The genital herpes virus is a common sexually transmitted infection that usually manifests on the labia, perianal, anal, and inner thigh area of women as small painful blisters. Some women have a first and only outbreak while others tend to experience multiple recurrences making life difficult.
Here are five facts about the genital herpes virus that may help you with your health.
1) There are two types of viruses – herpes simplex 1 and herpes simplex 2. It is important to get testing in order to understand which virus you have.
The herpes simplex 2 virus is commonly known as “genital herpes” and does not often show up in the oral mouth area, however it is possible for this to happen. Testing includes swabbing the blister or performing a blood draw.
2) You can have herpes and not know it which means you can also transfer it to other people and not realize it. A lot of herpes infections are known as “asymptomatic.”
When the virus is active in the cells of the genital area, those cells can shed off and be transmitted to the skin of your partner during sexual contact, which may or may not include intercourse. Herpes is not transmitted by fluid exchange like other sexually transmitted infection.
3) Genital herpes can put you at greater risk for contracting HIV by three-fold. This means, if you have genital herpes, the inflammation in your cells due to this virus more easily allows HIV to enter your body than someone who does not have herpes.
4) Condoms and dental dams do not protect against the shedding herpes virus 100 percent. Herpes cannot cross the latex in condoms, however transmission from the vulvar, perianal, anal and inner thigh skin is not protected.
Condoms are still quite helpful during an outbreak, but abstinence and genital skin-to-skin contact should probably be avoided.
5) There are antiviral medications that can be taken during an outbreak or daily, to help prevent outbreaks but it is not 100 percent effective, and people can still shed infected cells to their partner.
On average, people with genital herpes have four outbreaks a year, however some people have them several times in a month.
For those women who are feeling things aren’t right “down there,” who have vaginal, anal or vulvar pain, blisters, ulcers, recurrent infections, new partners, or are dealing with infidelity -- talk with your doctor about getting the blood test for genital herpes so you can be proactive about your health.
Hofstetter, A., Rosenthal, S., Stanberry, L. Current Thinking on Genital Herpes. Web. 7 June, 2014. Retrieved from
Raphaelidis, L. Screening for Asymptomatic Genital Herpes. Web. 7 June, 2014. Retrieved from
Reviewed June 13, 2014
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith