What is Herpes?
Herpes is an STI caused by the herpes simplex virus (HSV). There are two types of HSV: HSV1 and HSV2. Both types of herpes can occur on the lips, mouth, genital or anal (bum) areas. HSV on the lips and mouth are called cold sores. HSV on the genital and anal areas are called genital and anal herpes.
One person can be infected by both HSV1 and HSV2. Girls are twice as likely as guys to have HSV2.
Are there any symptoms?
You may not notice any symptoms with herpes. Some people may notice symptoms start days, weeks or even months after infection.
If you do notice symptoms, they may include tingling, itching or pain on the skin. This can be followed by blisters that break and become painful ulcers. The ulcers will usually heal on their own. But they can get really itchy.
How do you catch it?
You can get herpes through skin-to-skin contact during oral, vaginal or anal (bum) sex without a condom. You can also catch it during non-penetrative sex. This is things like mutual masturbation, stroking, rubbing or even kissing. You can pass it onto a partner or get herpes even when you don’t notice any symptoms.
Girls- If you are pregnant and have been diagnosed with herpes around your vagina, make sure you tell your doctor, as it can affect your baby during birth.
What about Prevention? Treatment? Testing?
Use condoms during oral, vaginal or anal sex to stop you catching or passing on herpes. Make sure you avoid skin-to-skin contact if you notice symptoms on you or your partner’s mouth, genitals or anus (bum).
Speak to your doctor about medication that can lessen the symptoms and number times the sores happen. It is a type of antiviral medication. This can also help reduce passing herpes onto a partner.
If you have symptoms a doctor can test for herpes by taking a swab from the ulcer or blister. There is no cure for herpes but there are medications that can help to reduce symptoms and spread (antiviral medications). People who have regular breakouts of herpes can take these medications every day to reduce this. It is important to manage your herpes symptoms. Keep the area dry, wear loose clothes and rest. Take paracetamol and have saltwater baths for the pain.