We’re shouting ‘herpes’ from the rooftops, because there is too much psychological stigma attached to this sexually transmitted infection. Call it naivety. Call it misunderstanding. Call it a lack of education. Whatever the reasoning, it’s time to clear up the misconceptions surrounding herpes and bring the facts to light. After all, with an estimated three-quarters of Australian adults being infected with HSV-1 and one in ten adults with HSV-2, herpes stands as one of the most common STIs in Australia.
Assuming more of the population has herpes than you may have originally thought, there’s no reason to smother the virus in stigma and secrecy. Let’s ease the silent suffering of humans with herpes by debunking the following herpes myths.
Myth #1 – Only promiscuous people get herpes
This herpes myth is straight-up incorrect. Anyone can be diagnosed with herpes. Male, female, monogamous, polyamorous, straight, gay; herpes doesn’t discriminate. The herpes virus is asymptomatic, meaning there are often no visible symptoms, and someone can pass on the virus without knowing they have the virus. So, anyone can spread and carry the disease, promiscuous or otherwise.
Myth #2 – Herpes = a sexual death sentence
While there currently isn’t a cure for herpes, the condition is manageable. Treatment is easily accessible and can provide relief, shortened duration, and even prevention of outbreaks. The most important thing is to manage outbreaks and refrain from getting naughty between the sheets from the moment an outbreak strikes, up until a week following an outbreak.
Myth #3 – Herpes symptoms exist 24/7
Herpes is the STI that doesn’t always holla back, girl. You could send a search party looking for signs and symptoms, but the reality is – herpes is an asymptomatic virus that won’t always be loud and proud when it comes to showing symptoms. For a little extra perspective; only one out of five people who carry the herpes virus will show visible symptoms (e.g. cold sores or genital lesions). Most people who carry herpes aren’t even aware they’re infected.
Myth #4 – Herpes is only contagious during an outbreak
Here we have one of the lead culprit scenarios of herpes transmission. While an outbreak is the most common time for transmission to occur, there’s also a high risk of the virus spreading before and after an episode, especially if the carrier shows no symptoms when ‘shedding’ the virus from their system.
Myth #5 – You’re in a relationship and you’ve tested positive for herpes; obviously your partner has been sleeping around
This herpes myth gains a solid no from us! HERPES IS AN ASYMPTOMATIC VIRUS. Yes, we’re shouting again. Because, 80% of people who carry the herpes virus aren’t even aware they have the virus. Therefore, unless you and your partner have tested for the virus and received negative results, there’s a chance that one or both of you could carry the herpes virus. Our advice: get tested and eliminate the possibility that your partner has the virus before assuming they’re getting all hot and heavy behind your back.
Myth #6 – HSV-1 only affects the mouth and HSV-2 only affects genitals
Unfortunately, this isn’t the case. Herpes is a generous virus that’s all about sharing the transmission love. Case in point – if someone has HSV-1, they can still give someone genital herpes via physical contact (aka oral sex). There is a small smidge of possibility for genital herpes transferral to the mouth during oral sex however it’s super rare.
Myth #7 – Using a condom prevents transmission
We’re all for condoms reducing the risk of herpes transmission when used correctly during vaginal, oral and anal sex, however they’re not a foolproof solution. Herpes can still spread via skin contact in areas not covered by a condom or clothing. Be cautious, people!
This blog is designed to be informative and educational. It is not intended to provide specific medical advice or replace advice from your medical practitioner.