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30 years of Sexual Wellbeing, LGBTQ+ and HIV Support


STIs – Genital herpes

How do you get it?

From skin-to-skin contact with the infected area (including vaginal, anal and oral sex).

When there are no visible sores or blisters.

If a cold sore touches your genitals.

By transferring the infection on fingers from someone else to your genitals.

You can’t get it from objects such as cutlery or cups – the virus dies very quickly when away from your skin.

Wearing a condom during vaginal sex prevents the spread of genital herpes.

Also use a condom if you are using a sex toy with someone.



The symptoms

Small blisters that burst to leave red, open sores around your genitals, anus, thighs or bottom.

Tingling, burning or itching around your genitals.

Pain when you pee.

In women, vaginal discharge that’s not usual for you.

The risks

It is incurable and you will have it and be able to pass it on for life.

It is a liveable condition with treatment, the right preventative measures and understanding it.


Ask about your symptoms and your sexual partners.

Use a swab to take some fluid from one of your blisters or sores for testing.

The test cannot be done if you do not have visible blisters or sores or tell you how long you have had herpes or who you got it from.



There is no cure.

Treatment the first time you have genital herpes.

Antiviral medicine to stop the symptoms getting worse – you need to start taking this within 5 days of the symptoms appearing.

Cream for the pain.

Treatment if the blisters come back.

Antiviral medicine may help shorten an outbreak by 1 or 2 days if you start taking it as soon as symptoms appear.

But outbreaks usually settle by themselves, so you may not need treatment.