You have just tested positive for Genital Herpes. What does this mean? Turning to Dr Google is doing nothing to help aside from bamboozling you with complex medical terms and contradicting information. What is the difference between Herpes Simplex Virus 1 (HSV-1) and Herpes Simplex Virus 2 (HSV-2)? All you want to know is ‘what’s the cure?’.

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First of all, don’t believe the mumbo-jumbo about how there are herbal remedies that can help cure a Herpes infection. You’re wasting your time and money. However, this does not mean that your life, or specifically, your sex life, is over.

It is true that there is currently no cure for Herpes. However, the infection can be managed using a variety of different treatments. These include over-the-counter creams or antiviral medication prescribed by your doctor – which help to reduce the frequency and intensity of Herpes outbreaks, as well as reduce the risk of transmitting Herpes to your partners.

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Second of all, the Herpes virus is extremely common; rates of HSV-1 infections are high in the MENA region, with one study suggesting that up to 90% of adults have been exposed to the virus. Though, 1/3 of the youth in MENA might be reaching sexual debut uninfected with HSV-1.

Despite this, following recent evidence from Western and Asian countries that reported an increase in Genital Herpes caused by HSV-1 rather than HSV-2, there is a potential risk that young people in MENA catch HSV-1 through sexual contact.

That’s right, even though HSV-1 is often associated with causing Oral Herpes (cold sores) and HSV-2 is linked with Genital Herpes – neither of these strains are restricted to the region of the body it is often related to. This means that the cause of your cold sores or genital sores could be either HSV-1 or HSV-2.

The only way to know if HSV-1 or HSV-2 is to blame for that painful rash is to get tested. You can opt for a swab of the rash if its still fresh or choose a simple blood test. Both these tests will tell you the specific cause of your sore. Either way, remember that lots of people have Herpes (you caught it from one of them) and while uncomfortable for the week or so the sores last, it is unlikely to cause significant problems. Mike Asher, Co-Founder of Better2Know

Mike Asher, Co-Founder of Better2Know

Herpes Myths vs Facts

Feelings of fear and shame that result from a Genital Herpes diagnosis are often exacerbated by misunderstandings surrounding this STI.

… but I wore a condom?

You should wear a condom during any sexual contact. This will reduce your risk of catching a variety of sexually transmitted infections including Herpes.

However, since the virus can be passed on through skin-to-skin contact alone, you could be infected through circumstances such as unprotected oral sex. The infection is most likely to be passed on when an individual is experiencing an outbreak, but in some cases, you could become infected even if your partner is not exhibiting any Herpes sores or lesions.

I can never have sex again

This is 100% not true. Though being diagnosed with Genital Herpes may diminish your sex drive and prompt the feeling of worry at the idea of having sex – you must remember the infection is extremely common – there is treatment available to help you reduce the number of outbreaks you have and reduce the risk of transmitting Herpes to your partners. However, if you are experiencing any signs of a Herpes outbreak, you should always refrain from sexual contact until the symptoms have passed.

In England, it is estimated that around 10% of the population carries the HSV-2 virus. So, it’s common, and really nothing to be embarrassed about. Yes, you should discuss it with your partner to find out if they already have it (if they do then neither of you can re-infect the other) and if they don’t then chat with your doctor and find out if medication is right for you. Antivirals and the use of condoms can help reduce the chances of passing on a Genital Herpes infection. Mike Asher, Co-Founder of Better2Know

Mike Asher, Co-Founder of Better2Know

Herpes testing is always included in a sexual health screen at the doctor

Not necessarily. Some doctors may not offer Herpes testing if you are not experiencing any symptoms such as sores or lesions around the vagina, on the penis, around the anus, and on the thighs or buttocks. Other symptoms can include:

  • Pain during urination
  • Itching
  • Tingling around the area of infection

In many cases, a Herpes infection remains asymptomatic – which means you might not experience any symptoms for a long period of time despite being infected. Circumstances that can trigger a Herpes outbreak include:

  • Stress
  • Illness
  • Fever
  • Sun exposure or sunburn
  • Menstrual periods

Whilst a Herpes infection is unlikely to do you any long-term harm, the mental anguish of wondering about your status just might. Am I infected? Did I pass it on to my partner? These questions can easily be addressed by having a simple blood test. No need to wait for symptoms, just give a small sample of blood and four days later you will have your answer. Regardless of the result, just knowing with certainty can bring great peace of mind and empower you to do the right thing. Mike Asher, Co-Founder of Better2Know

Mike Asher, Co-Founder of Better2Know

Sources

[1] Arab News: Genital Herpes: A Highly Infectious Disease

[2] Doctors of South Melbourne: Genital herpes myths & facts – Dr Elaine Sung

[3] Everyday Health: Both HSV-1 and HSV-2 Can Cause Genital Herpes

[4] For Hims: Common Herpes Myths vs. Facts

[5] Journal of Clinical Virology: Performance of four diagnostic assays for detecting herpes simplex virus type 2 antibodies in the Middle East and North Africa. Gheyath K. Nasrallah, Soha R. Dargham, Afifah S. Sahara, Malaz S. Elsidiq, Laith J. Abu-Raddad.

[6] Nature: Herpes simplex virus type 1 epidemiology in the Middle East and North Africa: systematic review, meta-analyses, and meta-regressions.

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