Sex Talk

Can genital herpes be cured?

Dr Tlaleng Mofokeng answers your sex questions

03 December 2017 - 00:00
Condoms, and especially female condoms, provide the best protection from the transmission of genital herpes.
Condoms, and especially female condoms, provide the best protection from the transmission of genital herpes.
Image: Supplied

Q. What is genital herpes and can it be cured?

A. Herpes Simplex Virus type 1 commonly causes fever blisters on the mouth or face (oral herpes). HSV type 2 typically affects the genital area (genital herpes). Both are transmitted through direct contact, including kissing, sexual contact (vaginal, oral or anal sex), skin-to-skin contact and residual fluids on sex toys.

Genital herpes is a common and highly contagious sexually transmitted infection and can be transmitted with or without the presence of sores or other symptoms.

Once infected with herpes simplex virus, people remain infected for life. Most of the time, HSV-1 and HSV-2 are inactive and cause no symptoms, but some infected people have outbreaks of blisters and ulcers.

The first outbreak will usually occur within two weeks after the virus is transmitted, and the lesions or sores heal within two to four weeks. It is possible to have a second outbreak of lesions, or flu-like symptoms, including fever and swollen lymph nodes, at the same time. Some people with infection may never have lesions.

Genital herpes can cause recurrent painful genital ulcers in many, and infection can be severe in people with suppressed immune systems. It also frequently causes distress among people who know they are infected, regardless of the severity of symptoms.

The diagnosis of genital herpes can be done by visual inspection or by taking a sample from the sore(s) and sending it for lab testing.

It is important to use condoms consistently and correctly every time one has sex. Condoms provide the best protection from transmission.

The male condom covers less of the pubic area while female condoms protect the pubis as well as the skin around the vulva and thus offer better protection.

It is best to abstain from sex when symptoms are present, and to use condoms between outbreaks, every time you have sex.

There is no cure for herpes. However, antiviral medication can shorten an outbreak and prevent further outbreaks for the period of time the person takes the medication.

Dr Tlaleng Mofokeng (MBChB), sexual and reproductive health practice, DISA Clinic, 011-886-2286, visit safersex.co.za.

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