The good news about STDs is that drugs like Valtrex and Zovirax, when combined with safe sex practices, can greatly reduce the spread of herpes from one partner to another. The bad news is that as many as 90 percent of people with genital herpes don't know they have it. A solution exists: Newer herpes blood tests can not only detect herpes simplex virus (HSV) but also distinguish between HSV-2, which is most commonly the cause of genital herpes, and HSV-1, which tends to cause oral cold sores. But to get tested, you'll need to talk to your doctor. Ask her for a type-specific antibody (glycoprotein G) test, such as the HerpeSelect Immunoblot and ELISA kits, so that you'll get results you can trust.
Herpes strikes one in five Americans, so if you're sexually active or pregnant, you may want to consider getting tested. The disease disproportionately affects women—especially African-Americans, nearly half of whom test positive. HSV-2 increases the risk of acquiring HIV; some studies attribute about a third of HIV cases in African-American women to the presence of genital herpes. Knowing your status and your partner's is crucial to managing your risk.
SOURCE: Peter Leone, MD, associate professor at the University of North Carolina and medical director of the HIV/STD Prevention and Care Branch of the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services.
From the August 2008 issue of O, The Oprah Magazine
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