When I was fifteen or so, one of my closest friends got crabs (pubic lice) by wearing the jeans of another one of our friends. I wasn’t familiar with crabs so I asked my friend to describe what it looked and felt like while doing my best to sound normal. She said she could see thousands of tiny insects in her panties and it really itched. Needless to say, she was beyond upset. This morning I researched and found that it’s rare for crabs to spread via clothing or bedding but it can happen. I believe her mother took her to the doctor for medication and the mini-crabs died over a few days. I was mortified and vowed never to wear anyone else’s pants for as long as I lived.
That was my first direct experience with a sexually transmitted disease (STD). Although pubic lice is not an STD, it’s a parasitic insect that feeds on human blood and lives in our coarse hairy parts (e.g. pubic or under arm hair).
I hadn’t thought about the blue jean incident until more recently when a few friends on separate occasions shared with me that they have herpes. It appears to be more common than sporting tattoos. Unlike the 80s, I was able to google the virus to find out what this mysterious “non-curable” virus harbors.
First of all, having herpes is not a death sentence. The virus is more than 2,000 years old, highly contagious and it affects every animal species around the globe. Fifteen to twenty percent of Americans carry the virus. There are two types of Herpes Simplex Viruses: HSV-1 and HSV-2. Type 1 is localized around the oral region or on the upper extremities; it is not a STD. One example of Type 1 is a cold sore and any one including infants or children can be infected via touching or kissing someone who has the virus. Type 2 is localized around the genital area or rectum; it is classified as a STD. One out of 5 women become infected compared to 1 out of 9 men. The virus is either active or dormant but once exposed, it’s always there. One can live a normal, healthy life with it. However, poor diet, stress, low immunity, and over exposure to sunlight can promote an outbreak which can be painful and disruptive.
What I found most surprising is that the herpes virus doesn’t need to be in an “active” state for a partner to become infected. And Herpes Simplex 1 (HSV-1) can also spread from a cold sore down to the genitals if good hygiene (e.g. regular hand washing) is not practiced. The herpes virus can cause severe blistering in one partner but be totally unnoticeable in the other, even if both partners are infected with the exact same strand of the virus. But, more often, it causes no symptoms or only mild ones; up to 70% of people who are infected with genital herpes show no signs of the virus and this is why it spreads.
Some people never show any signs or symptoms of herpes but can still transmit the virus to their partner. This period is called viral shedding. If infected with genital herpes, an outbreak will occur within 2-14 days of sexual contact. An active outbreak or episode can lasts anywhere from three days to four weeks. It’s best not to engage in sexual activity during this time.
Symptoms of HSV-1 and 2 are:
– major discomfort
– presence of lesions or sores
– irritation and swelling
When dormant or sleeping, the virus lives in nerve cells or other tissues and typically will not be transferred to your partner.
Before I choose to become sexually involved with a man, I inquire to see if he’s been tested for all STDs, including HIV. This conversation is best after a heavy make-out session or during quiet time alone. A face-to-face conversation is preferred over a phone chat. This way you can look each other in the eyes. If he hasn’t been tested in the last year, I request that he make an appointment to be tested and stress the importance. I generally follow that conversation with these questions:
– Have you had many sexual partners? Please just give a ballpark figure … 20, 50, 100, 1000??
– Have you ever been intimately or sexually involved with a man?
– Have you used heavy drugs like crack, cocaine, or heroine? With needles?
– How do you feel about using condoms when having casual sex? Do you practice using them?
I know, I know I’m a royal pain in the ass when it comes to intimacy but if an adult has trouble answering these questions, s/he’s immature or potentially hiding something. Most times, the guys have a laugh and call me “different” but they eventually respond. Where sexual health is involved, proactivity and honesty is the best policy. Of course, I’ve had my share of flings and I didn’t take the time to ask any of those questions. In this case, I ask the universe for guidance and use condoms at all times.
Antiviral Medications and some herbs, such as Olive Leaf and the essential oil, Lemon Balm, have proven to be effective. Also, I contacted two friends to ask how they manage their outbreaks. One said he takes lysine, an essential amino acid. For him, lysine keeps his outbreaks at bay. The other said massive doses of Vitamin A stops an outbreak from occurring. Both mentioned that eating healthy and managing stress is key.
There are two types of blood tests to determined if you have either virus: one to see if you’ve been exposed in the past and the other for more recent exposure. Ask your doctor.
ADDITIONAL INFO as of Oct 8th: a friend sent this link of a podcast on anti-viral and bacterial herbs that can be effective in treating herpes.
Great info to know in general.
Thanks for reading, I’ve learned so much doing this post and I hope you have too!
To fantastic sexual health and happiness!!
p.s. Check out this German Sex Ed book for children … too cute!!!