10 Things EVERYONE Needs to Know About Herpes
The following article was submitted anonymously by one of our readers:
1.) It’s more common than you think. 1 out of every 6 people has herpes. Yes. You read that correctly. 1 in 6. Take a minute to think about your friend group... your workplace... your family. The people who sit in the coffee shop with you every day... 1 out of every 6.
2.) 50% of people that DO have herpes don’t even know that they have it. This is an estimate by the CDC. And again, goes to show just how common herpes is. Herpes is a virus that can present symptoms as early as two days or as long as two plus years after the initial exposure to the virus.
3.) Herpes is spread via skin to skin contact— NOT sexual bodily fluids. This is why using condoms with partners that you don’t trust or know well is IMPERATIVE. Just exposing your skin to any type of small blister or sore from the virus puts you at risk of contracting the STI as well. It is important to note that condoms do not cover everything, however, mostly covering is better than not covering at all.
4.) “Shedding” means that a partner can be contagious but not showing any symptoms. The virus is stored in nerves and can be triggered by a plethora of things including stress, anxiety, etc. However, “shedding” occurs more frequently within the first six months of someone having the virus and is virtually asymptomatic. This is why many people don’t even realize that they have the virus.
5.) There is medicine that reduces the possibility of transmission between partners down to 2-5%. Chances are if you are diagnosed with herpes you were offered a prescription for Valtrex. Depending on if you decided to take it or not, when consistently on the pill it reduces the rate of transmission to a measly 2-5%. While, yes, that still is a possibility, so long as you use condoms you can still have great, wonderful, amazing sex.
6.) If you have herpes, YOU ARE NOT ALONE. Look at me. I have a bachelors AND a masters degree. I am applying for my dream jobs. I have the best friends and family I could ask for who are understanding of this virus and have been so open about the questions they have and just generally want to learn about it. And for those of you who don’t have that kind of support from family, reach out to people around you who make you feel the best. If they’re truly your friend they’re going to understand and they’re going to want to learn about it. Educate yourself so that you can educate others.
7.) You can have a normal sex life. I’ve definitely had sex since I was diagnosed ;) Being responsible and open with potential partners is going to make you feel better in the long run because it’s the responsible thing to do. Coming from someone who contracted the disease without having any idea that I was exposed to it— at least I would have been more certain that we used a condom or that my partner was on medicine to reduce the possibility of transmission. You can still hookup with people and can still have sex with others without passing it to them. Keep them informed. Hell, show them this article.
8.) Blood tests aren’t 100% accurate. The most reliable way to be tested for herpes is via a gynecologist or doctor swabbing a sore. If you think you might have a sore get in to a doctor RIGHT AWAY before the outbreak is over. Coming from someone who has had this done, I can tell you that that swab is painful as f*** BUT it’s worth it to know. Knowledge is power. Funny story— I brought a friend with me for support at my initial appointment and she passed out when the gyno went to swab me... and she wasn’t even the one who had their legs up in the stirrups so.
9.) The first outbreak is the worst. The first outbreak lasts the longest and is the most painful. They can last anywhere from 10-14 days. If I’m being completely honest I was in excruciating pain every time I went to the bathroom for those 13 days my outbreak lasted. However, I have a bomb gynecologist that gave me lidocaine cream and that helped immensely. Every outbreak after the first will typically last 2-6 days at most and will not be nearly as painful.
10.) You may only ever have one outbreak in your entire life and that’s it. As of right now, this is the case for me. I’ve only had one. I have a friends mom who has had it for over 25 years and she only ever had one. Every person is different and every body will react differently to the virus.
In the end you can choose to let your diagnosis define you negatively or accept it and live your life to the fullest. I’ve chosen to do the latter and I hope that anyone reading this— whether you have a herpes diagnosis or potentially encounter someone in the future with one (which is likely because remember— 1 in 6) is accepting and can make sound decisions based off of facts. We need to end the stigma. The likelihood that you know who are secretly living with this virus is high.
So many people aren’t willing to talk about it because they’re scared they will be called a “slut” or “dirty” or they think that they aren’t deserving of a normal, healthy relationship. I hope that in reading this you decide to change your outlook on those who have been diagnosed with genital herpes to an outlook that is accepting and open. And to those of you who already have this outlook— I thank you. Stay safe, stay healthy, stay informed, and use protection ;) #barrierbabes
These resources helped me a TON when I was first diagnosed:
TED Talk: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YcIl-hclrLI
***I am in NO WAY a doctor. I am speaking from personal experience, research, and information given to me by my gynecologist.