Just*in Time: June 2017

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Hey Justin,
I know you talk about HIV most of the time and sometimes I would wish you’d talk about something else. So, I figured that I would write to you so you can help me with another issue I’m having. On top of having HIV I learned that I have herpes. When I went to the doctor I was not informed whatsoever. It turns out that in the doctor’s office there was a magazine (A&U Magazine) with your column in it. That’s how I discovered you, so can you shed some light on herpes for people that may be like me, diagnosed and not informed.
—Martin Hivpes

Photo by Don Harris © Don Harris Photographics, LLC. All rights reserved.

Okay, now there are many sexually transmitted infections (STIs) that we have to be conscious of and herpes is no exception to that rule. As most of you know I tend to put a little humor in my columns so bear with me…or not; it’s going to happen anyway. So, I’m just going to go right into to it. Here are my top 7 things about the gift that keeps on giving that you need to understand:

1. Common herpes
Herpes is a very common STI and most people that have the herpes virus don’t know it because they do not show any symptoms. Even though someone does not show any clear signs of having the herpes virus it can still be spread from human to human.

2. Types of herpes
There are two types of herpes virus, herpes simplex type 1 (oral) and herpes simplex type 2 (genital). Herpes simplex type 1 is transmitted through the mouth; this can happen through sharing toothbrushes, eating utensils, and kissing. Herpes simplex type 2 can be spread through sexual contact with another person.

3. Now you see me, now you don’t
Herpes outbreaks can come in the form of blisters and be brought on by fatigue, stress, menstruation, suppressed immune systems, and trauma to the area of infection. To be blunt, use lots of lube and make sure you are taking your time when engaging in intercourse. Of course, we all know sex can get rough and hard; just make sure your using proper lube so trauma can be reduced at the area of penetration. When having an outbreak, do not engage in sexual intercourse. You may cause one of the blisters to rupture and that will increase the chance of herpes spreading to other places.

4. Cure and treatment
Presently, there is no known cure for herpes, but there is treatment. There is prescribed oral medication that comes in a pill form that has to be taken daily (Zovirax, Valtrex, and Famvir). Also, there is a cream-based prescribed medication (Acyclovir) that is to be applied to the genitals and on the anus. For oral blisters, there are several topical medications that you can get over the counter, such as Abreva. Also, women who are pregnant should regularly consult a doctor because herpes can infect their unborn child.

5. Avoidance issues
So, you ask how can I avoid herpes? Live in a human condom—no just kidding. Seriously, you can reduce the number of sexual partners that you have, practice monogamy, exercise abstinence, or wear a condom or another form of latex barrier while engaging in oral, anal and vaginal sex.

6. If left untreated…
If left untreated in adults, herpes can leave a person more susceptible to other STI infections, such as HIV. There is also a greater chance to develop encephalitis or meningitis, bladder infections, swelling of the urethra, and rectal inflammation. If left untreated during a pregnancy then the baby can be born blind, brain damaged, or even death can occur. There have also been recent studies that show that untreated herpes might be the cause of Alzheimer’s disease.

7. Diagnosing herpes
Consult your doctor because you can still lead a normal life with herpes. If you feel the need, ask your doctor to administer a blood test to find out if you have herpes.


Justin B. Terry-Smith, MPH, has been fighting the good fight since 1999. He’s garnered recognition and awards for his work, but he’s more concerned about looking for new ways to transform society for the better than resting on his laurels. He started up in gay rights and HIV activism in 2005, published an HIV-themed children’s book, I Have A Secret (Creative House Press) in 2011, and created his own award-winning video blog called, “Justin’s HIV Journal”: justinshivjournal.blogspot.com. Presently, he is working toward his doctorate in public health. Visit his main Web site at www.justinbsmith.com. He welcomes your questions at [email protected].