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Oral sex. Some simple truths.

Oral sex. Some simple truths.

News that oral sex has become the 'new black' in Australian bedrooms (and no doubt New Zealand ones too) means that it is increasingly important that people understand the risks associated with it. (refer story “Oral sex the new abstinence”

While oral sex has clear advantages in terms of avoiding unwanted pregnancies, it is not necessarily 'safe' sex. The increasing prevalence of oral sex is being mirrored by an increase in the number of people contracting the herpes simplex virus as a result of mouth-to-genital transmission.

New Zealand is one of the few countries to have researched this, and results show that one in three cases of genital herpes is now caused by the Type-1 virus, the form that commonly causes cold sores. Eight out of ten New Zealanders have facial herpes.

Research conducted in the Waikato earlier this year showed the rate among under 25 year olds is even higher, with over 50 percent of genital herpes being caused by the facial herpes strain.

“This is almost certainly a direct result of oral sex being more common in relationships involving younger people,” said Claire Hurst, Manager of the New Zealand Herpes Foundation.

“What isn't well understood is that people can get genital herpes from someone who has facial herpes. And it can sometimes happen when the person has no cold sores present. And in fact most people who have the cold sore virus are not even aware they have been infected – or are infectious.”

“It is also really important that people know that having herpes does not need to be a major issue. Up to eighty percent of the population carry the herpes simplex virus, and three out of ten sexually active people have genital herpes – the same virus as “cold sores” but in a different site. Eighty percent of these have no or minimal symptoms. And for those who do have symptoms, it is important to remember that herpes is common, treatable and manageable.”

The Herpes Foundation has a range of resources, all of which can be accessed via their website, and offer a toll free helpline 0508 11 12 13.


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