Herpes is a fairly common sexually transmitted infection amongst gay guys in Australia. It’s caused by two different but closely related viruses:
- Herpes Simplex Virus Type 1 (HSV-1): Commonly known as cold sores, type 1 herpes is usually transmitted by skin-to-skin contact from kissing, touching, and sometimes from sucking a guy’s cock.
- Herpes Simplex Virus Type 2 (HSV-2): Commonly known as genital herpes, type 2 herpes is usually spread by fucking or getting fucked. Again, it’s usually passed on from skin-to-skin contact.
Having type 2 herpes (HSV-2) can present an increased risk of HIV transmission. The sores that develop are more likely to be infected with HIV during intercourse. When you develop a sore, the immune system tries to heal it, so there are many immune cells concentrated in that spot. Those are the cells that HIV infects. If HIV in semen, vaginal fluid, or blood comes in contact with a herpes sore, the risk for infection is high.
What are the symptoms?
Sometimes, there are no symptoms associated with herpes. However, some symptoms can occur, and these will usually become present between two to seven days after exposure.
For Type 1 herpes (HSV-1), the symptoms can start with tingling or itching, followed by sores or blisters around the mouth (cold sores) or on the cock, front hole or arse. If you get blisters, they will usually form scabs.
For Type 2 herpes (HSV-2), the symptoms appear as sores, painful or tingling blisters near your arse, cock, front hole or balls.
You may also experience:
- Muscle aches
- Flu-like symptoms
- Swollen glands
How do I get tested?
That’s simple. If you are experiencing symptoms, speak to your doctor or visit your local sexual health centre to test for herpes. The doctor will need to do a swab of the blisters or sores and usually offer a complete STI screen. If your test returns a positive diagnosis it is important to seek treatment immediately.
How can I be treated?
There’s no cure for herpes, as it stays in your body for the rest of your life. However, your doctor can prescribe you treatments that will reduce symptoms and speed up your recovery.
Also, if you have herpes, the symptoms may reappear, especially if your immune system is lowered or during times of stress. You’ll probably find that outbreaks (recurrence of symptoms) will become less frequent over time. The best way to avoid outbreaks is by eating a healthy diet and resting well. Medication can be used if you get frequent outbreaks.
How can I reduce the risk of contracting herpes?
Just like all STIs, you can reduce the chance of contracting herpes simply by avoiding skin-to-skin contact with anyone who has visible symptoms, and if you’re having sex, the best way to reduce transmission is by using condoms, not just to cover your cock, but also any sex toys you use. So whenever you’re playing, try to make sure you have them handy.
What if I’m HIV positive?
If you’re poz and you have herpes, your immune system may be weakened. In this instance, your herpes infection may be more severe, with more frequent flare-ups than guys who aren’t poz.
If I’m on PrEP, how will herpes affect me?
You can still contract herpes while you are on PrEP. PrEP is a highly effective tool to ensure you stay HIV negative, but it provides no protection from herpes and other STIs. Condoms with plenty of lube can help reduce your risk of contracting Type 2 herpes (HSV-2).
FAST FACTS ABOUT HERPES
- Herpes can increase the risk of HIV acquisition
- Herpes can be spread through fucking, getting fucked, oral sex, or skin to skin contact
- It can be passed on even when no symptoms are present
- The best way to avoid contracting herpes is by using condoms whenever you have sexual contact