As most of my calls here at ASHA are about genital herpes, I thought I’d clear the air. TV shows, movies, and society as a whole create this stigma around herpes when really, there’s not too much to be scared of. Most of the time, genital herpes is a mild skin condition that can be managed very effectively.
- It is estimated that 1 out of 6 people have genital herpes. About 90% of them don’t know it.
- Herpes (oral & genital) cannot be spread through inanimate objects such as spoons, glasses, razors, towels, bed sheets, etc. Herpes can only be passed through direct skin-to-skin contact with the infected area such as kissing, oral sex, genital-to-genital rubbing, vaginal, and anal sex.
- Herpes (both oral & genital) can be spread even when there are no symptoms or sores. This is called asymptomatic shedding. Suppressive antiviral therapy significantly reduces asymptomatic shedding (and outbreaks). Valacyclovir taken daily can reduce risk of transmission to a partner by as much as 50%.
- Herpes is a very manageable skin condition and does not cause any damage to internal organs.
- 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 communities and support groups for you with people who’ve been in your shoes.