Genital herpes remains a virus which is quite misunderstood amongst the general population. There are millions of people living with genital herpes and/or HPV throughout all parts of the world, yet the level of understanding and awareness remain low.
Despite there being several ways to combat the genital herpes virus, namely by controlling the symptoms using antiviral medicines, as the old saying goes, “prevention is better than cure.” In order words, do what you can to avoid contracting the virus in the first place.
Yet, that is easier said than done as most people with the herpes simplex virus (HSV) often do not know if their partner has the virus nor do they experience any symptoms of genital herpes when first infected and may, therefore, not know they have the virus.
In fact, symptoms may not appear until months or sometimes years after a person has been exposed to the virus. However, if any symptoms appear after a first infection, this is usually some four to seven days after exposure to the genital herpes virus. The symptoms are usually more severe first time around than in cases of recurrent infections which result as the virus remains in the body and can become active again. The likely rate of recurrence of genital herpes is four to five times in the first two years after first infection. However, over time, it becomes active less frequently and each outbreak becomes less severe.
As genital herpes can be passed to others through intimate sexual contact, it is often referred to as a sexually transmitted disease—and therein lies one of the possible routes to avoiding catching the virus. With a good dose of common sense and some caution thrown in, here are some ways to try and avoid contracting genital herpes:
- Unprotected sex: avoid unprotected sex at all times, even if possible with your regular partner—this applies to vaginal, anal and oral sex; take precautions such as using a condom or proprietary gels or creams
- Sexual activity with strangers: clearly, to mitigate the risk of catching genital herpes or other sexually transmitted disease, it’s always wise to know something about your new partner’s sexual history. If you have to have sex with strangers, do your best to verify as much as you can about their sexual health beforehand
- Sex with people who have or admit to have had genital herpes: as the genital herpes virus remains dormant in the body between spells of flaring up, if your potential partner admits to having or having had genital herpes, learn as much as you can before engaging in sexual relations—and even then, always ‘’cover up”
- People with evident cold sores: as HSV can affect any mucous membrane (moist lining), such as those found in the mouth, it’s wise to avoid kissing people with evident cold sores
All in all, contracting genital herpes may be unavoidable if you have multiple sexual partners or even are unlucky enough to be with someone who has—but it’s well worth doing your best to reduce your chances of catching the HSV virus which can cause long term chronic conditions.