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andrea@altsexcolumn.com

Dear Andrea:

I get cold sores on my lips. Since I don't want to infect my wife with the herpes virus when I have an outbreak, I don't kiss or go down on her. Am I being too cautious? Is it safe to go down on her while I have cold sores?

Love,

Careful Hubby

PS I like the way you always end your responses with "Love."

Dear Hub:

Me too, thanks. And of course you're not being too cautious. The mouth kind of herpes (herpes simplex one) prefers mouths and the other sort (simplex two, natch) prefers the other places. But like so many of us, it can be persuaded to switch sides under the right circumstances. Keep doing what you're doing, since it seems to be working. The bad news may be that one can spread herpes even in the absence of obvious sores, but the good news is that you probably haven't, and it looks like you probably won't.

Love,

Andrea

Dear Andrea:

What's the deal with the transmission of HPV? Is it spread by contact with the blisters themselves or the area in which the blisters appear, or is it blood-borne and spread by contact between uninfected orifices? Could a man with warts on the ween transmit warts through his mouth to an uninfected vadge? What about the inverse of that scenario?

What is the safe sex protocol for genital warts?

Love,

Just a Weency Question

Dear Ween:

Um ... which goes in the what now? I got lost somewhere between ween and vadge. When my kids are ready to start learning body parts, remind me to teach them the proper terms plus one cute but recognizable and also not too cute euphemism each (each kid or each part, whichever) for use in public places. And remind me not to put ween or — seriously, I mean this — vadge on the list of options while I'm at it.

OK, this part is important: HPV stands for human papilloma virus, a.k.a. genital warts. The blisters-causing thing is herpes, a.k.a. HSV, which is similar in a lot of ways (caused by a virus, treatable but incurable, and spread by contact) but not at all the same thing.

The quickie answers to your questions would go something like this: it's spread by contact with the infected area or something that's been in contact with same; it is not blood-borne; and the safe-sex protocol is "Don't touch uninfected partners with your affected bits or with other body parts or random objects which have recently rubbed up against your affected bits." Since HPV is very complicated, confusing, common, and potentially deadly, I strongly urge those who know as little about these things as you do to go from here to someplace like www.ashastd.org or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Web site and read more before rubbing anything much of yours against anybody else's anything, really.

Love,

Andrea

Dear Andrea:

My girlfriend just got diagnosed with HPV after an irregular Pap. We've been having tons of unprotected sex for about two years. This may sound stupid, but should I start wearing a condom every time? Can't I just assume that I'm already carrying HPV, like 75 percent of the country? Neither of us wants to go back to protected sex.

Love,

Resigned

Dear Sign:

You know, that's actually a really good question. The truth is, you and your girlfriend going about your business condom free, knowing all you know (assuming that you know that HPV can cause cervical cancer, for instance, and that you will carry it and be able to spread it forever) is pretty much the definition of "informed consent." There's nothing stopping you from proceeding as is.

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