// Social // Logo


There are a range of bugs and viruses that you can catch during sex. Learn about Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs), how to prevent them, how to diagnose them and how they are treated.


What is it?

Herpes is a viral infection caused by the herpes simplex virus (HSV), of which there are two types: HSV-1 is usually associated with cold sores in or around your mouth, whereas HSV-2 is usually found on your cock, arse, vagina or front-hole — it is possible for both types to cause genital herpes.

How do you get it?

You can only get herpes from someone who has herpes — by skin-to-skin contact through kissing, or oral, anal, vaginal or front-hole sex with someone who has a sore or blister, but this can also occur with someone who has no symptoms. Herpes spreads more easily when symptoms are present.

It is estimated one in eight people have HSV-2 but that 80 per cent of those who have it are unaware as they haven’t experienced any symptoms.

What are the symptoms?

Some people don’t have symptoms when they get herpes, which means you can have herpes and not know about it. If you do get symptoms, they can appear around seven days after exposure.

Common symptoms may include:

  • Small blisters, sores or red spots on your mouth, cock, arse, vagina or front-hole, and around your butt or thighs
  • Small cracks in the skin with or without itching
  • Redness or a distinct rash
  • Pain or swelling around your arse, vagina or front-hole
  • A discharge from your cock, arse, vagina or front-hole
  • Flu-like symptoms
Diagnosis and treatment

A doctor diagnoses herpes by taking a swab of the sore or blister if it is present, or by taking a blood sample for laboratory testing.

There is no direct treatment to cure herpes. Once you have the virus, it remains in your body. Care involves managing the symptoms with antiviral medication to help manage the severity and frequency of outbreaks, and helps reduce the risk of onward transmission.

How do you prevent it?

There is no vaccination for herpes. Apart from not having any sex, the most effective way to prevent herpes is to use condoms and dams during oral, anal, vaginal and front-hole sex — especially when symptoms are present. However, herpes can still spread even when these barriers are used.