Question for Betty.

I have been sexually active for a couple of years now.  At my last annual exam, I asked my GYN to test for "everything".  She said she ran the standard series of tests for STDs but I am concerned that I might have herpes. Is that something that is tested for regularly or do you have to request that specifically?

Betty's Answer.

Thank you for your question.  Although infection with herpes simplex virus (HSV) is very common, 1 out of 5 people (teenage and over) is infected with the virus, testing for HSV is not done routinely with an annual exam or with screening for STIs (sexually transmitted infections).   If you are having what you suspect is a herpes outbreak, be sure to see a health care provider for testing.  Testing can be done early with a culture, if you have an open lesion.  You can also have a blood test for HSV 1 and 2.  The herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1) usually affects areas above the waist, causing cold sores or fever blisters, and herpes simplex virus type 2 (HSV-2) usually affects areas below the waist, causing genital herpes.  But, both viruses can cause outbreaks in either area.  It is important to be seen early with a lesion, as they can be quite painful, and antiviral treatment is most effective when begun early. Up to 90% of HSV-2 positive people have not been diagnosed and are unaware of their condition.