Disclosing the fact that someone has herpes is not an easy thing to do, but failure to do so might cause serious legal issues. There have been cases where people have been charged with a crime for knowingly engaging in sexual relations with someone and not disclosing their herpes infection.
Ironically, anyone on the receiving end of the herpes talk has a good chance of having the virus already. It is common in sexually active people aged between 20 and 24 and, in the general population, the majority of adults carry the herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1) and one-in-4 carry type 2 (HSV-2). The two strains used to be referred to as oral and genital herpes because HSV-1 typically occurs in or around the mouth while HSV-2 typically occurs in the genital region. However, HSV-1 cold sores can be transmitted to the genitals. The common practice of oral sex has resulted in 50% of cases of genital herpes are now caused by the HSV-1 strain.
One of the biggest problems with herpes is that one-in-five carriers experience no, or so few, symptoms they don’t realize that they have it. The huge number of asymptomatic carriers means that the spread of herpes is virtually impossible to control. Most infections are acquired from a person with no known history of the disease. The average time for transmission in a new couple, where one partner has herpes and the other doesn’t, is about two months. If symptoms are going to appear they will generally show between two and seven days after infection. However, in many cases the virus will lie dormant for years. For couples in long-term monogamous relationships, an unexpected herpes diagnosis inevitably raises questions about fidelity and if the couple has been having unprotected sex, both partners will probably be infected. That’s why it is so important to be properly tested for STD’s prior to engaging in any intimate relationship.
In a person who is symptomatic, the typical symptoms of genital herpes is tingling or stabbing pain followed by skin ulceration of the moist skin around the genitals. This is the point at which herpes is most infectious and the virus spreads easily from the affected area across the mucous membranes lining the mouth and genitals. It can also enter through a tear in the skin on any part of the body that comes into direct contact with the affected area. After the initial herpes outbreak, future outbreaks are based on the strength of a person’s immune system. Outbreaks usually become less frequent and less severe over time.
Although the likelihood of contracting genital herpes between outbreaks is reduced, it is possible to contract the virus even if there are no visible symptoms or lesions so it is important to use a condom. During an outbreak you should avoid kissing or having oral (HSV-1), genital or anal contact (HSV-2) even with a condom. You should also avoid sex if your partner feels any itching or tingling under her skin or has any other symptoms that suggest the herpes sores are soon going to appear (the prodromal period before an outbreak). Herpes is a virus and cannot be cured. But it is important to realize that it can be managed.
There are various methods of herpes treatment. There are antivirals, which are prescription medications. If the medication is taken continually as opposed to just taking it during outbreaks, it can reduce the number and severity of outbreaks by 70%-80% and it can reduce the risk of transmission by about 50%.