Sexually Transmitted Diseases and Infections: Should You Be Screened for Herpes?

\"SexuallyThere are two ways to identify sexually transmitted diseases and infections — blood and urine tests. The type of test that is to be administered is determined by the ailment for which the patient is being tested.

Is there any value in regular screening for STDs and STIs, specifically herpes?

There are two different variations of the herpes virus, HSV-1 and HSV-2. HSV-1 is usually associated with cold sores of the mouth, whereas HSV-2 is commonly linked to painful genital sores. Herpes is a virus that can remain dormant in the nerves indefinitely, and return once or repeatedly in conditions of stress. The herpes virus can become contagious in the form of sores developed at mucus membranes in two areas, genitalia and the mouth. If a patient has herpes, but lacks open sores, the virus is not currently contagious.

Screening for herpes is not necessarily recommended if symptoms are not present, even if a patient is exposed to a new sexual partner. The reasoning behind this is linked to the fact that most people will test positive via a blood test as being exposed to herpes. Exposure to herpes does not indicate contraction of the virus, let alone the presence of open herpes sores. At least 2/3 of herpes tests will result in a positive exposure, regardless of the presence or lack of symptoms. Positive exposure to herpes does not guarantee a patient will ever exhibit symptoms, specifically sores. Consequently, if a patient exhibits no symptoms or sores, screening for the herpes virus is not recommended.

If a patient is experiencing herpes sores, there are antiviral treatments and medications that can speed up the healing process. If a patient develops open sores, it is imperative to share such information with any current sexual partner, as the virus is then contagious in instances of direct contact with the sores. Once the sore scabs over and fades away, the virus is no longer contagious or infectious. If a patient experiences recurrent sores multiple times a year, preventive daily medications are recommended.

If genital herpes is present, testing for other sexually transmitted diseases and infections, such as H.I.V., gonorrhea, chlamydia, syphilis, and others, is highly recommended. Remember, new exposure to a sexual partner that has herpes, or the presence of a new sore, are the main justifications for testing for the herpes virus.

Contact Colorado Primary Health Care today for more information on STI and STD testing services.

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