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Genital Herpes: Are you one of the ten million with it?

By Vision Reporter

Added 31st July 2007 03:00 AM

IN 1999, I started getting weird pimple-like things on my hip. I went to three doctors, a dermatologist, gynaecologist and a family doctor to find out what it was. I guess they did not see that much herpes. So I put a band-aid on my hip or buttock whenever I had sores, and ignored them for years.

IN 1999, I started getting weird pimple-like things on my hip. I went to three doctors, a dermatologist, gynaecologist and a family doctor to find out what it was. I guess they did not see that much herpes. So I put a band-aid on my hip or buttock whenever I had sores, and ignored them for years.

By Thomas Pere

IN 1999, I started getting weird pimple-like things on my hip. I went to three doctors, a dermatologist, gynaecologist and a family doctor to find out what it was. I guess they did not see that much herpes. So I put a band-aid on my hip or buttock whenever I had sores, and ignored them for years.

“Then I met the guy I have now been with for five years, on and off. When we first slept together, he had a cold sore and I got Herpes Simplex 1 from him. He got herpes Simplex 2 from me.

“It took us a while to figure it out. I did not get a diagnosis from a doctor, but my partner did. He came back from his appointment and said: ‘Hey, I have some interesting medical news for you.’ So we pieced together the whole thing. He got out his calendar for the various times we had slept together.

“Instead of apportioning blame, we decided it was something we shared. I realised it was not the worst thing in the world. He got medication and it shortened the length of his outbreaks.

“Having it has made me health-conscious. I learned about what I should and should not eat to stay healthy. Currently, neither of us gets frequent outbreaks and I do not feel it will ever be a terrible emotional burden for me.

But I am glad I found out. The more you know, the better you can take care of yourself,” narrates 35-year-old Suzan Mubiru about her experience with genital herpes.
Genital herpes is a sexually transmitted disease, spread by a virus. It spreads from person-to-person during vaginal, anal or oral sexual contact.

Fred Kambugu, a consultant physician and head of sexual transmitted disease unit of Mulago Hospital, says according to a PhD thesis by Dr. Edith Naku from Makerere University Medical School, the genital herpes simplex disease prevalence is 88-90% in people between 15-49 years.

This follows a survey in Nakawa and Kawempe division in Kampala. The implication is that the population prevalence is 70%.

According to a Ministry of Health 2004/05 HIV/AIDS Sero-behavioural Survey, almost half of women and over a third of men have the herpes simplex 2 virus.

Dr Naku in her thesis says: “In Uganda, two out of every 10 people gets a new infection every year, with the highest number among those who do not use condoms. “Unfortunately, only 1% of the infected are aware of their status. This is because the majority of the cases show no symptoms, except in cases when your body immunity falls,” the thesis reveals.

Common symptoms in men are ulcers on the glans, foreskin and shaft of the penis. In women, similar lesions occur on the eternal genitalia and the mucosae of the vulva, vagina and cervix.

There is also itching, burning, redness, bumps, tingling in or around the genital area, blisters, sores or cuts which are painful and uncomfortable. They normally go away after a week or more, but have a tendency to recur.

Many people normally assume such an irritation is an allergic reaction to a laundry detergent or a simple yeast infection. These and other similar appearances are a sign of genital herpes outbreak.

Kambugu, says: “If this surprises you, that is ok — few people understand what genital herpes actually is, and 90% of people who are infected with the virus do not even realise they have the disease.”

One of the most important things you should know about genital herpes is that it is common. More than 10 million Ugandans have it, he says.

After the initial occurrence, the virus travels to the nerves in the spinal cord where it is kept in check by the immune system. Recurrence occurs when they travel back, usually two to four times a year, due to a fall in the body’s immunity. The causes may include trauma, excessive sunlight, stress, some types of drugs and HIV infection.

For people who are HIV-positive, transmission of the HIV virus is faster because of the fluid from the raw occurrences. The same applies to people who are HIV-negative, but have genital herpes.
Kambugu says: “The disease cannot be eradicated from the body. Drugs only shorten duration of attack and pain. This can be with prescription drugs such as acyclovir.

For patients with minor attacks, the easiest way out is attention to personal hygiene and painkillers.”
He says if you are sexually active, you can pass herpes to your partner even if you are taking drugs. That is why during an outbreak, you must avoid sexual contact, but if you must, use a condom. It is an effective way of preventing the spread of the disease.

Genital Herpes: Are you one of the ten million with it?

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