We all know what an STD is, but what many of us don’t know is that STD’s are a lot more common that you think. It’s estimated that approximately 80% of South Africans have Herpes Simplex Virus Type 1, also known as ‘Oral Herpes’. And around 28.7% of South African females and 16.8% of South African males have Herpes Simplex Virus Type 2, otherwise known as ‘Genital Herpes’.
Here’s everything you need to know about this STD and how you can protect yourself.
What are the symptoms of herpes?
The scary reality is that, more often than not, there are no symptoms. Most people who have been infected with the virus have absolutely no idea that they have it. Hence the reason why its so easily spread. Others may develop blisters around the mouth or on or around the genitals/rectum. Once the blisters pop, they’ll leave behind painful sores that will often take at least a week to heal.
Other signs of the virus, usually at the same time as a person’s first outbreak, may include flu-like symptoms, such as fever and swollen glands.
Remember, even if you have no symptoms of the virus at all, you can still pass it on to another person!
What is the difference between the two types of herpes?
They are very similar. Herpes Simplex Virus Type 1 prefers to live near the mouth, while Herpes Simplex Virus Type 2 prefers to live near the genitals. However, someone with Herpes Simplex Virus Type 1 can infect someone with genital herpes by giving them oral sex. You can also get oral herpes by giving oral sex to someone who has genital herpes.
How do you contract herpes?
You don’t have to have sex to get herpes. You can contract it through kissing (through the infected person’s saliva), by coming into contact with a herpes blister or sore, as well as through oral and penetrative sex.
You can’t get herpes from toilet seats, bedding, swimming pools or from touching objects that an infected person has touched.
How is herpes diagnosed?
Your doctor will diagnose the virus by noting your symptoms and taking a sample from the sores if there are any present.
How is herpes prevented?
As with most STDs, the only sure-fire way to prevent getting herpes is to abstain from any sexual contact. But there are ways to reduce your risk of contracting the virus. You can:
- Be in a long-term relationship with someone who has been tested for all STDs
- Use condoms every time you have sex
- Use a dental dam or condom when giving or receiving oral sex
Is there a cure for herpes?
Unfortunately not. There are, however, specific medications that can help to control symptoms and prevent outbreaks from occurring. These medications may also help to lower the risk of you spreading the virus.
Even if you are diagnosed with herpes, it doesn’t mean that your life is over. People with herpes can still live normal, healthy lifestyles and enjoy sex – as long as they’re honest with all of their sexual partners about their status and take the necessary precautions to prevent spreading the virus.
For more information and support, contact the Love Life Sexual Health Line on 0800 121 900.