Home' LOTL : November 2004 Contents HEALTH
HELP FOR HERPES
In September we talked about the apparent non-issue of sexually
transmitted infections in lesbians. Recently I came across some
interesting results from an English study looking at the prevalence of
sexually transmitted infections (STIs) in women who have sex with
women (WSW). They sur veyed 708 women attending sexual health
clinics for lesbians and bisexual women. Not surprisingly, 82 per
cent of the women reported having had sex with men. Infections like
chlamydia, pelvic inflammatory disease, and gonorrhoea were rare
and found only in women who had had sex with men, but
trichomoniasis, genital herpes, and genital warts were found in three
women who had no history of sex with men, indicating sexual
transmission between women can and will occur.
Just over one per cent of the women were diagnosed with herpes, an infection
caused by the herpes simplex virus (HSV). There are two types of HSV, and both can
cause genital herpes. The typical symptoms are painful, ulcerated sores on the genitals,
anus or mouth. Herpes can also occur on other areas of the body including the cervix
where it is not visible externally. Most importantly, many people with HSV never have
symptoms and so don't know they are infected.
You get herpes by intimate contact with someone already infected with the virus
through contact with a sore or virus shed from the skin. Oral sex when a cold sore is
present can also transmit the virus. Once you are infected, the virus stays in your nerve
cells for life. Once infected, most people continue to have recurrences from time to time.
During recurrences the virus particles multiply and can be passed to other people, even
if there is no obvious sore.
The best tests for herpes are done on swabs taken from the sores. Blood tests are
not specific. A negative swab does not rule out the possibility of HSV infection
There is no cure for genital herpes, but medications can shorten and prevent
outbreaks. If you have herpes, there is no reason you should not have a full and active
sex life with a few simple precautions. Sexual contact should be avoided from the time
the symptoms first start until the sores have healed. Always practice safe sex using
dental dams and latex gloves between outbreaks, as the virus can be passed on even
when no sores are visible. Despite safe sex, a slight risk remains because the area of
infected skin may not always be covered .
Talk to your partner about your genital herpes. Sexual health clinics will happily
provide couple counselling to you so you can manage your herpes and enjoy your sex life.
For more information talk to your doctor, sexual health clinic or
check out the Australian Herpes Management Forum at
YOU GET HERPES BY INTIMATE CONTACT WITH SOMEONE ALREADY
INFECTED WITH THE VIRUS THROUGH CONTACT WITH A SORE OR VIRUS SHED
FROM THE SKIN. ORAL SEX WHEN A COLD SORE IS PRESENT CAN ALSO
TRANSMIT THE VIRUS. ONCE YOU ARE INFECTED, THE VIRUS STAYS IN YOUR
NERVE CELLS FOR LIFE. ONCE INFECTED, MOST PEOPLE CONTINUE TO HAVE
RECURRENCES FROM TIME TO TIME. DURING RECURRENCES THE VIRUS
PARTICLES MULTIPLY AND CAN BE PASSED TO OTHER PEOPLE, EVEN IF THERE IS
NO OBVIOUS SORE.
THERE IS NO CURE FOR GENITAL HERPES, BUT MEDICATIONS CAN
SHORTEN AND PREVENT OUTBREAKS. IF YOU HAVE HERPES, THERE IS NO
REASON YOU SHOULD NOT HAVE A FULL AND ACTIVE SEX LIFE WITH A FEW
SIMPLE PRECAUTIONS. SEXUAL CONTACT SHOULD BE AVOIDED FROM THE TIME
THE SYMPTOMS FIRST START UNTIL THE SORES HAVE HEALED. ALWAYS PRACTICE
SAFE SEX USING DENTAL DAMS AND LATEX GLOVES BETWEEN OUTBREAKS, AS
THE VIRUS CAN BE PASSED ON EVEN WHEN NO SORES ARE VISIBLE.
Counselling & Professional Supervision
Tel: 02 9360 3287 Mob: 0411 710 712
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