Genital & Anal Herpes
What is it?
Herpes is an infection caused by a virus that often causes sores or blisters. You can also have herpes but have no signs.
The virus is called Herpes Simplex Virus (HSV). There are two types of this virus known as HSV Type 1 and HSV Type 2. Type 1 causes cold sores usually found around the mouth. Type 2 is usually found around the penis (dick) or anus (bum).
As the effect on women can be quiet severe it is very important that men don’t pass it to women.
How do you get it?
Herpes can be passed on both sexually and non-sexually during skin to skin contact, by direct contact with a sore on the mouth, dick or bum. It can also be transmitted when there are no obvious symptoms present.
Once you get herpes it stays in your body for the rest of your life. Usually there are no serious symptoms but every now and again you may get an outbreak of sores and blisters. These outbreaks can happen at any time. They are more likely if your immune system is weak for some reason or you have been under stress.
These outbreaks that happen after the first infection are not usually as bad as the first outbreak of herpes. This is because your body develop antibodies to fight any future outbreaks, although it doesn’t stop them altogether.
What are the symptoms or signs of herpes?
Sometimes there may be no signs even if you have herpes.
More often herpes usually starts with tingling, itching, burning or pain. If these signs are due to herpes then usually painful red spots appear. These red spots turn into blisters. These blisters then form scabs.
However, blisters do not always occur.
You may also experience flu-like symptoms.
If symptoms occur they generally show up between two and seven days after you have been infected.
There are two ways to test for herpes. The first is a swab from any visible blisters. The second is a blood test.
How is it treated?
There is no cure for herpes – once infected you have the virus for the rest of your life.
There are treatments that can reduce the symptoms and speed up the recovery.
How often outbreaks occur varies from person to person, but outbreaks may become less frequent and in time may stop altogether.
How can it be prevented?
Avoid sexual contact when your partner has any lesions (sores) or blisters. Sometimes the lesions can be inside the vagina or anus so you can’t always tell if someone is having a herpes attack just by looking.
Condoms only reduce the risk of getting or passing on herpes. They do not eliminate the chance of spreading it as it is unlikely condoms can cover all of the infected areas.
If you have regular herpes outbreaks, then there are medicines you can take that reduce both the frequency of outbreaks and the risk of you spreading the virus to other people.
Herpes (HSV) & HIV
If you are HIV-negative, an occurrence of herpes makes it more likely that you can become infected with HIV.
If you are HIV-positive, herpes may be a greater problem for you. If your immune system is weak, then regular outbreaks of herpes are more likely to happen, and these outbreaks can be harder to treat.
An active herpes infection may also increase the copying of HIV in your body and therefore raise your viral load.
It is usually possible to control herpes by taking medicines.