Herpes 101-It is not life-threatening. But it can be life-changing.
Herpes is common. Probably way more common than you think. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), about 1 in every 6 people has genital herpes. You can get genital herpes from an infected partner even if your partner has no symptoms. Not only that, but most people don’t even know they have it. Whether you are single and ready to mingle or in a long term monogamous relationship, it’s crucial for you to know how to protect yourself and your partner(s).
What is herpes?
If you get a cold sore on your mouth, it’s possible that you have herpes simplex type 1 which is NOT the same as genital herpes. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, “Most people get HSV-1 (herpes simplex type 1) as an infant or child. This virus can be spread by skin-to-skin contact with an adult who carries the virus. An adult does not have to have sores to spread the virus. A person can get herpes around their mouth by kissing someone who has herpes simplex type 1, touching the person’s skin--such as pinching a child’s cheek, or by sharing objects such as silverware, lip balm, or a razor. You can get genital herpes after coming into contact with HSV-1 or HSV-2. Most people get genital herpes during sex. If someone has a cold sore and performs oral sex, this can spread HSV-1 to the genitals.”
Check out more information here on how to detect the early signs and symptoms: https://www.aad.org/dermatology-a-to-z/diseases-and-treatments/e---h/herpes-simplex/signs-symptoms
How does one get genital herpes?
You can get genital herpes by having vaginal, anal, or oral sex with someone who has the disease. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, it is more common to contract herpes if:
- You are female
- Have had many sexual partners
- Had sex for the first time at a young age
- Have (or had) another sexually transmitted infection
- Have a weakened immune system due to a disease or medicine
- If you have come in contact with the fluid found in a herpes sore
Should I get treatment? What does treatment look like? Is there a cure?
Genital herpes may cause painful sores that could worsen without treatment. There are many good resources on the web for treatment options. According to the Mayo Clinic, “There's no cure for genital herpes. Treatment with prescription antiviral medications may:
- Help sores heal sooner during an initial outbreak
- Lessen the severity and duration of symptoms in recurrent outbreaks
- Reduce the frequency of recurrence
- Minimize the chance of transmitting the herpes virus to another
- Antiviral medications used for genital herpes include: Acyclovir (Zovirax), Famciclovir (Famvir), Valacyclovir (Valtrex)”
Can I still have sex if I have genital herpes? How does that work?
Yes! Sex is still possible if you have herpes you just have to be very careful and make sure your partner knows his or her risk. Having sores or herpes symptoms increase your risk of spreading herpes but even if you don’t have symptoms, you are still putting your partner at risk. Remember to always use a latex condom if you and your partner choose to have sex.