Now that my birthday is over, I’m continuing the STD series that I started a few months ago.
Once again, a disclaimer: I do not now have, nor have I ever had, an STD. All of the information I’m getting for these articles comes from copious amounts of research gathered from internet sources (cited within and at the end of the articles). I get tested regularly. I use condoms religiously. I don’t sleep with drug addicts or homeless people. I don’t have sex with random strangers. Ever. I don’t give blowjobs for money on Nebraska avenue. I don’t sleep with people who fuck the prostitutes on Nebraska avenue (though I will, sometimes, frequent bars and have cider while watching the drama unfold at the hooker hotels across the street – though I never get involved – it’s like the unadulterated version of Jerry Springer).
AKA: Herpes Simplex Virus Type 1; Oral Herpes; Cold Sores; The Gift That Keeps On Giving
What is it: A common, contagious viral infection, generally causing blister-like sores on the mouth and/or genitals (yes, genitals, too). Where once it was believed that HSV-1 can occur ONLY on the mouth, more and more HSV-1 infections are also occurring on the genitals. Both the HSV 1 and HSV 2 virus strains look identical under a microscope and both require a moist environment for habitation.
HSV also can affect the eyes (SERIOUSLY, PEOPLE, WASH YOUR HANDS) and, very rarely, the brain.
How it’s spread: Kissing or close contact with someone that has an active sore or with someone who is just about to experience a breakout of the infection. Unprotected oral sex with someone who has sore on their lips (or a sore on their genitals – this works both ways). Also you can also spread your own virus via self-inoculation. If you have a sore, don’t touch it. If you do touch it, WASH YOUR HANDS before you touch your own body (or someone else’s). Soap and water works just fine as long as it has not yet entered your body.
Symptoms: (Largely the same in both men and women) According to www.herpes.com, “Prodromal Symptoms” such as pain, itching, burning, tingling can precede a breakout by 1-2 days. Some also experience a sore throat or swollen glands in the neck. Once the breakout has started, expect blisters to form that will eventually ooze a clear liquid, crust over, and disappear anywhere between 2-24 days.
How they test for it: Blood tests, cultures taken from an active sore (one that has not crusted over). That said, according to Mark Manson, while most people have one form or the other of HSV, most people don’t carry enough of the virus for it to show up in their blood levels with a blood test – and although about 80 percent of the population has HSV-1, most people never have a breakout (I would assume this is due to the low levels of the virus in the blood to begin with).
Curable? Nope. But really, it’s not a huge deal. While it may be a slight inconvenience, compared to some of the crap you can get out there, it’s not going to kill you. After a while, most people never have breakouts anymore at all. Breakouts can be managed by adding lysine to your diet, reducing your stress levels, some doctors recommend higher doses of vitamin C, and others swear by the usage of Lemon Balm on sores. An FDA-approved cream, Abreva, has also been tested and approved for reducing the healing time for developing cold sores. If frequent breakouts are a problem, there is suppression therapy that can be prescribed to you by your doctor to keep those recurrences at bay.
Prevention: Avoid kissing when you have a breakout (or when you think you’re going to have a breakout – apparently it tingles). Don’t give oral sex to someone when you have a breakout (or receive oral sex from someone that has a breakout). If you MUST have oral sex (really, you can’t wait a week?), use condoms and dental dams. Don’t share razors, drinking cups, straws, eating utensils with someone who is having a breakout. If you touch a sore, wash your hands before you touch anyone else (including yourself). Common sense, really.
AKA: Herpes Simplex Virus Type 2; Genital Herpes; The Gift That Keeps On Giving
What is it: Lesions on the genitals caused by blisters that form during an initial infection or recurrent outbreak.
How it’s spread: Genital-Genital contact with someone who has the virus. Genital-Anal contact with someone who has the virus. Genital Herpes is particularly contagious during an outbreak and just before, however it can also be spread during “shedding” periods. Also spreadable via oral sex. Remember, these things are pretty much identical, except in location.
Symptoms: Genital Herpes is slightly more common in women than in men – possibly due to the fact that male-to-female transmission being easier than the female-to-male transmission. Otherwise symptoms are generally the same. Initial outbreaks generally happen about two weeks after initial infection and can cause flu-like symptoms (if there are any symptoms at all). One or more blisters may appear around the genitals or rectum (during research for this entry, I’ve read that generally these appear at the site of infection). Recurrent outbreaks (if any) sometimes are preceded by tingling, burning, itching, or soreness at the site, followed by the formation of blisters. It’s contagious during both periods.
How they test for it: Cell cultures on active lesions; Blood tests. Yet again, though, most people never have breakouts, or they are so mild that people don’t even realize they’re having a breakout (think angry zits or bug bites or something).
Curable? Nope. But treatable if you have frequent, recurrent breakouts via prescription medications. Also the FDA hasn’t approved Abreva for treatment of genital herpes, but forum sources on the internet claim that it is also effective (in some cases, not all cases) for these, as well. Others say Lemon Balm works just as well for these. Still, the “official” story is that Lysine, stress management, diet changes, and, even, Vitamin C can help manage breakouts. Regardless, while a minor inconvenience, compared to some of the shit you can have, there are worse things in the world.
Prevention: If you have a breakout, don’t have sex. Period. But if you aren’t sure, condoms, condoms, and more condoms. While this won’t prevent it 100 percent, it does significantly reduce the chances of spreading (or acquiring) the virus. Get tested. Though be advised that if the levels of the virus in the bloodstream aren’t high enough to be detected, a false negative can also be had. Also, if you are someone that has frequent outbreaks, use lube during intercourse to reduce the amount of friction – friction irritates the skin, irritated skin doesn’t cause, but it encourages, outbreaks.
No one wants herpes. No one wants to GET herpes. Getting tested is really, really important (though, admittedly, it’s not always effective). Use condoms. Don’t sleep with random people. If you must have random sex with that person you met at a party last week, use a condom. Don’t make out with that random guy in the corner that looks like he has a giant blister on his lip. Don’t let that girl with the big sore give you a blow job.
If you ARE unlucky enough to get infected (or to already have an infection), don’t have sex while you’re having an outbreak. Wash your hands. Don’t be an idiot. And, further, don’t panic. You aren’t going to die from it, your dick won’t fall off (hell, it won’t even ooze green stuff), your vagina isn’t going to smell funny, and since it’s apparently reached epidemic levels around the world (according to Mark Manson, one in five likely have it already), you’re probably in good company despite the fact that it’s blown WAAAAY out of proportion in this country (I mean shit, it’s not HIV, Cancer, or leprosy, for fuck’s sake.)