What You Need To Know About Getting Tested For Herpes

Herpes is one of the most common STIs out there. Approximately one in six Americans has genital herpes, and Shannon Coffey thought she had it too — until she didn't. In this episode of Report Card on RIOT, Coffey looks into the frustrating reality: Yes, a lot of people do have herpes, but it's not always that easy to find out if you're one of them.

First off, the herpes virus comes in two major types: In general, HSV-1 causes oral sores, while HSV-2 causes genital sores. Both require skin-to-skin contact to be transmitted. So, while that's a pretty low bar when it comes to sexual contact, it means you're not going to get it from the subway or a toilet seat.

Herpes is most obvious when you have actual sores, but the majority of people have no overt symptoms. And even if you are in the midst of an outbreak, it can be confused with other issues (e.g. a yeast infection or another STI). That makes herpes somewhat difficult to pinpoint — and makes misdiagnoses possible. So most doctors rely on lab tests — including swabs from the sores if there are symptoms, and blood tests if there aren't — to make the call.

The bottom line? Check with your doctor, don't be afraid to check again later if your symptoms go away, and if everything still comes back positive, don't worry: Your sex life is not over.


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