Herpes has an interesting place in the STD hierarchy. It’s not deadly like HIV, and it doesn’t have the raunchy humor of an STD like chlamydia or gonorrhea, which are gruesome but curable. Herpes is super common–a whopping one in four have the oral variety, one in six have genital herpes–and it isn’t a big health risk, but it’s still a disease with no cure. So herpes won’t kill you and it won’t lead to health problems down the line, but you’re stuck with it forever and you can spread it to someone else. Essentially, it could be worse, but let’s be real: There’s a stigma to having herpes, and it can suck, big time. A friend of mine has it, and it definitely puts a strain on her life.
When it comes to genital herpes–which appear in the form of blister-like outbreaks around one’s privates–it can be hard to grapple with, especially in terms of your sex life. This is even more true when you’re a teenager and just getting your sex life started! But–sorry for the cliche–it’s not the end of the world. You’re still going to be able to have a great sex life as long as you know these things about genital herpes.
You Have To Disclose Your HerpesThis is absolutely essential. You must tell someone that you have genital herpes before you hook up with them, period. Is it an awkward conversation to have? Yes, it's going to suck. But you need to let your partner know what they're agreeing to. Would you want someone to tell you that they had genital herpes before having sex with you? Yeah, thought so. Some Girls
Condoms Aren't A CureallYou need to know the ins and outs of herpes, period. That means rejecting false information you might have heard about herpes. For example, some people truly think that as long as you rock a condom and have sex when you don't have an outbreak, you're all set. Listen: You can still spread herpes even if you aren’t experiencing an outbreak. Yes, an outbreak makes it spread more easily, but even if it’s not happening, you’re still putting others at risk. Same goes for the condom! It's harder to spread herpes if you're wearing a condom, but it's not totally impossible. Knowing the straight facts will keep future partners safe and give you a lot of peace of mind. iStock
Treat Yourself During An OutbreakOutbreaks are painful. Imagine your razor burn after shaving your bikini line, but worse. You need to make sure you treat yourself, because you don't deserve to be in pain, okay? Take some soothing warm baths, keep your bits dry down there (don't sit around in a bathing suit bottom, for example), wear loose fitting undies, and make sure you have some pain killer on deck; ice packs are also good! Scary Movie
Medicine Can Help Control OutbreaksI know, herpes can't be cured, but it can be managed. There are medications that can shorten your outbreaks and help them occur less often. It's certainly better than nothing. Common herpes medications include valacyclovir (better known as Valtrex), acyclovir, and famciclovir.iStock
Understand That It Could Be Complicated For The Person You Got It From TooHerpes symptoms don't just pop up, clear as day. They can stay hidden for weeks before an outbreak rears its ugly head. So your partner who gave you herpes and didn't tell you they had it? There's a fair chance that they didn't even know that they had it! Of course, if they DID know then you have every reason to be furious with them, but understand that herpes can be a sneaky little bastard.
You Can And WILL Have A Fulfilling Sex LifeAs I said in the intro, a friend of mine contracted herpes from an ex-boyfriend years ago. While she does have some angst about it every now and then, she still has sex and she's very safe about it. She always tells potential hookups about her situation, and a lot of the time they're still totally down to have sex. Besides, so many people have herpes...you might end up with someone who also has it. You can help fight the stigma by not letting it totally control your love life. Have faith in yourself, take care of yourself, and have fun. But I'm A Cheerleader
Do you think there should be less stigma surrounding herpes? Tell us in the comments!