Herpes is one of the most common STIs, but most people never get symptoms so they don’t know they have it. Avoiding sex when you feel a cold sore or blister coming up on either the mouth or genitals and using condoms and dams is your best protection.
What is herpes?
Herpes is a viral infection caused by the herpes simplex virus (HSV) that is passed from person to person through skin to skin contact with someone who has the infection.
Herpes is a very common sexually transmissible infection (STI). Most people who have herpes don’t get symptoms and never know they have the virus. Even without symptoms, it can be passed on.
Herpes sores can show up on the mouth or lips. This is known as cold sores or oral herpes. When herpes sores show on the vagina, penis or anus (bottom), this is called genital herpes.
How do you get herpes?
Herpes can be passed on through skin to skin contact and when you have foreplay, non-penetrative sex, vaginal, anal, or oral sex with someone who has herpes.
How do you prevent herpes?
Use condoms during vaginal, oral and anal sex. Condoms will reduce the chance of herpes from being passed on. Make sure you change condoms between partners and when sharing sex toys.
Use dams during oral sex. Dams will prevent skin to skin contact and prevent herpes from being passed on.
If you have herpes symptoms, avoid skin-to-skin contact with others until symptoms have resolved.
Test for STIs and HIV every 3-12 months. It is important and part of a healthy confident sex life.
What are the tests for herpes?
Herpes is not a part of routine STI testing as you must have symptoms to test. Herpes is tested for by taking a swab from a blister or sore while you have symptoms. If you have herpes, you should get tested for other STIs. STI tests are easy, confidential and nothing to be ashamed about.
You can get an STI test at your local doctor, a sexual health clinic and some university health clinics. You can call the Sexual Health Infolink on 1800 451 624 (free call) to find the closest service to you.
What is the treatment for herpes?
There is no cure for herpes. Antiviral medication can help to reduce herpes outbreaks and symptoms. People who regularly have uncomfortable symptoms may be able take these medications every day.
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Grant Partners NSW STI Programs Unit, Illawarra Shoalhaven Local Health District (LHD), South Eastern Sydney LHD, Southern and Murrumbidgee LHD, Sydney LHD, Western Sydney LHD, ACON, BUPA, Centre for Culture Ethnicity and Health (CEH), English Australia, Family Planning NSW (FPNSW), Medibank, Multicultural HIV and Hepatitis Service, University of NSW (UNSW)