Testing for herpes should be routine

February 7, 2014 Editorials Print Print

It’s February, which means there’s likely to be a significant increase in sexual activity among those who celebrate Valentine’s Day. Unfortunately, increased sexual activity also means there’s an increased risk for a person to either transmit or contract a sexually-transmitted infection (STI).

Now, I understand this is an awkward subject ­ and not many sexual partners prefer health talks to foreplay. But as the season of love approaches, it’s crucial that OCCC students be reminded of the harsh reality of STIs.

If you’ve never been tested for an STI, you can gain reassurance regarding your sexual health by visiting the local county health department and undergoing a free STI screening. However, be forewarned: your local health department may only test for so much.

Until recently, I was unaware that the Oklahoma County Health Department doesn’t administer a blood-antigen test for HSV-2, more commonly referred to as “genital herpes.”

This revelation came as a shock to me, primarily because the Health Department has to draw blood to test for HIV anyway.

It seems illogical to draw blood from patients but refrain from testing for HSV-2. The sample is already on its way to a laboratory to test for one disease so why not have it tested for another?

On its website, the Oklahoma County Health Department states that it provides a topical herpes test (meaning a culture is gathered from sores), but offers no comfort for those seeking to determine whether they are positive for HSV-2.

Furthermore, having a negative topical test for HSV-2 doesn’t mean that you aren’t carrying the virus for genital herpes.

According to the Mayo Clinic, HSV-2 is extremely contagious and can spread by skin-to-skin contact, even if the carrier doesn’t have an outbreak.

This means a person can be positive for HSV-2 without knowing, which increases the risk of transmission.

“The Center for Disease Control estimates that, annually, 776,000 people in the United States get new herpes infections. Genital herpes infection is common in the United States. Nationwide, 16 percent, or about one out of six, people aged 14 to 49 years have genital HSV-2 infection.”

Though the Health Department provides free STI screenings for HIV, chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis, and trichomoniasis, it’s important that a person be knowledgeable about their overall sexual health.

If the Health Department isn’t going to determine whether a person carries HSV-2, who will?

Perhaps if more were done by all health departments to determine who has HSV-2, the number of those who may be unknowingly spreading the disease would drop.

To contact Siali Siaosi, email seniorwriter@occc.edu.

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