Herpes Testing: When and How Should I Get Tested?

Currently, the CDC has not included herpes testing in any routine STD panel. They believe that false positives can occur, especially to people of low likelihood of HSV or of no apparent symptoms of the infection. These false positive results can cause adverse psychological effect on some people.

However, based on my experience and from reading stories on various herpes forums, the reason why the herpes virus gets passed around so easily is because people aren't aware of it. This unfortunately makes it easy for them to transmit the infection to their unsuspecting partner/s. 

I personally believe that it would benefit more people if herpes testing was included in a routine STD panel. That way, a person can make informed decisions regarding his health and sexual practices. The feelings of guilt and shame can also be avoided when a person unknowingly transfers the virus on to another.

So if you think you have herpes but are unsure, or if you've seen some suspicious looking sores around your partner’s private parts... then it’s about time to get tested! It’s the only way to know for sure whether you (or your partner) may have the herpes virus or not.

Here’s a lowdown on what you need to know before making that important decision.

Disclaimer: I am neither a doctor nor a scientist; the facts presented here are based on my years of research and personal experience with herpes.

What is the current statistic for new cases of HSV?

herpes under microscope

As of the newly published fact sheet from the CDC dated February 2013, the US alone has spent about $16 billion total in medical costs for Sexually Transmitted Infections (STI).

Now, that’s a lot of money!

It is estimated that almost half of the new HSV cases every year occur within the young people range (ages 15-24). HSV-2 also comes second only to HPV infections in the majority of prevalent STIs in the United States.

The elevated incidence and overall prevalence of HSV implies that Americans are at a high risk of transmitting the infection.

What are the different types of herpes testing available?

HSV screening is crucial to protect one’s health and prevent the risk of spreading the infection.

Some of the Herpes testing used to diagnose or screen herpes include:

  1. Herpes Blood Tests- these are type-specific blood tests that look for antibodies against the herpes virus and is 97-100% accurate. It can identify between the two types of herpes (HSV 1 or HSV 2) even without the visible signs of an outbreak. Word of advice: you need to patiently wait at least 10 days after suspected exposure before getting a blood test done, in order to give your body enough time to develop antibodies against the herpes virus.
  2. PCR Blood Test- Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) is the newest technology to accurately determine if you have herpes, despite not showing any signs or symptoms at all. It works by detecting the herpes virus DNA. It’s a bit more expensive though and may be difficult to find.
  3. Viral Cell Culture- Within 48 hours of your first primary outbreak, a viral cell culture is recommended. Your doctor or nurse will take a swab sample of your sores to be sent to the laboratory. This type of test becomes less accurate after 48 hours from exposure or during recurrent outbreaks. So the earlier you can get this test done, the better.

All these types of tests can determine if you've been exposed to the herpes virus, but they will not be able to tell when the exposure occurred. You may be carrying the virus for years and not realize it, or you may have just been recently exposed to the virus from your sexual partner.

Previous or recent exposure, if you do have herpes then you are still contagious and proper precaution should be taken to avoid the risk of transmission.

How much does herpes testing cost?

herpes testing

If you are sexually active, make sure to talk to your healthcare provider about which STI testing may be right for you.

Tell them to include screening for herpes and if possible, a “type-specific” test. That way you can know exactly what type of herpes virus may be in your system. This type of herpes testing can also shed light on how you were infected (either through oral or genital sex).

It only takes about $90 to get a blood test and a little more for the whole STD panel.

When should I get tested?

If you are currently experiencing your first outbreak and it hasn't been two days, best is to visit your doctor and ask for a viral culture.

If it has been at least 10 days since exposure, then you might want to get a herpes blood test such as the HerpesSelect test.

You can also use a confidential and convenient testing service such as STDcheck. Results are available within 1-2 days after your visit to a testing center.

How do I tell my partner to get tested for herpes?

This is possibly the scariest and most sensitive part, but there are good reasons why you should let your partner get tested as well:

  • First, they may have unwittingly given the herpes virus to you. Most people with herpes don’t know they have it or are in denial. Getting tested will open up their eyes and help establish trust in your relationship. They can also monitor or change their lifestyle to make better choices health-wise. Encourage them to ask questions or point them to this website, too.
  • Second, you might have given herpes to them already. This is regrettable and they might get mad at you. It takes a lot of courage to be able to tell others, especially a new partner. But telling them will dispel whatever worry and fear you may have inside. 

You’re delivery is so important, so let them know that you’re concerned about them.

Stay calm and supportive. If they refuse to get tested, then that says a lot about their character.

But there is a bright side to all of these. In the advent that you and your partner test positive for herpes, then you both can enjoy genital herpes sex without the need for herpes precaution. 

Final words on herpes testing...

Now that you've read all you can about herpes testing, it’s time to take some action. Don’t delay. Herpes testing is relatively cheap and easy. The faster you take action, the quicker you will heal both inside and out.

  1. Go get tested! Visit your healthcare provider to know your options. Do your research beforehand, that way you will be able to make an informed decision. Or use a fast and effortless testing service such as STDcheck which have testing locations all over the US. Plus, it’s safe and confidential (not even your doctor or medical insurance company will know).
  2. Check out our herpes treatment page to find out what medication may be suitable for you. Be kind to yourself, even if you do get a positive diagnosis, your life is not over. 

In a nutshell, herpes is just a skin condition that may present inconveniences from time to time. It is definitely manageable and non life-threatening. 

Just look at our Success Stories forum, you will find a lot of people living their lives happy and healthy with herpes. Their stories are a beacon of hope. Herpes is not such a big deal.

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