Herpes is a common sexually transmitted disease (STD) with no cure, affecting one in five American adults and teenagers just like you. Many of us have misconceptions or misunderstandings about herpes, what it is, and what it is to live life with the disease. These myths create fear and worse, contribute to the spread of the disease. By debunking these myths and raising awareness about herpes, we can help people lead a more fulfilling life. Following are the most common myths regarding herpes.
• You were just diagnosed with genital herpes and now your sex life is over
People who have genital herpes can continue to have sex. There are several easy and simple steps you can take to prevent the spread of herpes. Abstinence should be practiced as soon as you feel the warning signs of an outbreak and during any active outbreak of the virus. Wait seven days after the sores heal before resuming any sexual activity. Consistently using condoms during all sexual activity greatly helps in preventing the spread of the disease. However, you should take care in exposing any bare skin not covered by a condom during any sexual activity, including oral sex.
• People with genital herpes are sexually promiscuous
Statistics show that people with herpes are no more sexually active than the general population. While having unprotected sex with multiple partners does raise the risk of contracting the virus, it only takes one unsafe exposure to become infected.
• You can contract genital herpes from toilet seats
Although genital herpes is one of the most common sexually transmitted infections worldwide, it is extremely unlikely that you can get the virus from a toilet seat. The virus that causes herpes cannot live outside the human body for very long. Genital herpes, or HSV-2, is spread through direct skin contact during sexual activity and presents as open sores or blisters around the genitals. The virus can also be spread to the mouth and throat through oral sex.
• Once you have herpes, you will always have itchy rashes
When contracting the virus most people experience an outbreak of itchy sores, but these sores heal and go away in a matter of days or weeks. Subsequently, you may experience similar outbreaks in the future which may range from mild to severe. They also heal. Some people live with herpes and experience no outbreaks, itching or other symptoms.
• People with herpes cannot have children
In general, women with genital herpes give birth to healthy babies. However, in some cases, an outbreak of genital herpes during pregnancy can have serious health issues on the unborn fetus including miscarriage and stillbirths. For some babies, a herpes infection can cause severe brain injury and blindness. If you have genital herpes, it is best to consult with your doctor before becoming pregnant.
• You cannot get herpes if you use condoms
Use of condoms during sex is an excellent way to greatly reduce the chances of becoming infected with any STD. However, it is still possible to become infected with the herpes virus even when using a condom. Some people contract the virus through oral sex and others through direct contact with sores where they are not protected by the condom.
•People with herpes cannot donate blood
According to the American Red Cross, people with herpes may donate blood as long as they are healthy and do not have any other restricted infections
• When you have herpes, you know it
Most people who are infected with herpes are unaware that they have the virus. In the United States approximately 80% of people with the STD do not know they have it. The viruses’ symptoms may not appear or can be very subtle. In some cases, the virus remains dormant for years. The only way to know if you have herpes or not is to get tested for the disease.