Skin Information Network
Genital Herpes

Genital Herpes Basics

Basic Facts:

Genital Herpes is one of the most common STIs (sexually transmitted infections). It is a growing viral infection that occurs in the genitals, but can also affect other areas of the body. Although an accurate statistic is difficult to obtain for a larger population, it is estimated that approximately 1 in every 6 persons have been affected by genital herpes.

Another important but little known fact is that it is asymptomatic in many people, and only about 20% of the population who has genital herpes is even aware that they carry the virus.

  • One of the most common STI (sexually transmitted infections) in North America
  • It is estimated that up to 1 in 6 people may be carriers of the virus that causes genital herpes
  • Genital herpes is extremely contagious and condoms will not provide 100% against transmission. In particular, women are at a higher risk of transmission. The chance of contracting the virus from a man who carries the virus could be as high as 80%.
  • The majority of people who carry the virus do not show any symptoms, but can pass it on to others. Genital herpes is extremely infectious.
  • There is no cure for genital herpes at this time, as the virus is adept at hiding within the body. However, its symptoms can effectively be managed with medication.
  • Genital herpes can be a shocking diagnosis, but it is not a shameful condition. It is a very common condition, and it can be treated effectively.
  • Genital herpes causes ulcers, which can make HIV infection more likely
  • Mothers have a small chance of transmitting herpes to the baby, causing a serious condition called neonatal herpes. This chance increases if the mother acquires their initial infection during their last trimester. Mothers who have had long established herpes are far less likely to pass this problem to the baby.


Prevention of HSV transmission can be difficult due to its extremely high prevalence and high infection rate. There are several challenges to overcome in the area of prevention.

  • Genital Herpes is a very common condition and up to 1 in 6 adults carry the virus
  • Herpes Simplex Virus is extremely contagious and condoms do not provide 100% protection as the sores can exist outside the area that a condom covers
  • Virus can be passed even when there are no obvious symptoms. The virus can be active on the genitals even when there are no obvious symptoms. This process is called asymptomatic shedding. In fact, the majority of carriers are not aware that they have the virus.

As can be seen, there are several challenges that make it extremely difficult to completely prevent transmission. The only sure way to prevent contraction is to practice complete abstinence. Here are some tips to help reduce the chances of acquiring genital herpes.

  • Abstinence is the only 100% method of prevention. Genital herpes can be transmitted by anal, oral, or vaginal sex.
  • Condoms can reduce the chance of transmission significantly, but they cannot provide 100% protection, particularly if sores are present in areas that are not covered by the condom.
  • Get yourself and your new partner tested for STIs. Many sexually transmitted infections are asymptomatic, including genital herpes, and it is important to inform yourself and your partners about these matters.
  • If you or your partner has genital herpes avoid sex, try to avoid sexual contact when there is an outbreak, as the chances of infection are increased.
  • Antiviral medicines such as Valtrex can be taken by the person with the infection, and will reduce the risk of transmitting it to their partner significantly.
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