by Gina Colonette, sexual health blogger
This week, we’re talking about an STD that will stay with you forever. Bummer! It’s no joke, genital herpes don’t go away and like every other STD this not something you don’t want to contract because of failure to protect yourself.
Genital herpes is caused by herpes simplex viruses type one and two (HSV-1 and HSV-2). Most cases are caused by HSV-2. Many people have either none or few signs from the infection. When symptoms do occur, they look like blisters on and around the genitals or rectum. These blisters can break and turn into painful sores that can take up to four weeks to heal.
According to the CDC, one in six Americans ages 14-49 are infected with HSV-2. It’s more common in women (one out of five) than men (one out of nine).
So how do you get it? HSV-1 and HSV-2 is released from the sores described above, but the infection can also be released in between outbreaks. What that means is, just because you don’t see any sores, doesn’t mean you can’t get genital herpes. Your partner may not even know he or she has it, so how can you?
HSV-2 can be diagnosed in a few ways. First: by a visual examination of a typical outbreak. Second: if there are no symptoms (which there may very well be) a blood test can be taken to detect HSV-1 or HSV-2 antibodies, but the results aren’t always clear.
Although most of us don’t plan on getting genital herpes, you still have to make sure you are protecting yourself properly. Here are some tips:
- Of course, an old favorite: abstain from sexual contact (not just sex!)
- Get tested with your (monogamous) partner to be sure he or she isn’t infected.
- Use condoms. They can reduce your risk of contracting genital herpes.
- If you have genital herpes, don’t participate in any sexual activities when you are experiencing symptoms of herpes.
For this month and for always, get tested and stay protected. Reduce your risk by not putting yourself in danger.