Get informed : Sexuality

Genital herpes
What is it?
•    Genital herpes is an infection caused by a virus.

•    Herpes is also called herpes simplex virus (HSV).

•    There are two types of herpes virus:
  1. Type 1 typically produces cold sores around the mouth and sometimes genital herpes
  2. Type 2 typically causes genital herpes
•    Herpes is a very contagious virus.


•    Symptoms may appear 2 to 20 days after contact with an infected person.

•    Many people do not show symptoms and are unaware that they have the infection or that they can spread it.

•    Herpes usually produces several symptoms:
  • Painful skin lesions that look like blisters or a cluster of pimples often located in the genital or anal area; after a few days, the blisters break, releasing a clear liquid, and then dry into a scab
  • Pain during urination
  • Itching in the genital area
  • A tingling and burning sensation before or during the appearance of blisters
  • Fever
  • Sore muscles
  • Headache
  • Swollen glands

•    An episode of herpes can last one to four weeks.

•    Herpes outbreaks can occur regularly, especially if the person is tired or weakened by another illness. Stress and heat may also trigger an outbreak.

•    Herpes is visible to the naked eye during an outbreak.

•    It can also be diagnosed during a medical examination by taking and testing the liquid from the blisters or by a blood test.

How do you contract it?

•    Through basic skin contact with an infected area on a person infected by herpes

•    Types 1 and 2 of the virus are very similar and can both cause lesions on the mouth or genitals. For example, if you have cold sores or genital herpes, you can transmit the virus to your partners’ genitals or mouth.

•    During childbirth, the mother can transmit the infection to the baby.

How do you treat it?
•    At the moment, there is no effective treatment to definitively cure this infection.

•    Certain medications can, however, help alleviate the symptoms during a herpes outbreak.
How do you prevent the infection from spreading?
•    Use a condom or dental dam during vaginal, anal or oral sex. However, condoms and dams do not provide full protection because they don’t cover all areas of the body that could be infected (e.g. mouth, thighs, buttocks, etc.).

•    Avoid sex if you detect warning signs of a herpes outbreak, as well as throughout an outbreak. The infected person is contagious 12 to 24 hours before blisters appear.

•    Inform your sexual partners so that they can consult a physician even if they don’t have any symptoms.

How can you protect yourself?
•    Abstinence (not having sex)

•    Avoid all intimate contact with a person who has skin lesions

•    Appropriate use of a condom or dental dam during vaginal, anal or oral sex can protect against genital herpes but does not provide full protection, depending on the location of the lesions (e.g. mouth, thighs, buttocks, etc.)

•    Limit your number of partners

•    Find out about your partners’ sexual past (note: this is no guarantee!)

•    Check your genitals regularly in order to detect any infection faster

•    Undergo regular screening tests if you think you are at risk

•    Consult a physician if any of your partners have an STI

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