Posted October 12, 2016 by Cooper Point Journal in Letters & Opinion
 
 

Body Party

Advice on Sex, Relationship, & More

Dear Body Party,
There are all of these red little bumps around my genitals and I am really really freaked out that I may have herpes? It’s all I can think about, my anxiety surrounding it is taking over my life. I know it’s really common, but I never thought it would be me.

Thanks,
One in Four

Dear One in Four,

Take a deep breathe- yes, you may have herpes. But you also may not have herpes. Red, irritated bumps around the genitals could be a sign of herpes, but they could also be ingrown hairs, which can be caused by shaving or the rubbing of clothes against your skin. Ingrown hairs, while uncomfortable, are not a sexually transmitted infection (STI). Instead, they are just irritated and inflamed hair follicles.

Herpes sores, as opposed to ingrown hairs, are symptoms of viral shedding, and are characterized by uncomfortable red bumps or blisters that will bust after a day or two and ooz a some sort of milky liquid, becoming painful sores that should dry out and crust over after a week or two. A first outbreak may be complemented by flu like symptoms like body aches and a fever.

Herpes is very common- some estimate as much as 20% of the population in the United States have it- so your fear is understandable. But if your ‘sores’ have been around for weeks, they are unlikely to be herpes related.

Herpes, like any other STI, can be transmitted after having sex just once with just one person- and because it can be transmitted through oral sex as Herpes simplex 1, which an estimated 67% of the worldwide population has (and can be transmitted from mother to child), it can even be transmitted if you’re having sex with someone who has never had sex before.

I’m not a Catholic school teacher- I am not trying to scare you off from having sex. But it is important that, regardless of whether or not you have herpes, you understand that herpes is not some form of ‘punishment’ for promiscuity. Just like the common cold, or that cold sore you got before prom, it is just something that happens. It’s not fun, it’s not convenient, but it is just a part of life & sex.

The only way to know for sure what is going on is by getting tested which, thanks to Obamacare, may be covered with no copay through your insurance. If you are at all concerned that you may have herpes, it is worth getting tested because while you are having an outbreak, you are very susceptible to spreading the disease to any sexual partners you may have, or even to other parts of your body. If you call Planned Parenthood downtown with your insurance card handy, they should be able to let you know what will and will not be covered by your insurance.

Herpes testing is a simple procedure which involves swabbing the suspicious sores and sending those swabs to a lab to get tested for the virus.

There is a lot of stigma surrounding herpes but at the end of the day, it’s just a disease. While there is no outright cure, taking medications to limit outbreaks, using barrier methods during sexual contact, and refraining from sex entirely during outbreaks can help keep your partners safe and your symptoms manageable. It may complicate your life, but it certainly won’t be the end of it.

Stay Safe & Have fun,

-Body Party!

Body Party is a positive, open-minded column about everything bodies, sex, relationships, and self love. This column is not written by a doctor but done by a person who has researched the topic and looked into your questions thoroughly. If you have any questions or problems and want advice about sex, medication, love, STD’s ect. please submit them to bodyparty@cooperpointjournal.com