lab results.

Based on the recommendations here, I decided to get the Western Blot test, which isn’t easy to get by the way. Seems like most doctors are unaware or unwilling to provide an order for it. It’s also difficult (but not impossible) to find a lab to take the blood and prepare it. Luckily, with some persuasion, my family doctor was willing to sign the order, and I was able to find a lab to draw and prepare my blood sample.

After waiting 8 weeks and after multiple calls to UoW labs (they wouldn’t speak to me at all because of HIPAA rules) I finally received my results. Both NEGATIVE for HSV1 and HSV2.

I’m relieved to get the results and would highly recommend those in the =<3.5 range get the Western Blot test, regardless of the difficulties (and cost).  I hope my story and others on this forum encourages others to take the same steps.

As far as the walking, talking, infectious  biohazard comment, the hand washing was her choice to begin with.  My intention is not to make her feel like that, but in the same sense, we both agree to be as careful as possible. And my comment in the first post was for explanation and to see if this was enough to keep from transmitting the virus if it was a false positive. But I appreciate your pint of view on it, so thank you.

Anyway, great forum and thank you for your willingness to contribute to those of us who are scared, worried or haven’t had enough time to work thru/process this.
I am very happy to hear that you got the Western Blot test, and that it was negative. It is awful that it's so hard to get one, but I'm thrilled you were able to persuade your doctor to do yours. That means the next patient may have it a bit easier. You helped yourself, and others.

8 weeks is insane, too, but I've heard they're backed up with covid, which doesn't make it suck any less.

Has your partner done any investigations into her test results? Are they true positives?

Thank you for coming back to update. You had a higher false positive than some others, and updating always helps other readers. I really appreciate it.

Best of luck to you. :)
Hello auntiejessi,
I’m following up with a few questions and hoping you can advise me on a few things.

My girlfriend and I are still together. Seeing how she’s positive and I’m negative, what is the best mention of intimacy to keep me from contracting the virus? For clarity, she is on a daily suppression medication.

Obviously using condoms is part of it, but what about my hands? For instance, if I have a cut on my finger and touch her while she’s shedding the virus, but has no visible outbreak, can the virus enter my cut and infect me? And if so, is it possible for the outbreaks to return to my finger? And if so, can it spread to my eyes? How do I protect myself from the virus and still maintain a good sexual relationship with my girlfriend? Are gloves appropriate? Some other protection like dental dams?

I’m not trying to sound paranoid or offend, I just am looking for advice from you and others that have been in me and my girlfriends situation.

Thanks!
Correction, that should be “ what is the best *method of intimacy to keep me from contracting the virus?”
Did she ever get her results confirmed? Has she ever had an outbreak? If your results were false positives, hers may well be, too. Do you even know her index values?

Assuming for now that she is indeed truly positive - and I really hope you investigate that further - I really hope you can relax about this.

You can get herpetic whitlow - herpes on the finger - but it's rare and usually happens to people like dental professionals who work with their fingers in people's mouths. Remember that literally millions and millions of people have genital herpes - many of them women - and their partners use their hands and don't get herpetic whitlow except on rare occasion.

When you are newly infected with herpes, and touch an outbreak, or have an outbreak on your finger, and touch your eye, you can infect your eye. Ocular herpes can happen. After you develop antibodies, this is far less likely. The antibodies help prevent you from autoinoculating - infecting yourself in a different location.

Having a satisfying sex life with your girlfriend is still absolutely possible. Gloves and dental dams are not necessary. Unless you have an open cut on your hands - not scabbed over - you don't need to worry about your hands. You don't need to inspect your hands, either.

After the first year of infection, in people who don't have symptoms, shedding happens on 13.1% days on average (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3058740/). That's about 48 days a year. Being on antivirals cuts that by 75%.

You can give oral sex. Oral hsv2 is very rare. Herpes generally doesn't go from the genitals to the mouth like it goes from the mouth to the genitals. You don't need dental dams. If she does get outbreaks, obviously, avoid any sexual activity, but it doesn't seem like she does.

Using condoms and antivirals in a long term monogamous relationship puts your transmission rate at about 1% per year. You have higher chances of getting someone pregnant on the pill than getting herpes. Just to note - if you wanted to give up the condoms, that puts your rate at about 2%, not a significant statistical difference.

Again, though, I would urge you to investigate her results if you haven't already, and urge you to take a deep breath and relax.
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