CHOICES SEXUAL HEALTH clinic specialises in reproductive and sexual health issues. Located in Sydney’s lower North Shore the practice team of highly skilled team of Drs and nurses are passionate in providing you CHOICES.
1. How common is herpes?
76% of Australians have Herpes Simplex 1(HSV-1), the strain of the Herpes virus that mainly affects the mouth area and which we refer to as cold sores. Although the herpes virus can affect the mouth and genitals only 12% of Australians have HSV-2 or the genital herpes virus strain that affects the genital area—although both strains can affect the genital area. A poor understanding of herpes and its transmission may have led to its increased transmission.
2. What does it look like?
The majority of patients infected with genital herpes have symptoms such as redness, itch, burning and fissuring. It is estimated that 20% of patients are asymptomatic and that about 20% experience the classical herpes ulcer or vesicle.
3. How can I prevent its transmission and treat it?
Genital herpes can be treated when you have an outbreak or you can choose to suppress outbreaks by taking medication daily. Treating when you have an episode or outbreak will lead to a decrease in length and discomfort of the outbreak and is cheaper. Suppressive treatment will reduce frequency of outbreaks and has been proven to reduce transmission. If you think you have a herpes outbreak treatment should be commenced promptly. Don’t have sex when you have blisters or symptoms; you are most infectious at this point. In most people the body can shed the herpes virus from the skin even when there are no symptoms or signs of herpes simplex. However, if you wear condoms this reduces transmission by at least 75%.
4. How did I get herpes? Will it increase my chances of getting other STIs?
The virus enters the body through small cracks in the skin or through the soft lining of the mouth, vagina, anus, urethra (the tube for urine) and under the foreskin. You cannot pass on genital herpes from hugging, sharing baths or towels, from swimming pools, toilet seats, or from sharing cups, plates or cutlery. Many studies have shown that there is an increased risk of acquiring HIV if one has genital herpes.
5. Will it affect my baby?
Having herpes will not affect your chance of falling pregnant, it has no effect on fertility. If a woman develops her first outbreak of herpes less than six weeks before she gives birth, then there is a risk of transmitting herpes to the baby during delivery, and obstetricians usually advise delivery by caesarean section. Chronic genital herpes poses little risk to pregnancy and neonatal herpes is rare in Australia and a prior history of maternal history poses very little risk. Most women in Australia with genital herpes have vaginal deliveries.