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What is Herpes?

Herpes is an STI caused by the herpes simplex virus (HSV). There are two types of HSV: HSV1 and HSV2. Both types of herpes can occur on the lips, mouth, genital or anal (bum) areas.  HSV on the lips and mouth are called cold sores.  HSV on the genital and anal areas are called genital and anal herpes. 

One person can be infected by both HSV1 and HSV2. Girls are twice as likely as guys to have HSV2.

Are there any symptoms?

You may not notice any symptoms with herpes. Some people may notice symptoms start days, weeks or even months after infection. 

If you do notice symptoms, they may include tingling, itching or pain on the skin. This can be followed by blisters that break and become painful ulcers. The ulcers will usually heal on their own. But they can get really itchy.

How do you catch it?

You can get herpes through skin-to-skin contact during  oral, vaginal or anal (bum) sex without a condom. You can also catch it during non-penetrative sex. This is things like foreplay, non-penetrative sex or by kissing. You can pass herpes onto a partner, or contract it even when you don’t notice any symptoms. 

  • Girls- If you are pregnant and have been diagnosed with herpes around your vagina, make sure you tell your doctor, as it can affect your baby during birth. 

Let's talk about prevention

Use condoms during oral, vaginal or anal sex to stop you catching or passing on herpes. Make sure you avoid skin-to-skin contact if you notice symptoms on you or your partner’s  mouth, genitals or anus (bum).

Speak to your doctor about medication that can lessen the symptoms and number of times the sores happen. The medication taken is a type of antiviral medication which can help reduce passing herpes onto a partner.  

How to get tested and treated

If you have symptoms a doctor can test for herpes by taking a swab from the ulcer or blister. There is no cure for herpes but there are medications (antiviral medications) that can help reduce symptoms and lower the chances of spreading it onto others. People who have regular breakouts of herpes can take these medications every day to reduce this. It is important to manage your herpes symptoms. Keep the area dry, wear loose clothes and rest. Take paracetamol and have saltwater baths for the pain. 

You can talk to your doctor if you are feeling anxious or upset from having herpes. Want to know more information about testing?

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