Herpes

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Overview

Herpes is a sexually transmitted disease caused by a virus and is passed from person to person from skin-to-skin contact during oral, anal and/or vaginal sex as well as close skin-to-skin contact. There are two types of herpes. One type causes fever blisters and cold sores on the mouth. Since many people are having oral sex (mouth to vagina, mouth to butthole or mouth to penis), this type can show up around your genitals. The second type causes sores on the vagina, penis, butthole and the skin around those areas.

Herpes is usually not life threatening, but it can affect your sex life because of the sores. They can cause pain, discomfort and sometimes make it easier to spread or get HIV. A person with a herpes sore is three to five times more likely to get infected with HIV. Also, people with HIV and herpes with an open sore are more likely to spread both viruses to someone during unprotected sex.

Women who are pregnant and have a herpes sores near the time they have their baby risk spreading the virus to their baby. This can be dangerous and have life long affects on the baby.

How do I get it?
Herpes is passed from person to person from skin-to-skin contact during oral, anal and vaginal sex. In other words, through contact during regular sex, butt sex, or blow jobs/eating out. You can give your partner herpes even if you don't have sores.
What will it feel like?

If you have herpes, you may not feel anything. Sometimes the symptoms will show up and sometimes they won't. If you have symptoms, there are a few things that you may notice or feel. One type of herpes can cause fever blisters and cold sores on the mouth. There is another type that may cause sores on the vagina, penis, butthole and the skin around those areas. If the herpes virus is in your system, it lives there forever. The first time you see the herpes sores is usually the worst. It lasts the longest, and can hurt a lot. The first sores can last five to ten days. In addition to these blisters or open sores, people can have swollen glands, fever and body aches.

Any outbreak after the first can be brought on by many things including stress, tiredness, lack of sleep, and/or starting your period. You may feel a tingling or itching between the times you have the sores and just before the sores show up on your skin. If you start feeling these things, should not have sex or have your genitals touch someone else's. You should see your doctor right away. During the first year after you get herpes, it is more likely that the blisters will come back again. Herpes can appear in a different place each time. Sometimes the sores are so mild, people mistake them for jock itch, razor burns or insect bites.

How do I get tested?

Some doctors can look at a sore and tell that you have herpes right away. However, there are tests that can give you a definite answer. A viral culture test can tell if herpes is present and which type of the virus it is. This test works best if done during the first outbreak when blisters are present because they use fluid from an open sore. New blood tests are also available to tell which herpes virus you have, but they aren't recommended and not all providers offer them.

What if I test Positive?
Right now there isn't a cure for herpes. If you get diagnosed with herpes, you will have it for your whole life. There are medications available that treat herpes and can help speed up the healing process of an outbreak and, if taken every day, reduce the number of future outbreaks. These medications can also help reduce the risk of passing herpes to others. There are also ways to reduce outbreaks without taking pills. Keep your stress levels low, eat well, exercise and get plenty of rest. Condoms give some, but not total protection from herpes. If you or your partner has herpes, you should not have sex when sores are present. This includes genital herpes or oral herpes. The virus can be spread from BOTH places!
How do I protect myself?
Not having sex is the only way to be sure you won't be infected with herpes. If you are having sex, use condoms correctly every time you have oral, anal, and vaginal sex to make sure you stay STD free. The risk for herpes is connected to the number of sex partners you have: the more sex partners, the greater the risk! Being aware of your body and noticing any charges is important. If you feel you are having symptoms of herpes, you should talk to your doctor right away.
Where can I get tested?
Health Center 1 and Health Center 5 do not offer routine screening for herpes. Testing is offered at those locations only if someone is having symptoms of herpes. You can contact your primary care doctor if you are concerned about herpes and want to get tested but do not have symptoms.