Journalist Rachel Hills’s post on herpes and sexually transmitted infections (STI) is a great read. With 1:8 Australian adults diagnosed with the genital herpes virus, the reality is if not you, or someone you may have slept with, then you have a friend who does.
The 1:8 may just be the tip of the iceberg. While some people may never seek medical treatment or feel too ashamed or embarrassed to disclose their condition to a doctor, there’s a similar, uncounted group of people who are asymptomatic or unaware of having the condition. For example, a “pimple” or blister on the bottom may seem an unlikely culprit but in many incidences this one-off or recurring annoyance may be a herpes lesion.
Not all of the 1:8 adults diagnosed with the condition tell their sexual partners, usually due to fear of rejection or shame rather than maliciousness. It can be a difficult subject to broach in a trusting, loving relationship – let alone with someone you are yet to know that well. The reality is if you have had unsafe sex in the past, you too could carry the virus. Perhaps it is healthier to assume that everyone is potentially infected if not with herpes, then the wart virus, chlamydia (a staggering 20% risk of contracting this fertility-threatening bug) or good old fashioned gonorrhoea, syphilis or crabs (pubic lice).
Condoms are always the first line of protection against the gamut of STIs but may not always be foolproof depending on the site of the lesion or method of transmission. Let’s not forget that the nasty cold sore on your girlfriend or boyfriend’s lip can spread with a kiss to other parts of your anatomy.
In 2010, more than 3 decades on from the sexual revolution, it’s time to get over our prejudices, play safe and drop the guilt.
If you have any sexual health concerns, the Melbourne Sexual Health Centre offers free, non-judgemental and confidential advice, tests and treatments. MSHC has a great, caring team and I’d doubt that there is nothing they haven’t seen before. MHSC is at 580 Swanston Street, Carlton (near RMIT and Melbourne University) and is open 8.40am -5pm Monday to Thursday and 12.30- 5pm on Friday for walk-in consultations. No appointments needed.