Remember in elementary school when that one kid got lice and we all avoided that person like the plague? Pretty traumatizing for the lice-infected kid at the time, but looking back it truly couldn’t have mattered less. There’s a similarly embarrassing, life-ending association with the herpes virus, but we’re here to tell you that it’s really not that big of a deal. Here’s why:
1. A lot of people you know have herpes
One in eight Americans has genital herpes. Yet herpes isn’t frequently talked about, because of the stigma associated with the disease. Did you know that 90% of these people don’t show symptoms of the disease don't even know they have it? In fact, a lot of doctors don’t recommend even testing for herpes if you’re not showing symptoms because the stigma of having herpes is worse than the actual disease itself.
2. It’s easier than you think to get herpes
Since the beginning of time, men have claimed that sex is more enjoyable without a condom. We applaud you if you’ve never fallen for this. But most of us, at some point, have thrown our intuition out the window and had sex without a condom. There’s also oral herpes, which 50% of the US population has. Oral herpes can be spread if someone with a cold sore goes down on you. Herpes is almost inevitable for any sexually active person.
3. Your sex life isn’t over
So you think 50% of Americans practice celibacy because they have herpes? Think again. Herpes is not a death sentence to your sex life and most definitely shouldn’t stop you from embracing your sexuality. While using condoms doesn’t completely prevent the spread of herpes, it reduces the chances drastically. Talking to your doctor about an antiviral prescription, along with talking with your partner(s) about your condition are also recommended to prevent further infection. As long as you refrain from sexual activity during an outbreak, there is ultimately not much else that can be done.
4. If you think you have herpes, visit your doctor
Yes, herpes sucks. But it doesn’t define who you are and it won’t ruin your life. If anything, it will only encourage you to use condoms more frequently (something everyone with a new partner should be doing, anyway).
If you think you have herpes, here are some things you should know about the virus itself.
There are two types of herpes viruses: HSV-1 and HSV-2. Typically, HSV-1 is known as oral herpes and HSV-2 is genital. However, it’s possible to contract either type on your genitals or mouth. If you do show symptoms, they will probably appear as small blisters that can sometimes be painful. Your first “outbreak” will be the worst and can last up to 4 weeks. Try to refrain from sexual activity during outbreaks to avoid spreading it to your partner. Everyone’s body reacts to herpes differently, so the chances that you will have another outbreak can’t really be known.
Most importantly, if you think you’re having an outbreak be sure to visit your doctor to learn more about the virus.
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