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The Never Ending Infection

Posted on Saturday, April 27, 2013 in Sexy Saturdays, UC Berkeley

Ms. Robin, Sex Goddess LogoThis is the last Sexy Saturdays article for STD Awareness Month! Today, I’m writing about one of the most common viral infections among college age populations.  If you’re thinking HIV, think again. Herpes infects more than 775,000 people each year in the US. Did you know there are 2 types of herpes associated with sexual experiences? Herpes simplex virus (HSV) -1 is commonly referred to as oral herpes, while HSV-2 is often referred to as genital herpes. But make no mistake, you can get either of these types of herpes on or in your mouth, genitals, cervix, and/or anus.

What’s up with this super common infection? Like Chlamydia and gonorrhea, herpes is often asymptomatic (without visible symptoms) and goes unnoticed in many infected persons. When symptoms are present they look different. HSV-1 symptoms present as cold sores.  HSV-2 symptoms are usually in the form of lesions. While symptoms may go away on their own or with antiviral treatment, herpes reserves its right to resurface or recur. It is more likely to exercise this right to recur during times when your immune system is weakened. Recurrent symptoms may include fever, headache, and tingling sensation with both HSV-1SS 17 HSV 1 and HSV-2. Initial outbreaks tend to be worse than recurring outbreaks.

If you have a cold sore you have herpes. If you get a cold sore in the future you will have herpes for the rest of your life. When I say this in workshops no doubt someone says “that can’t be true. I’ve had cold sores all my life. How did I get it?” Herpes simplex virus 1 and 2 is transmitted through direct contact with infected mucous membranes, lesions, genital or oral secretions, or infected skin. Transmission through infected skin is during an asymptomatic period of shedding. If you’ve had cold sores for as long as you can remember it is likely that you contracted herpes as a baby, or child. Maybe you were so cute that someone with herpes felt the need to kiss you. Though this person may not have been having an active outbreak at that time, they were able to transmit HSV-1 when they kissed you.  Lucky you! I’m just playing. I know, it sucks – and not in a good way – that you have herpes and didn’t even get to experience any sexual pleasure to get it. Just for the record, don’t even consider asking to kiss my super cute daughter.  It’s nothing personal, well, yes it is.

ss17 herpesOne of the most intriguing aspects of herpes is that if a person with oral herpes, HSV-1, performs oral sex on someone they can give that person oral herpes on their genitals or anus. If you don’t like cold sores on your mouth, just imagine having them on your genitals. It also works the other way too. If someone performs oral sex on someone infected with genital herpes, they can get HSV-2 on/in their mouth.  

If you think you may have herpes, it is best to let your primary medical doctor examine you during an outbreak. However, some providers and clinics have the ability to diagnose herpes through blood tests when no visible symptoms are present. Some providers and clinics may also be able to DNA type test your herpes to see which type you have, if any.

How do you get rid of herpes? You don’t! However, there are antiviral medications that may suppress herpes resulting in a decreased amount of outbreaks. Daily use of such treatments may also reduce your risk of transmitting herpes to your partners. The good news is that outbreaks tend to decrease over time even without suppressive treatment.  Given that herpes is not curable, it would be better to prevent transmission in the first place.  Because herpes may not be covered with traditional condoms, I suggest using insertive condoms for penis to vagina or anus sex with an infected partner, or partner whose status you don’t know as they cover a larger area. Dental dams are a great way to prevent transmission during mouth to vulva or anus sex. Last but not least, traditional condoms can help prevent herpes transmission during mouth to penis sex.  Until next Saturday…

Keep it safe ‘n sexy,

Ms. Robin, the Sex Goddess

Have a topic or question you’d like me to address in a future Sexy Saturdays article? Send it to me at RMills@sexucation.org.

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