Despite the wealth of information available on sexually transmitted infections (STIs), there is still a lot of stigma and misinformation around them. In Australia, about 16% of the population reports having had an STI in their lifetime, but stigma and asymptomatic STIs means this number is probably higher.
For those in the adult industry, keeping our bodies able to perform is important. However, having an STI does not spell the end of a career. In this series of posts, I will talk about some of the common STIs, including tips on managing them so that you can continue working
“It’s just a cold sore”
Herpes is one of the most common STIs, with an estimated 75% of Australians being infected. Herpes is caused by the herpes simplex virus (HSV) and there are two variants. The most common variant is HSV1 and is usually found around the lips and mouth, while HSV2 is more likely to be found on a person’s genitals. However, they can be found in and transmitted from and to both locations.
“Cold sore” is the colloquial term for herpes when it is found around the mouth and lips. Regardless of where the sores are located, they have the same appearance. During a herpes flare up, the sores begin with a mild itching or tingling, before turning into small blisters which then become shallow ulcers. Usually, the worst episodes are during the first outbreak a person experiences, and the sores may never appear again, or if they return, it’s to a much lesser degree. The sores may even look like just a small cut in the skin in subsequent flares.
It is important to remember that a person can be a carrier of herpes but never actually experience an outbreak of the virus. It is still unclear what causes outbreaks in those who carry the virus, but it is thought that they can be attributed to stress, low immunity, damage to the skin and menstruation.
“I don’t think I have herpes…”
Because herpes is so prevalent, and it causes no long term damage to the body, it is not included in routine STI screening. In order to be confirmed as a case of herpes (or that you are a carrier), the sores need to be swabbed and analysed, or a blood test specifically looking for the presence of HSV needs to be conducted. There is no cure for herpes, so once you have contracted it, it will remain in your body for the rest of your life.
Herpes is spread by skin to skin contact, usually during genital or oral sex, but also from kissing, foreplay and non-penetrative sex. Although it is most easily spread when there are visible sores, it can still be transmitted in their absence.
“I have herpes; what can help during a flare?”
The first thing to do if you think you have herpes is to visit your healthcare professional to properly diagnose and treat your symptoms. This can be a very confronting experience, but it will help with treatment and better understanding on how to manage the condition. Antiviral medications can be prescribed to help reduce the severity and length of the flare ups, which can be extremely painful and uncomfortable. Antivirals also reduce the risk of transmission to sexual partners. Topical creams for use on your face and mouth are not suitable for your genitals, so it is important to get the correct treatment!
My top tips for getting through a genital herpes flare:
- Salt baths: soak your whole body or use a flannel soaked in salt water to soothe and dry out the sores
- Ice packs: apply to help soothe the burning sensation (do not put straight on the skin, make sure you wrap it first!)
- Clothing: change your underwear frequently and avoid fabrics/styles that irritate the skin
- Paracetamol: to keep the pain manageable and reduce the associated discomfort
With appropriate diagnosis, treatment and management, you will move through a herpes flare up and back to work in no time.
Rem Sequence is an Australian adult content creator, blogger and internationally published alt model. She has a background in psychology, philosophy and political science and has worked in health and sex education, youth work and trauma counseling for almost two decades. Contact Rem via firstname.lastname@example.org and visit her on Twitter @remsequence.