Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Herpes Facts Six Things You Should Know about Herpes

If you're a sexually active adult and you are dating, playing at parties, or even kissing people outside of a strictly monogamous long-term relationship (and I hope you are!), there are some important facts about HSV that you may not have gotten out of your high-school sex-ed class or from your healthcare provider. Don't feel bad.
Structural deficiencies, like the availability of adequate sexual health education (not to mention science, technology, engineering, and mathematics), paired with a concerted effort by drug manufacturers and public health officials to stigmatize HSV, have created an environment where, even in the most sexually enlightened corners of the internet, it is unusual to encounter a person who rationally assesses the risks of choices they make regarding exposure to HSV.

Herpes (HSV) is among the most common sexually transmitted infections (STIs):
  • 70-90% of adults worldwide have herpes
  • 57-73% of US adults carry HSV 1 and/or HSV 2
  • Many people with HSV never experience any symptoms, or experience symptoms so mild that they are not noticed
HSV 1 (sometimes called 'oral' herpes or cold sores) is herpes:
  • HSV 1 is responsible for most new cases of 'genital' herpes.
  • HSV 1 can be transmitted through oral / genital contact, oral/oral contact, and genital/genital contact.
  • HSV 1 & HSV 2 pose very few serious health risks, but those they do, they have in common.
HSV is among the least detected STIs:
  • 81.1% of HSV 2 carriers in the United States are unaware that they are positive.
  • More than 40% of U.S. adults have Herpes and don't know it.
  • HSV testing is not 'medically necessary' for most people, and is generally not included in a standard STI test panel.

Even if you have a negative HSV test result, it probably doesn't mean much:

  • HSV tests measure antibodies that only reach measurable levels six months after infection.
  • To confidently claim negative HSV status, a person must abstain from all activities that could result in transmission of the virus for six months before being tested for HSV.
  • HSV is spread through skin-to-skin contact, which can include casual contact like cuddling and kissing.

 HSV is spread through skin-to-skin contact, so condoms limited protection against transmission:
  • A 'genital' HSV shedding site can be anywhere covered by a pair of boxers, not just on the genitals
  • A condom reduces the risk of transmission by 30% because it covers about 30% of the potential transmission sites
  • Anti-viral drugs (available only to people who know that they carry the virus) reduce the risk of transmission an additional 50%
 HSV can spread when no outbreak or physical symptoms are present:
  • HSV lives in the nervous system to avoid the immune system and periodically migrates to a skin site where it can be transmitted
  • In HSV-2 cases, without anti-viral drugs, the virus was present at a skin site on about 20% of the days measured. With anti-viral drugs, it was only 10%
  • In HSV-1 cases, the virus was present on 10% of days and 5% of days, respectively
  • Many people assume that exposure to a skin site that is shedding will result in transmission of the virus, but this is far from true. Some couples have unprotected sex for years before one partner transmits the virus to the other.

The Stigma Around Herpes
 PositiveSingles, the premiere dating site for people with herpes
Of all sexually transmitted diseases, genital herpes carries the greatest social stigma after HIV, according to a 2007 poll about relationships. The stigma around this disease is greater than that for gonorrhea, mental illness, obesity, substance abuse, and cancer.

People with herpes have very normal romantic and sexual relationships. After diagnosis, you may feel like your life may never be the same again but you will feel better soon. There are countless online herpes dating sites and support groups for you with people who’ve been in your shoes.

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