Herpes: What is it?

Genital herpes is a sexually transmitted infection (STI) caused by two types of viruses:

  • Herpes simplex type 1 can cause sores on the skin, and mouth
  • Herpes simplex type 2 (genital herpes) can cause sores on the vagina, penis and rectum

The genital sores caused by herpes can bleed easily and because of this they can be a way to spread either herpes or another STI. This happens when the sores come into contact with the mouth, vagina, or rectum during sex. Having one STI makes you more likely to get others.

Herpes: How can I get it?

  • You can get herpes simplex 1 through oral sex, kissing or sharing objects such as toothbrushes or eating utensils
  • You can get herpes simplex 2 by having vaginal, or anal sex with someone who has the disease even if there is no visible sore. Your partner(s) may not know they carry the disease because the virus can be released through the skin and spread the infection. You can also get herpes type 2 by having oral sex with someone who is infected

Herpes: How can I get tested for it?

A health care provider can spot herpes by doing a physical exam and tests. A blood test can tell if you are infected with oral or genital herpes — even if you don’t have symptoms. Health care providers can also let you know if you have a herpes infection by testing fluids taken from the sores.

How can I be treated for it?

There is no cure for herpes. However, there are daily oral medicines that can prevent or shorten outbreaks.

Outbreaks are small blisters that eventually break open and produce raw, painful sores that scab and heal over within a few weeks. The blisters and sores may be accompanied by flu-like symptoms with fever and swollen lymph nodes

Herpes: How can I keep myself and my partner(s) from getting it?

  • Using male condoms every time you have sex can lower the risk of genital herpes. However, outbreaks can occur in areas that are not covered by a condom.
  • Using female Condom
  • Not having sex (abstinence)

Herpes: How can I protect my partner(s) once I know I have it?

People with herpes should not have any type of sexual activity with partners when sores or other symptoms of herpes are present. It is important to know that even if a person does not have any symptoms, he or she can still infect sex partners. Therefore, partners should use condoms to reduce the risk of getting herpes.