Welcome to Part 1 in our Sexual Health series, brought to you by Just the Facts


Herpes! Why is it so scary? Why does it have such a bad stigma?

Nobody necessarily WANTS to catch herpes, but there are so many myths surrounding it that it gets a really bad rap.

There are eight different kinds of herpes. Yes, eight! Did you know that chicken pox is a kind of herpes virus? You’re probably not as scared of chicken pox as you are of genital herpes though, right?

Herpes might not be curable – but is common, manageable and treatable. More than 30% of sexually active adults in New Zealand have genital herpes.

The herpes virus we talk about when it comes to sexual health are Herpes Simplex 1 (HSV-1; oral herpes or “cold sores” that you can get on your mouth or on your genitals) and Herpes Simplex 2 (HSV-2; genital herpes “cold sores”).

Herpes is spread by skin-to-skin contact – this can include kissing, oral sex or genital-to-genital sex. Because most people with herpes never have symptoms, or such mild symptoms they don’t even know they have it, it’s unavoidably shared. The bottom line is, you don’t need to have sex with penetration to pass on, or catch herpes. Yep – if you have a cold sore, and give your partner oral, then they can contract genital herpes.

There is no routine test for herpes unless someone has an active lesion (cold sore) which can be swabbed for testing. If you are diagnosed with herpes, don’t panic! Life goes on. Medication is very good at keeping symptoms under control, and will reduce the risk of transmission to a partner.

Having herpes doesn’t prevent you from having normal, loving sexual relationships. It is helpful to be honest and open with your partner. You can find more information on justthefacts.co.nz and herpes.org.nz including where to go for support and ideas on how to have a conversation with your partner.


This week, there is a campaign being run by Auckland Uni, to promote awareness of infections – it’s called InfectedNZ. #InfectedNZ


For more information about sexual health and STIs, visit

Just The Facts – brought to you by the Sexually Transmitted Infections Education Foundation (STIEF), an initiative funded by the Ministry of Health through collective District Health Boards to educate New Zealanders about sexual health and STIs.