Previous: Benefits of Sex
Next: Protecting Against Herpes



View count:152,376
Last sync:2022-10-30 08:00
In which Lindsey talks about the Herpes, where it comes from, and how it infects people.

Go to to get your very own Want/Will/Won't Poster:

Get your FREE audio book:

You can ask Lindsey Questions at:

Host: Dr. Lindsey Doe

Directing/Filming/Editing: Nicholas Jenkins

Titles: Michael Aranda

Executive Producer: Hank Green
I have herpes!

It's the number one sexually transmitted infection, based on people who currently have it, and I'm rocking its crusty yellow remains.

You may have heard that they are infections transmitted sexually - oral, anal, vaginal, outercourse - they're called sexually transmitted infections, or STIs, or STDs, and there are all sorts of them.

If you didn't know this then pause the video, get reasonably angry, then resume to learn more.

Some of them are bacterium like chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis. They replicate on their own and can be taken down with antibiotics.

Others are viruses like herpes which means they can't be cured (as of today). So something like HPV, the human papillomavirus, can be wiped out by the immune system in almost all cases.

Herpes follows classic virus protocol. It's treatable but not curable, once its in the body it stays there, the symptoms may go but the virus stays.

Everyone in the herpes family is like this. You've heard of chicken pox and shingles and mono, yep, they're all types of herpes. There are 8 types total and each of them hits a different part of the body in a different way.

This is Sexplanations so we're going to be talking about the sexually transmitted ones; herpes simplex virus one and herpes simplex virus two. HSV1 and HSV2 for short.

It used to be that HSV1 was oral. It was transmitted mouth to mouth. We euphemistically called it 'cold sores' or fever blisters', not canker sores. HSV2 was genital herpes, moving genitals to genitals. Then oral sex became wildly popular and the virus mutated in order to survive. I'm not sure which came first.

Now instead of moving one to one orally or two to two genitally, the virus goes something like this. It's targeting the nervous system being passed from person to person by skin to skin contact.

The virus enters the body through a nerve ending then it retreats to an area by the spine where it hangs out until replicating enough to overthrow the immune system. At which point it comes back out, creating a sore at this spot.

Take my lips/nostril for example. Heavy kissing with someone who is HSV positive, I get infected, the virus retreats, then it replicates, overthrows my immune system and comes out as an oozing pus-y painful sore.

One blister becomes a cluster of blisters - you've got an outbreak. This is an outbreak years later but it's the same virus.

Note - that the older you are when you contract herpes, the more dramatic the symptoms. Dramatic, dramatic!

Then as now I experience a lot of the same symptoms in large lymph nodes feeling like I had the flu without sneezing or coughing, body chills, fever, aching everywhere. My lip itches, tingles and burns almost like it's begging me to touch it and spread it to others.

Sometimes this is 'prodrome' - the sensations of an outbreak to come without the recurrence. Other times it's a full on outbreak, with all the symptoms or some of them that I just described to you.

I haven't had genital symptoms, they're similar to those for oral herpes with the addition of painful urination and a possible discharge from the vagina or penis. Fortunately, researchers have found that the virus burns out over time. It's less traumatic, less frequent, still inconvenient. That's if you have outbreaks at all. Hey hey! Hey hey hey! Hey hey hey! Pay attention to this!

In most situations herpes goes unnoticed meaning you don't have the symptoms or they're unrecognizable. You could have the virus and be spreading it but never have an outbreak.

There are times called asymptomatic periods - this works for anybody, people who have symptoms or who don't where there isn't anything present signalling that the person is contagious but if we were to test it, it would come back and sure enough there's contagious virus on the site. This is called shedding, and it means avoiding transmission is very difficult.

Herpes can set up shop all around here, all around here and here, inside the vagina, inside the urethra and on the cervix. So condoms can help but they're not covering it all. So you wear a condom to reduce your risk and you avoid having sex during outbreaks. But you need to remember that there are those periods of shedding where the virus can still be transmitted without signs of trouble.

The question becomes how can we possibly get around that? I'll talk about that in the next episode.