Genital herpes is a very common sexually transmitted infection – STI - caused by the herpes simplex virus (HSV). Sexual contact is the primary way that the virus spreads but could also be spread by contact with body fluids. After the initial infection, the virus is dormant in your body and can flare up several times a year.
Genital herpes causes pain, itching, and sores in the genital area. On the other hand, you may have no signs or symptoms of genital herpes and still harbor the infection. If infected, note that it is contagious even if you have no visible sores.
No cure is available, but meds ease the symptoms which manifest themselves 2 to 12 days after infection. The symptoms help us identify if our partner is infected and are; pain or itching in the genital area, red bumps, tiny blisters, ulcers, and scabs.
Herpes and condoms – Are they effective and how to make sure?
Condoms present the best way to avoid getting infected with herpes and there are two types of condoms.
. Male condoms
. Female condoms
. Dental dams for use during oral sex
But this brings us to the fulcrum of the issue, and that is – can you still get infected with herpes even with the use of a condom.
A condom – male, female, or dental dams – is the only way available to prevent an infection of herpes from a partner. However, it does not give a hundred percent protection but reduces the risk by about 30 percent.
Most people think that if they are using condoms during sex then, they will not contract any kind of sexually transmitted disease. That is definitely not the case and the problem is not just the contact through the act of intercourse but there are other types of contact as well such as skin to skin contact on other parts of the body.
. Oral sex: during oral sex, the mouth is in contact with the genital area of the partner – possible transmission through the skin to skin contact.
. Anal sex: most people engage in anal sex or even just fooling around with or without sex toys. And, the problem is that they seem to think that that area does not transmit anything even though it is the primary cause of HIV infection in gays.
. Foreplay or pre-sex interactions.
. Even simple kissing is a cause for the transmission of herpes.
So, you can get herpes even if you are using a condom, but it reduces the risk by as much as 30 percent. Also, we need to understand or rather realize that they do not cover all the genital areas. The other issue is that most couples only wear a condom just before penetration.
If two partners are in the stage of foreplay and say the man has herpes somewhere on his body. If a drop of ejaculate or penile moisture come on his partner's hand and sometime later she rubs her eyes, she will eventually come to discover at a later date that she has herpes in her eyes even if they used condoms when it got serious.
How to choose your condoms
. Use a new latex condom or dental dam for each sex act, whether oral, vaginal or anal.
. Never use an oil-based lubricant, such as petroleum jelly, with a latex condom or dental dam.
. Condoms made from natural membranes are not recommended since they're not as effective at preventing STIs.
. Make sure that you buy your condoms from a trusted drug store.
. The brand and manufacture will ensure that it does not break during intercourse.
Modes of infection
This is the area that causes the most confusion since the general understanding is that genital contact is the only way for transmission. Skin to skin contact with an infected person either with flare-ups, sores, outbreaks, or even non-symptomatic can cause infection. Secretions from the body such as moisture, saliva, ejaculate can transmit herpes.
Some factors increase the possibility of contracting herpes and they are:
. A new partner
. Open relationships or marriage
. More than one partner at a time
. Get regular check-ups especially if you are a high-risk factor.
. Most herpes is treated so, go to the doctor.
. Take care that some are symptomless at the beginning so, get tested regularly.
. Be open and frank with your partner and encourage openness before reaching the stage of having sex.