Herpes can be a sore subject for many, but we’re sure that you’re itching to get the facts about it. Especially considering that 1 in 4 gay/bi men are known to have genital herpes, it’s important to know what it is, how to avoid it, and what you can do about it.
Herpes refers to a class of viruses causing ailments like chicken pox, shingles, “mono” and cytomegalovirus. Say the word “herpes,” though, and most people think of the blisters that appear on mouth, nose and genitals following infection with two of the most common herpes viruses: Simplex I and Simplex II.
One in four men are infected with herpes Simplex II, with approximately 20% of those infected reporting symptoms. The overwhelming majority did not know they had the virus. There is no cure for herpes, once you got it, you’ll have it for the rest of your life. However, there are medications that help reduce the length and severity of your outbreaks.
How it’s spread
Herpes Simplex Virus (HSV) can be passed on, both sexually and non-sexually during skin to skin contact by: direct contact with a blister, mouth to mouth, mouth to genitals, genitals to mouth, genitals to genitals, and mouth to anus. HSV may be transmitted when there aren’t any symptoms present. HSV is not transmitted through causal contact such as hugging, shaking hands, sharing food, using the same eating utensils, drinking from the same glass, sitting on public toilets, or touching door knobs.
Symptoms may include:
- Small painful blisters on the genitals, or mouth, these could be inside the mouth, or anus as well
- Tingling, or numbing sensation at the site of an outbreak before the blisters appear
- Blisters generally last 1-3 weeks. When they do go away, you still have herpes. The blisters may reoccur in the same area with varying frequency
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There are medications available to treat genital herpes infections, preventing or reducing the frequency of outbreaks. However, Herpes cannot be “cured.” The decision to use one treatment over another for genital herpes depends on many factors that must be discussed with your healthcare provider. During an outbreak, keep the infected area as clean and dry as possible. This will help the natural healing processes. Some healthcare providers recommend warm showers in order to cleanse the infected area. Afterwards, towel dry gently, or dry the area with a hair dryer on a low or cool setting. To prevent chaffing, some people also find it helpful to avoid tight-fitting undergarments. Finally, a healthy immune system is important in controlling the virus. Don’t ignore the need for proper nutrition, exercise, rest and regular (every 3 months) STD/STI testing.
Abstinence is the only 100% effective way of preventing HSV infection. However, if you engage in unprotected sexual activities and are unsure if you or your partner is possibly infected, consistent and correct use of latex barriers (condoms) can help reduce the risk of transmission. However, only areas covered by condoms, dental dams or gloves are protected from infection.
It is very difficult to avoid herpes. 90% of those who have been exposed to genital herpes do not ever have a recurrence or know that they are infected because the symptoms may be unnoticeable. Plus, herpes can be transmitted even without an outbreak. Here are some tips for helping to prevent transmission and to reduce your risk of getting herpes:
People with genital herpes who are on anti-Herpes medication reduce their ability to transmit to others by 60%
Condoms help prevent transmission because it is covering up part of your genital skin. It is estimated that condoms reduce risk by about 50%
People are most contagious during outbreaks (however, transmission is possible even without an outbreak), so abstaining from genital-to-genital contact while an outbreak is present will also reduce risk
During outbreak periods, you and your partner must use condoms for anal and oral sex any time you have active herpes lesions. Even this is not 100% effective since sores don’t usually limit themselves to your penis or ass
If you have herpes you are most contagious at the beginning of an outbreak. That means that if you’re feeling symptoms of an approaching outbreak – itching, tingling around the site of infection, a flu-like malaise – you shouldn’t have sex. Remember, just because you may not have any visible sores, it is still possible to transmit herpes.
If you feel that you or someone you know my have been infected with Herpes click on the following link for testing sights. Click here for testing sites.
If you’re sexually active, sign-up for FREE STD testing reminders via email, text or both every 3 or 6 months at WeAllTest.com. If We All Test, we can help eliminate syphilis and other STDs in our community!