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The Naked Truth The Sexual Health Blog

Herpes I & II

February 21st, 2012 by Dr. Lisa, Medical Director


There are many misconceptions when it comes to herpes. Misinformation is always dangerous, but especially when it comes to sexual health and STD protection. Nor is the risk for herpes small. In fact, it is one of the most common STDs in the world. One in four women have genital herpes, as do one in five men…yet 80 percent of people don’t even know they have it!

Talk about scary. The good news is that you can work to decrease your risk by getting all the facts. It’s time to clear up the misconceptions and increase awareness. Read on:

Know the difference between Herpes 1 and Herpes 2. Known as HSV-1 and HSV-2, there are two separate types of herpes. The first is better known as the cold sore. Also called oral herpes, 58% of Americans have HSV-1. Oral herpes causes painful sores on the lips as well as in and around the mouth, and they are most commonly contracted during childhood.

HSV-2 is better known as genital herpes. Symptoms of HSV-2 are similar to HSV-1, and these include blister-like sores that are often very painful or uncomfortable. They may also be accompanied by flu-like symptoms (such as fever, achy joints, nausea) and burning in the affected area. In women, sores may appear on the inside and outside of the vagina; in men, the sores show up on the penis.

However, it is very important to note that even if your partner seems symptom-free, there is no way to know if someone has an STD simply by looking at them. Symptoms can lie dormant and some people carry the virus without ever having a breakout. Yet they can still pass it on to partners!

Be aware of the relationship between HSV-1 and HSV-2. Don’t be fooled by the term “oral” herpes. The virus can still be transmitted to the genitals during oral sex. This is not an uncommon way for people to become infected with herpes, primarily because most people don’t realize that they must protect themselves during oral sex just the same way they do during intercourse. By using a condom or a dental dam (this is an apparatus easily bought at the drugstore to protect a woman’s genitals during oral sex), you can greatly decrease your risk of contracting or spreading herpes.

But, remember, there is no such thing as 100% safe sex, which is why it is so important to monitor your own sexual health. If you or your partner haven’t been tested in a while, you can visit http://www.SexualHealth.com/ to learn about easy, affordable and private STD testing.

Lastly, while there is medication that can help treat herpes and diminish symptoms, there is no cure for herpes. And, remember, just because you don’t see sores or visible signs of herpes on your partner, this doesn’t mean that the sex is risk-free. Get tested and always use protection.

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