Dear Doc | I've had very few sexual partners, how did I catch herpes?
Q Dear Doc, I was recently diagnosed with herpes and I am very upset and confused. I have had very few sexual partners and I always ensure that my partner uses a condom. Where could I possible have got this from? Could I have got it from a toilet seat?
A I understand your confusion, and such a diagnosis is understandably upsetting, but there is something I once read which I usually say to my patients to make them feel better and it is, 'The worse thing about the herpes is the stigma, not the virus.'
Now, let me explain.
Genital herpes is a common sexually transmitted infection affecting approximately one in five persons. After getting infected, most
people have recurrent episodes of genital ulcers for several years. However, the infection can stay in the body for years, and a person can have no symptoms; and the first time a person ever notices symptoms of herpes may not be the first outbreak, but instead a recurrent outbreak several years later.
This is why it is difficult to determine when a person got infected.
Another interesting fact is about the transmission of the virus.
First, no! You cannot get it from a toilet seat.
The virus can be spread by a person who has no symptoms, or who has never had symptoms, as described above. A person can also contract genital herpes after exposure to a cold sore on an infected person's lip during oral sex.
It is also more likely for a female to contract the virus from a male, than it is for a male to contract it from a female. Here's why. Transmission mostly occurs from exposure to infected ulcers during an outbreak; now, think about the male anatomy, and the area a condom covers. The condom only covers the penis, but ulcers often are present on the testicles as well, and contact with those ulcers will put females at risk.
That being said, condoms still drastically reduce your risk of contracting a sexually transmitted infection, they just don't take it away all together.
So, yes. Being diagnosed with genital herpes can be an emotional and distressing experience, because of the stigma attached to having an STI, but, hopefully, these explanations have helped in relieving some of the blame persons usually place on themselves.
It is important to speak with your doctor about how to manage the symptoms and how to avoid passing the virus to sexual partners.
Treating erectile dysfunction
Q Dear Doc, where can I find over-the-counter medicine to treat my erectile dysfunction?
A Nowhere! Not in Jamaica at least.
Earlier this year, men in the United Kingdom became able to buy Viagra over the counter after consulting with a pharmacist and without a prescription. Even then, it isn't a free for all. Only a limited amount is distributed after the pharmacists have determined whether treatment is appropriate. They then advise men to consult with their doctor no less than six months after buying the Viagra so that any potential underlying medical conditions, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, or heart disease, can be investigated.
The biggest concern is abuse of the drug in patients who actually don't need it, which can cause unwarranted side effects and even having a stroke.
It is best to have a medical consultation and examination before trying to take medication for erectile dysfunction; and have it safely prescribed by your doctor.