What is it?

Herpes is a common STI caused by two viruses. They are herpes simplex virus 1 (HSV-1) and herpes simplex virus-2 (HSV-2). HSV-1 usually causes cold sores or oral herpes, and HSV-2 usually causes sores on and around the genitals. However, people can be infected with either type of herpes on both parts of the body.

If someone has herpes and they are pregnant, it may cause problems in their pregnancy and can cause serious health problems for the baby.

How can someone get it?

Herpes can be transmitted via oral, vaginal, or anal sex with someone who has herpes. If someone’s skin touches a herpes sore, they can get it. People can get herpes from someone who has it even if that person doesn't have sores.

Most people who have oral herpes (HSV-1) got it as children from contact like sharing a drink or non-sexual kissing with someone who had herpes. A pregnant person can transmit herpes to their baby during childbirth.

How can it be prevented?

Only having sex with one other person who only has sex with you is also a great way to reduce the chance of getting herpes. If someone is having a herpes outbreak and has sores, they should consider not having sex during that time. There is a medication people with herpes can take that can reduce the chance of infecting someone else.

Other ways herpes can be prevented are

  • using condomsinternal condoms, or dental dams as a barrier between the bodies;

  • not having sex or being abstinent;

  • getting tested regularly, especially with new sexual partners, to know your status;

  • talking openly, honestly, and without judgment with sexual partners about STIs;

  • learning how to care of your health.


Many people who have herpes do not have any symptoms.

Others might have mild symptoms like

  • A sore or few sores that look like blisters on the genitals at first and then break open, which can be painful. This is called an outbreak.

  • Fever and flu-like symptoms with the first outbreak.

The only way to know for sure if it is herpes is to get checked out by a medical provider. Sometimes other things like ingrown hair or pimple can look like herpes.

Who should get tested?

People should get tested if they are experiencing any of the symptoms listed above.

In the following cases, people should get tested soon as well

  • If some of the symptoms listed above are noticed.

  • If other symptoms like bumps, swelling, or sores are noticed.

  • When someone has a new sexual partner.

  • When someone is told by a sexual partner that they have herpes or other STI.

  • When someone is pregnant.

How is it tested?

Most clinics see people for herpes when they are having an outbreak or other symptoms. Medical providers decide if any sores are herpes by looking at them. Herpes can also be tested by blood.

How is it treated?

Herpes is a virus, which means that once someone is infected with herpes it stays in their body forever. There is no cure for herpes but there is a medication that can help prevent outbreaks, shorten outbreaks, and help with the symptoms. Some medications can help reduce the chance of passing the infection to someone else.

Where to get checked?

If you are in Pueblo, Colorado, contact the Family Planning Clinic from Pueblo Department of Public Health and Environment.

English: Call (719) 583-4380. Monday to Friday 8:00 AM to 4:30 PM.
Español: Llama (719) 583-4376. Lunes a viernes 8:00 AM a 4:30 PM. 

If you are somewhere else in the United States you can find other resources here.

Go Ask Tara

Go Ask Tara is on a mission to provide sex education and help the youth of Colorado prevent pregnancy and STIs.