If you’re like most people, you probably avoid sexually transmitted diseases like the plague. You have good reason too. However, one commonly misunderstood STD is herpes, a confusion that comes from the stigma of having HSV-2 (genital herpes). Actually, this disease may not cause as much harm as you think, and there’s a high chance that you already have it.
Let’s look at some of these common misconceptions about herpes.
- People with herpes must have a promiscuous lifestyle.
On the contrary, nearly everyone has a risk for getting oral or genital herpes. In fact, the CDC attests that the only real way to entirely avoid the risk is to refrain from sexual contact of any kind.
To avoid contracting herpes orally, you have to avoid oral contact with anyone. Even then, you would still have a slight risk if you come into contact with someone who has touched an affected area.
Here’s the good news—sort of. According to the World Health Organization, as many as 67 percent of the global population has HSV-1, or oral herpes. This oral herpes manifests itself in the form of cold sores.
Oral herpes is actually not that much different from genital herpes. In fact, you can contract genital herpes from its oral counterpart. How many people have you seen with a cold sore in the last twelve months?
2. People with herpes are contagious.
This one has some truth, but people often regard others infected by herpes as a walking disease. Herpes is a contact disease, meaning that you have to make contact with the sores in order to contract it.
When the sores appear, a person is having a herpes outbreak. When the sores go away, the person still likely has the infection, but it lies in a dormant state in the body. The chance of contracting herpes without a visible outbreak is low.
3. People who have herpes will know about their problem.
Again, since many people get cold sores throughout the year, millions have herpes without knowing the true originator. Also, remember how herpes can lie in a dormant state? Many infected people have had little to no visible symptoms of herpes. Even people with HSV-2 often don’t know that they have it.
4. Herpes controls your intimate life.
People with either type of herpes can have sex safely without transmitting the disease. You simply have to take precautions during an outbreak to prevent it from spreading. In addition, people with HSV-1 have a lower risk of getting HSV-2 since they already have a form of the disease.
To prevent oral herpes, you should avoid kissing those with cold sores or sharing personal items with friends and family. The latter includes sharing drinks, makeup, or anything else that comes into contact with someone else’s face.
In addition, you should not allow family or friends to kiss or touch all over your baby’s face. Most people with HSV-1 will not know that they are transmitting a disease to your baby.
For genital herpes, ask your partner about the topic before your first time of intimacy. Know that you will always have a risk of contracting it if your partner already has the infection.
Using condoms can reduce the chance of transferring it, but you should still avoid any sexual contact if an outbreak occurs. Also, limiting your sexual partners to a monogamous relationship will greatly decrease your risk.
Have Herpes? It’s Not the End.
If you have contracted herpes like so many others, you can still hold onto hope. While herpes does not currently have a cure, you can find adequate treatment. For many people, herpes symptoms are minor or even asymptomatic.
At the same time, you should still seek treatment if you know you have oral or genital herpes. For either, most doctors will prescribe one of several antiviral medications.
These antivirals are made primarily for genital herpes but can be used for the oral type as well. You can also look into over-the-counter topical medicines for oral herpes, although the FDA has only recommended Abreva to reduce the length of the outbreak.
While most people don’t even know they have herpes, there’s a high chance that you or many friends and family do. This fact does not need to alarm you, although you should still protect yourself against it. In the event that you do have herpes, you can get treatment to reduce the outbreaks and still enjoy a long and happy life. This STD does not have to ruin you.