STI Info: Genital Herpes
Genital Herpes is caused by the herpes simplex virus type 1(HSV-1) and type 2 (HSV-2). The majority of Genital Herpes cases are due to HSV-2 and have minimal to no symptoms. It is transmitted through contact with an infected are which can include sexual contact.
The majority of individuals with HSV-2 have minimal to no symptoms and are not even aware that they have the virus. When a outbreak does occur it usually consists of one or more blisters on or around the genitals or rectum. After time the blisters do break, leaving tender sores. It may take between 2 to four weeks for the sores to heal. Commonly with HSV-2, outbreaks appear less severe after the initial outbreak and tend to decrease with time.
According to the Center for disease control, genital herpes is fairly common within the United States, infecting 45 million people over the age of 12. One out of every five adolescents and adult men have genital herpes, and one out of every four women have genital herpes. This may be due to the fact that male-to-female transmissions is more likely than female-to-male transmission.
Both HSV-1 and HSV-2 are spread through contact with infected areas. It does not matter if the individual has visible signs of an outbreak, the virus can still be spread through contact with skin that is free from blisters or sores. Most commonly HSV-2 is spread through sexual contact including vaginal and anal. HSV-1 is more commonly associated with sores in or around the mouth (cold sores) and can be spread through oral sex. HSV-1 infections to the genitals are usually due to oral to genital interaction. HSV-1 infections to the genitals are less common and tend to have fewer and less severe outbreaks.
HSV infections are usually diagnosed through visual inspection from a health care professional. Due to the variation in symptoms across individuals a blood test or sample from the sore may be necessary. It is important to note that blood tests do not give a conclusive diagnose for either HSV-1 or HSV-2.
Local Testing Available at:
- Eastern Illinois University Health Service: Visual inspection for females with outbreak W/ Pap $40 W/Out Pap $30; Visual inspection for Men: $30
- Phone: (217) 581-3013
- Coles County Health Department: Swab test for females with outbreak - $20
- 825 18th Street, Charleston, IL 61920
- Phone: (217) 348-0530 Fax: (217) 348-5322
- Champaign-Urbana Public Health Department: Swab test with outbreak - Free with suggested $20 donation
- 710 N Neil Street, Champaign, IL 61820
- Phone: (217) 352-7961
There is currently no cure for HSV-1 or HSV-2. There are antiviral medications that can prevent and lessen the severity of outbreaks. However there are suppressive therapies that can decrease the likelihood of spreading the virus to a partner. It is better to encourage your partner to be tested and treated as well in order for the treatment to work properly.
The only 100% effective way to prevent genital herpes is to abstain from sexual activity and/or activity involving genital contact. If you choose to be sexually active, being in a monogamous relationship with a partner who is not infected significantly reduces your risk of infection. In addition, reducing your number of sexual partners can help to reduce your risk. Genital herpes is found in areas that can be covered by a latex condom, yet they can also be found in areas that are not. Correct and consistent use of condoms can reduce your risk of a genital herpes infection only if the condom covers the infected area. Individuals with herpes should abstain from sexual activity with uninfected partners when lesions or other symptoms of herpes are present. It is important for both partners to be tested and treated for genital herpes. Even if a person does not have any symptoms they can still infect sex partners.