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Why you shouldn't be ashamed of herpes

In a recent Instagram story from @Peech about confessions, there was a response about herpes. It's a topic that comes up every once in a while and there's a lack of information about it. The unfortunate and unique thing about sexually transmitted infections (what used to be called STDs) is that in addition to being physically uncomfortable, many people are ashamed of them. Read on and see if learning a bit about herpes can take some of the shame away.

Written by somatic therapist Molly Mørch

Two different types

There are two different types of herpes: HSV 1 and HSV 2 (HSV stands for herpes simplex virus). According to, 1 in 5 30-year-olds are infected with HSV2, while 4 in 5 are infected with HSV1. The kind of herpes you get on your face (most often on the lip) is predominantly HSV 1. Therefore, the usual understanding is that HSV1 is the one you have on your face and HSV2 is the one you have in your genitals. That's just not true... In the genitals, 60% of cases are HSV2, while 40% are HSV1. This fits very well with the fact that it's easier to transmit from lips to genitals, but rarely the other way around (rarely, not never = it can happen).

How do you know you have herpes?

Herpes outbreaks are small blisters on the skin. If you need a picture, google is your friend. Herpes outbreaks are very painful for some, with pain in the affected area and possible nerve pain radiating throughout the body. Some people don't feel the outbreak at all. Around two out of three don't get an outbreak after the initial infection, and three out of five who carry the virus don't even know they have it. The surest way to know if you have herpes is with a blood test.

How do you protect yourself?

A condom or dental dam provides reasonably good protection. You can't protect yourself by simply checking for outbreaks, as the virus can also be transmitted during periods without outbreaks. That's why so many people have it without knowing it and without having had an outbreak. Even when using a condom and a dental dam, there may be mucous membranes touching each other or fluids being transferred. The safest solution would therefore be to require blood tests from sexual partners.

Yes, it's almost impossible!

If you've made it this far in the article, you might be thinking something along the lines of how it's almost impossible to know if you have herpes and to protect yourself from herpes. And yes, unless you get blood tests done, it's almost impossible. And you know what that means? That if you've been ashamed for having herpes in the past, now is the time to consider whether it's really something you've had any influence on. My guess would be: "No! It's not your fault that you have herpes, so see if you can let go of some of the shame". It's hard enough being human as it is, we don't need to make it harder by feeling ashamed of things we can't do anything about.

And remember: There are plenty of good reasons to practice safe sex, so keep it up. You can find Peech's wide range of contraception here.


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