The dreaded herpes has been the butt of many jokes over the years, but also a source of very real confusion, sadness, humiliation and terror in the young and sexually active population. Unfortunately, this isn’t just a teen and early 20s disease, though. Older adults who are sexually active, get divorced and get new partners, or even becoming intimate in retirement homes are all at risk as well.
Part of the problem is that some people don’t really know what herpes is, how to recognize it and how it gets transmitted. They also don’t know how to halt its spread or be proactive about it, which is the point of this post. Let’s dig in.
What Is Herpes?
“Herpes is caused by two different but similar viruses: herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1) and herpes simplex virus type 2 (HSV-2),” says Planned Parenthood. “Both kinds can make sores pop up on and around your vulva, vagina, cervix, anus, penis, scrotum, butt, inner thighs, lips, mouth, throat, and rarely, your eyes.” (1)
The sores usually erupt as painful blisters, then break and turn into bloody patches, which then scab over. After a while, they will disappear. Just because herpes is not active at the moment doesn’t mean it goes away. While there is no cure, however, there are medications that can help you manage the disease.
It’s important to note that herpes may be active even if you cannot see sores. Additionally, you can get herpes from someone even if their sores are on a different part of their body. It is possible to contract oral herpes from someone with HSV-1 whose sores are currently manifesting on their genitals. Similarly, you can get genital herpes just from kissing someone, if the virus is currently causing a breakout on their mouth – which you may or may not be able to see.
Because herpes is so good at “flying under the radar,” it’s very important that you get tested after having sex with a new partner. Ideally, you and your partner should get tested before you sleep together or engage in other sexual activity.
What Is the Best Way to Avoid Herpes?
Herpes is a tricky disease, because it is so often asymptomatic. If you are sexually active or even kissing, there is a chance that you will catch it. Because of this, the absolute best way to avoid the disease is to test. Barring that, though, here are some safer sex tips to practice:
- Always use a condom with new partners
- Use a new condom every time you have sex
- Where possible, try to avoid having multiple partners at once
- Avoid having sex with new partners when you are not sober
How Important Is Testing?
In a word, extremely. Testing not only keeps you safe, it shows your partners that you are safe to have sex with, and gives you solid ground on which to request that they get tested as well. Most people don’t know, however, how often you should be tested for herpes and other diseases. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, here are the testing guidelines (2):
- All adults and adolescents from ages 13 to 64 should be tested at least once for HIV
- Sexually active women under 25 should test for gonorrhea and chlamydia every year.
- Women 25 years and older who have risk factors (new partners, multiple partners, partners with STDs) should be tested for gonorrhea and chlamydia every year.
- Pregnant women should be tested for syphilis, HIV, and hepatitis B as soon as they know they’re pregnant.
- Pregnant women who are at risk should be tested for chlamydia and gonorrhea as soon as they know they’re pregnant.
- If pregnant women continue to have unprotected sex, they should be tested as often as necessary.
- Sexually active gay and bisexual men should be tested once a year for syphilis, chlamydia and gonorrhea.
- Gay and bisexual men with multiple or anonymous partners should be tested every 3 to 6 months for STDs.
- Sexually active gay and bisexual men should test for HIV every 3 to 6 months.
- Anyone who has unsafe sex or shares injection drug equipment should get tested for HIV at least once a year.
Due to the wide-sweeping nature of STDs, and to the fact that people with milder STDs such as herpes and chlamydia are likelier to contract more serious diseases such as HIV, it’s a good idea to take a comprehensive test rather than just getting tested for specific diseases. This not only reduces the chances of spreading herpes, it lowers your risk of getting other diseases as well.
Today, there’s a better than ever option for comprehensive STD testing: a home STD test kit.
How Does It Work?
Home test kits are very simple to use. Although it may feel daunting to perform your own STD test, you’re not actually doing the job yourself. Instead, you’re just collecting the sample and sending it to the same type of certified laboratory that physicians and clinics use. All you have to do is:
- Order an iDNA test today
- Get the package in the mail, in an unmarked box, with neutral payment information on your credit card statement for ultimate discretion
- Follow the instructions to collect the sample and put it in the mail
- Register online so that you have an account to which you can log in at any time
- Check on the progress of your test until you get results, which will come quickly with our team working 7 days a week
- Ask us questions along the way
- Reorder a kit and retest every time you want peace of mind or to prove to a new partner that you are clean
Given that home STD kits such as iDNA are so easy to acquire and use, you can even suggest to your partners that they test themselves before having sex too. The most important thing, however, is that you take charge of your sexual health to ensure you limit the spread of herpes, reduce the chances of getting another disease, and protect the rest of the population.
How Can You Get Started?
Getting started with a home test kit is as easy as going online and ordering one. Once you get it in the mail, you can take the test right away and mail it off immediately. It’s much faster than making an appointment with a doctor, and you can avoid the hassle and discomfort of going through doctor’s offices, insurance companies or third parties.
Are you sexually active? Regular screening is an essential part of a healthy sex life and can protect you and your partners from chlamydia. For affordable and accurate STD screening in the privacy of your own home, request your STD test kit today.
(1) Oral & Genital Herpes. (2019). Retrieved from https://www.plannedparenthood.org/learn/stds-hiv-safer-sex/herpes
(2) Which STD Tests Should I Get? (2014). Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/std/prevention/screeningreccs.htm