It’s Friday again… Today I’m going to talk to you about Herpes. In the western world, it is estimated that half of the population has Herpes Simplex Virus 1(cold sores on the lips) in their system and at least one in eight adults have the Herpes Simplex Virus 2 (genital herpes) in their body. As many people can be asymptomatic (no outward signs) this is most likely underestimated. Once you have these little bugga’s in your body they are there for life.
The two virus’ are similar, but they do prefer to stay in their specially designed homes (your face or genitals). So the HSV1 (cold sores) that most people have, like to live on or near the lips. It is quite unpleasant for the human host, and many find it embarrassing when a breakout takes a hold of their face. Both viruses are highly contagious, if you kiss someone that has any blisters, at any stage of the cycle, you will most likely catch it. This also includes your old aunty, or grandma! So if someone comes to try and plant one on you when they are sporting a crusty scab, duck and weave very quickly.
HSV1 does prefer its Hollywood status of being the focus of attention on the face, however in can be transferred to the genitals if oral sex is given to someone while you have any stage of a breakout. I’d like to suggest that a condom or oral dam be used whenever oral sex is on the agenda, but frankly, condoms and dams taste really bad! Like putting a few big fat rubber bands in your mouth. Yuk. So if you are not going to use barrier protection during oral sex, have a really good look at the person you are playing with. Check out their mouth, and ensure you are not putting yourself at risk of contracting HSV1 on your genitals.
If you do contract HSV1 on your genitals, you will very likely have at least 1 breakout. The one piece of good news I have for you if you find yourself in this situation, is that there has not been one reported case of HSV1 transfer genital to genital so far. You may even find you rarely if ever will have another breakout.
And now for the nasty one… HSV2, Genital Herpes, as mentioned once contracted is there for life. Like many other human afflictions it affects some people more severely than others. For some, there are no symptoms at all, this can be dangerous as these people can still pass the virus onto sexual partners through ‘shedding’. This means the skin around the genitals naturally sheds, just like the rest of the body, and these skin cells can infect a sexual partner. If you engage in high risk activities like unprotected sex, ensure you ask your doctor to screen for HSV on your regular check-ups. This is done via a blood test.
Genital herpes is generally contracted through vaginal/anal/penile sex. It will most often show its ugly head within a week or 2 of infection. It is most likely felt before any other signs. It feels like you have a prickle in your undies. It looks like a little group of raised red bumps that will eventually rupture and weep then dry up and go away. This is for any area of the penis or vulva.
For some people it can be quite mild and they may hardly notice it, for others it can be debilitating, sometimes even requiring a trip to the hospital. Long term, some people have constant outbreaks and others rarely. The body can learn to deal with it better as the years pass, and it sometimes just sits dormant for months or years. Some people will have a breakout when stressed.
There are some medications out now that can help to keep outbreaks away or tone them down when they appear. Keep an eye on the internet as there will be new medications as they keep working on it. I always suggest a trip to the doctor or sexual health clinic if you think you have been infected. It is best to have a blood test to confirm and then you will know for sure. It is imperative women know if they have the virus as this can affect the birth plans when pregnant.
As this is very easy to catch and to pass on, please use a condom with all future partners and it really is best to discuss your situation with a new lover ASAP. Unfortunately even when there is no visible external signs, the skin around the genitals can rub off during sex and infect a partner. For some people, the mere possibility of catching an STI can make them quite ill. It would be best not to leave this discussion till things get too serious.
And a final note… if you do catch this nasty virus, it is most likely due to unprotected sex. Take responsibility for your actions. Accept the fact that you have it and be careful not to share.