Genital Herpes and HIV

Genital herpes is caused by the herpes simplex virus (HSV) and manifests intermittently in outbreaks of painful sores or ulcers in or on the mouth and genitals. It is an STD (sexually transmitted disease) and is perhaps one of the most common STDs. Once you have been infected with HSV it remains in your body for your lifetime. Even if it you don't experience a flare-up, it is still present and can be passed on to others. Often, the infections do not cause symptoms but occasionally a flare-up may occur, especially if you have a compromised immune system.

Thousands of Strains of Herpes

There are actually thousands of different herpes strains that have been identified, however, only eight of those strains are problematic for human beings. They are as follows:

· Herpes Simplex Virus 1: Cold sores

· Herpes Simplex Virus 2: Genital Herpes

· Varicella Zoster Virus: Chicken Pox and Shingles

· Human Herpes Virus 6: Roseola

· Human Herpes Virus 8: Kaposi's Sarcoma

· Epstein-Barr Virus

· Cytomegalovirus

· Human B-Lymphotropic Virus

The Most Common Types of Herpes

The two main types that are most well-known and cause most of the problems for adults, both orally and in genital infections, are HSV-1 that usually causes cold sores and HSV-2, the usual cause of genital herpes. Herpes lesions often begin with a tingling sensation and numbness in the area where the outbreak is about to happen, indicating the virus is travelling up the nerve to the skin. Small bumps accompanied by itching develop quickly and small, inflamed blisters erupt. The blisters burst and crust over, often making a rather large sore. It usually takes between one and two weeks for the sores to heal in people with normal immune systems.

The herpes virus can be passed from one person to another by contact, whether kissing or sexual contact. It can be transmitted when sores are not present if the virus is reproducing, and it is more likely to reproduce in people with weakened immune systems. A person with a recent infection of genital herpes is more subject to being infected with the HIV virus than one who does not have an active infection.

HIV and Herpes

People with HIV have a compromised immune system and if they become infected with the herpes virus, the attacks of herpes are usually more violent and sustained. Other bacteria and fungi can quickly add to the infection. Large oral and genital lesions are caused as well as infections in the throat, stomach and liver, other organs, the eyes and lungs. Inflammation of the brain, called herpes encephalitis, causes headaches, mental changes, nausea, loss of co-ordination and seizures. Although this is rare in people who have HIV, it is potentially fatal should it happen.

AIDS is the diagnosis if a person with HIV has herpes ulcers for four weeks or more. Herpes may act as a co-factor in the progression of HIV, activating it and increasing the ease with which HIV can infect certain cells.

There are several ways to obtain a diagnosis of HSV. A test that seeks out the virus is one of the primary methods. It can also be diagnosed by taking a swab from the lesion and growing a culture or by fluorescent screening. Fiberoptics are used to determine the disease if it is in the esophagus or colon.

Although there are no cures for either HIV or HSV, there are treatments available. It is important to be tested appropriately if you think you've been exposed to either or both viruses. The treatment of herpes and/or HIV may be helpful in reducing transmission of either virus to another person as well as helping an individual with either infection to gain a measure of health.

Learn more about Herpes and HIV

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