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Genital Herpes

What is Herpes?

Herpes, or Herpes Simplex Virus (HSV), is a viral infection that can affect different parts of the body, and can be transmitted sexually and non-sexually. The most commonly infected areas of the body are the mouth (oral herpes, also known as cold sores) and the genitals (penis, vagina, anus) (genital herpes). There are also two different kinds of herpes: HSV-1 and HSV-2. Oral herpes is usually HSV-1 and genital herpes is usually HSV-2, but not always.

How do I know if I have genital Herpes?

Most people don’t know if they have genital herpes because they do not get symptoms. The main symptom of herpes are occasional outbreaks of itchy, painful sores filled with clear fluid, followed by flu-like symptoms or a fever and swollen glands. People diagnosed with genital herpes may have several outbreaks in the first year if they are not taking medication. Over time, the outbreaks occur less frequently, and are less irritating than the initial outbreak. The only way to know for sure is to get tested. Genital herpes can be diagnosed by visual inspection and testing a sample from sores during an outbreak.

How can I get it?

Genital herpes often passes from person to person during sexual contact. The person infected does not need to have a visible sore to infect the other person, and sometimes might not even know they are infected.

81.1% of infected individuals do not know about their infection. 16% of people aged 14-49 have an HSV-2 infection.*

The virus can be shed from skin that looks normal.

How can I get treated?

Herpes cannot be cured, but antiviral medicine can shorten and prevent outbreaks and also reduce transmission to partners. Currently, there is no vaccine available.

What happens if I don’t get treated?

Herpes can cause outbreaks of genital sores. The first outbreak is usually the most painful, but someone with herpes can get more outbreaks throughout their life if they are not taking antiviral medication. If a mother has an outbreak during giving birth, the infection could transfer to the baby. Herpes can make people more susceptible to HIV infection and can make HIV-positive individuals more infectious. This is because the sores act as openings for HIV to more easily enter and leave the body.

Get Help

For general resources about relationships, sex, wellness and more, please do a search on the Get Answers page.

Are you in immediate danger?

Call 911 or your local police. If not in an immediate threat, please view resources on the Get Care page.