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Herpes and HIV (Recurrent Herpes Outbreaks)

Mar 23, 1998

I contracted herpes approx. 4-5 months ago and I've had recurrent outbreaks ever since. They heal within 1-2 weeks, but I get another one right away. The only time I seem to be somewhat free of the herpes is during my period. I was tested for HIV 3 months after possible exposure and the result was negative. Is it possible that these continual recurrences of herpes are due to HIV infection? I know it has been said that opportunistic infections do not usually develop until years after HIV infection, and that if you test negative while symptoms are occurring, then those symptoms are unrelated to HIV.

I have been extremely stressed- more so than ever before in my life- over this situation, which, I realize, could be contributing to the frequency of my outbreaks. I have been on acyclovir, and it seems to lessen severity of symptoms, but it does not in any way prevent them. Also, I was never exposed to HSV 1, so I had no existing antibodies to Herpes in my body upon exposure to HSV 2.

Can you help? Thank you in advance.


Response from Mr. Sowadsky


Thank you for your question. It is unlikely that your frequent herpes outbreaks are HIV related. This is because:

1) There is no evidence thus far, that you are infected with HIV.

2) Recurrent herpes outbreaks associated with HIV do not usually begin until there is damage to the immune system (usually years after HIV infection).

When you stated that you are under a lot of stress, this can certainly explain why you have been having recurrent outbreaks. I have the following suggestions for you:

1) If your outbreaks are recurring multiple times, please see your doctor.

2) Consider going on prophylactic therapy. This means taking anti-herpes medications continuously (even when you are not showing any symptoms), as a way to reduce the number of outbreaks you are having. Prophylactic therapy is recommended for persons who have recurrent outbreaks multiple times within a year.

3) If the Acyclovir (Zovirax) is not helping, there are two other medications which may help. They are Valacyclovir (Valtrex) and Famciclovir (Famvir). Please talk to your doctor to see if Valtrex or Famvir are options for you.

4) Take steps to reduce your stress. Stress (both physical and emotional) are well known to lead to recurrent herpes outbreaks. If you are having ongoing emotional stress, you may want to talk to a counselor, or go to a local herpes support group (if there are any in your local area). You may also want to try other types of emotional stress reduction, depending on what works well for you. If you are having a lot of physical stress (for example, lack of sleep), you should consider taking steps to reduce physical stress to your body as well.

If you have any further questions, please feel free to call the Centers for Disease Control at 1.800.232.4636 (Nationwide).

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