Background teacher notes


Infections you can get from sex: Genital herpes



Genital herpes - avoiding them, testing for them and treating them.


Genital herpes: the important facts

  • You can get genital herpes when you have sex.

  • You might get sores on your penis, vulva or bum.

  • You can take medicine to make the sores go away but the virus stays in your body.

  • If you have sores, see a doctor or health clinic for a test.


What are genital herpes?

Genital herpes is an infection you get from the herpes simplex virus.

It is the same type of virus that gives people sores around their mouth. These are commonly called 'cold sores'.

Genital herpes can give you sores on your penis, vulva or bum. 

You might get sores on the inside parts of your genitals (urethra and cervix). You won't be able to see these sores.


How can I get genital herpes?

You can get genital herpes if:

  • your genitals touch the genitals of someone that has herpes. This is usually when you have vagina or anal (bum) or sex.

  • you have oral (mouth) sex from a partner who has a cold sore.

You can not get genital herpes from:

  • using toilets

  • sharing food or drinks or kissing

(You can get oral (mouth) herpes if you kiss someone with a cold sore on their mouth)

  • breastfeeding

  • hugging

  • holding hands

  • coughing

  • sneezing.


Should I get tested for genital herpes?

You should get a test for genital herpes if:

  • you have pain or sores in or around your penis, vulva or bum

  • you have small cracks in the skin on your vulva or penis that sometimes feel itchy

  • you have redness or a rash on or near your penis or vulva.

Sometimes it can be hard to tell if you or your sex partner have genital herpes.

You might not have any sores or you may not have any sores for a long time, but the virus can still be in your body.


How do I get tested for genital herpes?

You can ask for a test at any health clinic or doctor.

They will have a private talk with you before the test to tell you what to expect.

When you have the test, a healthcare worker will use a swab to take a sample from a sore.

The tests are quick and should not hurt.

Most tests are free if you have a Medicare card.

If you do not have a Medicare card, ask the health clinic for more information. 

Find a health clinic near you.

Why should I get tested for genital herpes?

If you have herpes but don't know it, you can spread it to your sex partners and make them sick.

If you get tested, you will know to not have sex when you have sores.

If you don't test, treat or look after your herpes, you can make your sex partners sick. 

If you are pregnant and have sores when the baby is being born, it can make your baby very sick. Getting tested is the first step to keep your baby healthy.

What happens if the test says I have genital herpes?

If the test says you have the herpes simplex virus, you can be treated and still live a healthy life.

The virus stays in your body. Sometimes you will have sores, but most of the time you will not have sores.

You can take medicine to help stop you getting sores and to make the sores go away faster.

When you have sores, do not have sex or touch genitals. 


Ways to protect your sex partners from genital herpes

  • Wear a condom and use water-based lubricant when you have vagina or anal (bum) sex.

  • Use a condom and dam when you have oral (mouth) sex. A dam is a thin square of rubber or plastic that is put over the vulva or anus (bum) during oral sex.

  • When you have sores, do not have sex or touch genitals.


Will my doctor tell people I have genital herpes?

It is against the law for the doctor or nurse to tell your information to other people without you agreeing.

If you have genital herpes, it will not affect your visa or permanent residency.


How do I avoid getting genital herpes?

  • Use condoms and water-based lubricant every time you have vagina or anal (bum) sex.

  • Use condoms or dams every time you have oral (mouth) sex.

  • Do not have sex when a sex partner has sores on their penis, vulva, bum or mouth.

  • Have a sexual health test once a year

  • Have a sexual health test if you have sex with a new person. 

How to use a condom with water-based lubricant.

How to use a dam.


Where can I get more information and help?

9227 6178 if you are living in in Perth

1800 198 205 if you are outside of Perth.