Herpes are blisters or sores on the genitals. They are caused by Herpes Simplex Virus (HSV) Type 1 or Type 2. HSV Type 1 is more common on the mouth (cold sores) and HSV Type 2 on the genitals. Both viruses can infect the mouth and genital area. Herpes is a very common infection in Australia.
Signs and symptoms:
When a person is first infected, they may not get sores. Many people with genital herpes don't know because they have no symptoms.
Later on, people may notice:
- Painful, tingling or itching blisters or ulcers around the genital area.
- Aching muscles and fever.
There is skin-to-skin contact with an infected person, including vaginal, anal or oral sex.
Herpes are spread by skin-to-skin contact with someone who has the virus, including contact with infected skin during sex. Cold sores on the mouth can spread the virus to the genitals during oral sex. During oral sex, herpes can be passed on if a condom or dam doesn't cover the entire genital area.
What can happen:
Although herpes sores heal, the virus stays in the body, so you can have more outbreaks. The first outbreak is usually the worst. Outbreaks after that should happen less often and be less painful. Some people can have very frequent episodes, some only occasionally, and some people can have the virus without having any blisters at all.
There is no cure for herpes. Once you have the virus, it stays in the nerves of the infected area of skin. Medications are available that can be taken during an outbreak, which reduce the duration and severity of the outbreak.
- Avoid any contact with the infected area.
- Always use condoms or dams and water-based lubricant. But remember, they only protect the area of skin that they cover.
- Before you have sex, talk with your partner about the importance of safer sex.
- Be open with your partner and make sure you or they don't have any other sex partners.
- Limit your sex partners.
- Have regular STI tests.
Other STIs and BBVs