Genital herpes

What is it? Genital herpes is one of the more complicated STIs. The herpes viruses are a family of viruses that include chickenpox and glandular fever.
There are two types of Herpes Simplex: HSV I and HSV II. Type II is generally associated with genital herpes, and Type I causes cold sores around the mouth area.

Cause: Genital herpes is caused by Herpes Simplex Virus.

How can I catch it? Genital herpes is spread by direct contact with the infectious virus via unprotected sexual contact or through oral sex with someone who gets cold sores, so there is crossover between Type I and II infections, orally and genitally. It is most infectious when the person infected has sores, though it is possible to have no visible symptoms and still pass on the virus (asymptomatic shedding).

Symptoms: The first infection is often quite severe with blisters and inflammation at the site of infection, the person may feel generally unwell, and it is common to have symptoms of burning when passing urine. The virus then enters a dormant phase but may reactivate from time to time to cause recurrences.
Some people may become infected with the virus and never show any symptoms. This is why it is important to ALWAYS use a condom until both you and your partner have been tested.

How can I treat it? Herpes is, technically speaking, incurable. However, the severity will vary hugely between individuals and some people will only ever have one attack. Antiviral medication (Aciclovir) is used to control outbreaks and may be prescribed to susceptible individuals to prevent further episodes.

If you have any questions, speak to your nurse or doctor, or see the sexual health useful conctacts list. To book a sexual health screen online visit