“Well I was going out with my boyfriend for a long time. We always used condoms, but I didn’t know that they didn’t protect you from Herpes. I didn’t know what was wrong until I came to the STI clinic. I just went to the doctor in terrible pain and as soon as she saw what it was she told me to go to the STI clinic. They said I had Herpes.
I was absolutely devastated. I was in rag order coming to the clinic. My eyes were puffy from bawling my eyes out crying. I didn’t know what was going to happen to me.”
How often this story is repeated by young people all around us. But in a society like ours with lots of taboos, not many get to hear these until they fall into the same situation themselves. You can have an idea of the number of people affected by Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) by the large number of people affected by HIV.
Herpes is currently about the most common sexually transmitted infection in this country and most parts of the world. It is caused by a virus called Herpes simplex virus type 2 which enters the body through abrasions during sexual intercourse. They invade the nerves, where they reside, and from where they are released to cause intermittent genital lesions. The lesions are small, vesicular and painful and usually break up to form ulcers which cause pain, discomfort during sex and sometimes pain when urinating especially in men. They last for about 10 days and heal with or without any treatment and recur after a few weeks to months. Unfortunately, there is no permanent cure for this infection, but treatment with antiviral drugs like acyclovir can reduce the severity and frequency of episodes. Prevention is by avoiding sex with infected persons and by proper hand hygiene. Use of condoms and other protective devices may not be very effective in preventing this infection.
Herpes simplex type 1 is a similar virus but rather causes lesions on the mouth and around the face from childhood. It is commonly called “fever blister.” However, with more people engaging in oral and anal sex these days, type 1 viruses are being seen in the genitals and type 2 viruses in the mouth and around the face.
Now a word about STAPH! A lot has been said about Staphylococcus being a sexually transmitted infection. Staphylococci are very common bacteria which can cause serious infections. However, they have not been implicated in causing any genital or sexually transmitted infections. Some are found on the skin of normal persons where they do not cause any harm, in fact, they may be even helpful. However, they can be very difficult to remove from the skin and this can explain why they are very often found in genital specimen when carrying out laboratory tests for STIs. Because most organisms responsible for STIs are difficult to isolate, many people end up with a diagnosis of Staph infection and futile efforts are made to treat it. When these fail, people turn to herbal and unorthodox medicines which claim to heal any and every ailment. Always ensure that the right tests are carried out for any symptoms you have by seeing a qualified doctor. Sometimes, unfortunately, there may be no easy fix for STIs. Prevention is key.