Herpes is a STI caused by a virus called herpes simplex virus (HSV). There are two different types of this virus, but both can affect the genitals. One type is the same virus which causes cold sores around the mouth.
The virus (HSV) is highly contagious and can be passed from person to person by direct contact. This includes kissing, vaginal, anal and oral sex and sharing sex toys. Most people who have the HSV virus might not even know as it is possible to carry the virus and have no symptoms.
A lot of people with herpes do not experience symptoms and as a result do not know they have it. If symptoms occur it will usually be between 2 and 12 days after contact for them to appear, although sometimes symptoms can take months or even years to show after you’ve been infected. Symptoms can include multiple spots/red bumps around the genitals. These can be painful. These spots/bumps can break open and form ulcers.
Testing for genital herpes is easy and straightforward. If symptoms are present (blisters, sores and ulcers) a doctor/nurse will usually take a swab for testing. Although sometimes they can make a diagnosis just by looking at these symptoms and may take a swab for confirm that the virus is present.
There is no known cure for herpes but genital herpes can be treated. You may be prescribed antiviral tablets and given advice on how to prevent symptoms coming back.