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 symptoms.
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. In women, Type 2 is usually found around the opening to the vagina or rectum (bum).
As the effect on women can be quiet severe it is very important that men don’t pass it to women through their sexual partners.
These can sometimes cause problems for pregnant women, because the baby can become infected with herpes as it is being born. Fortunately, this is very, very uncommon.
How do you get it?
Herpes is transmitted through skin-to-skin contact. This often happens during sex—but any skin-to-skin contact can transmit herpes.
Herpes is more usually transmitted when there are sores or blisters but can also be passed on when there are no obvious symptoms.
Once you get herpes it stays in your body for the rest of your life. Usually there are no 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 lowered 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 infection. This is because your body has developed antibodies to fight any outbreak.
What are the symptoms or signs of Herpes?
Sometimes there may be no symptoms.
More often herpes usually starts with tingling, itching, burning or pain. If these symptoms are due to herpes then usually painful red spots appear. These red spots form 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 outbreaks often 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. Condoms only reduce the risk slightly as it is unlikely they can cover all of the infected areas.
If you have regular herpes outbreaks, then there are medicines you can take which reduce both the frequency of outbreaks and the risk of you transmitting the virus.
Herpes (HSV) & HIV
If you are HIV negative, an occurrence of herpes makes you more vulnerable to HIV infection.
If you are HIV positive, herpes may be a greater problem for you. If your immune system is low, then recurrent herpes is more likely. If you do get recurrent herpes, they can be more serious and harder to treat.
An active herpes infection may also increase the replication of HIV in your body and therefore raise viral load.
Taking medicines, it is often possible to control herpes.