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Type: Sexually transmitted viral infection
Fun fact: Genital herpes are exactly the same as cold sores – just in a different location. They’re all caused by the same virus family, which causes a blistering rash in the affected area. Most people won’t even realise they carry the virus, as it can hang out in your body for years without any symptoms.
Common misconceptions: Even if you don’t have any symptoms, you can still pass on herpes. In fact, most people spread it this way (as many as 80% of herpes carriers don’t realise they have it).
How it’s spread: Herpes simplex virus can get into your body via infectious secretions getting into the mouth, genitals and anal surface, or via direct contact with lesions elsewhere e.g. round the mouth.
-Painful, blistering rash
-Discharge (vaginal and urethral)
-Pain when weeing
-Tingling pain before the blisters appear
-A fluey, achey, feverish episode can occur when you first catch it
Evil super power: Once you’ve got herpes, you’ve got it for life. Yeah, bummer – right? But never fear, you can still get your sexy on. You just need be super careful (but you already are, aren’t you!).
Key weakness: This is a recurring infection – it can pop up at any time! And currently, there’s no way of stopping it (cue maniacal laughter). Studies suggest that use of antivirals can shorten each outbreak, but unfortunately can’t prevent them. Luckily, they tend to occur less frequently and seriously as time goes on.
Keeping safe– You should use barrier methods, i.e. condoms and dental dams when having sex, even if you use other contraception. You should also refrain from sexual contact when a rash is out in full force.
Being polite– When newly diagnosed with any STI it’s really important that you inform any and all sexual partners you’ve had the previous 6 months. That includes people that you’ve not gone “all the way” with – STIs can still be caught through oral and non-penetrative sex. You should also make new partners aware if you’re a herpes carrier, as they have a right to know that they can possibly catch it from you, especially without adequate protection.
Pop culture character with Herpes: Ella Dawson is a blogger who writes about living, dating, and having a healthy sex life with herpes. And she’s great!
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