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herpes virus and hiv

Sep 24, 1996

hi, i am curious,i read somewhere recently that the herpes virus either oral or genital can be very dangerous for persons with hiv,is this correct, if so please explain why what would the symptoms be thahk you

Response from Mr. Sowadsky

Thank you for your question.

Sexually transmitted herpes is caused by the Herpes Simplex Viruses (HSV Types 1 and 2). When a person has HIV, a herpes infection can indeed be much more severe than in persons without HIV.

Like other viruses, the herpes virus tends to become active when the body is under various types of physical and emotional stress. The immune system also plays a role in keeping this virus under control. Because herpes is caused by a virus, it is incurable, and outbreaks can recur over and over. When a person has an outbreak, they have a tingling sensation at the site of infection. Shortly afterwards, painful blistery lesions appear at the site. The lesions ultimately heal by themselves, but the underlying infection is still there. Outbreaks tend to occur less often as a person gets older, however if they have HIV, the situation changes dramatically.

Normally when a person has herpes, an outbreak may last 1-2 weeks. The painful lesions gradually heal and go away by themselves, although the infection is still there. The period of time between outbreaks may be weeks, months or even years in persons without HIV. When the immune system becomes damaged due to HIV, the immune system is less capable of keeping the herpes infection under control. In persons with HIV, herpes lesions may last longer than the usual 1-2 weeks, and can persist for long periods of time. The lesions can also recur much more often. These lesions may not be life threatening, but they can be extremely painful and unsightly.

There are treatments for the Herpes Simplex Viruses, but these do not cure the infection, they only make the symptoms less severe, or recur less often. However, in persons with HIV, these medications may not work as well.

So in summary, herpes can be much more severe in persons with HIV infection, and can become a serious concern in those infected with HIV. Herpes infections that a person could have acquired years earlier, could cause serious health problems later on in life.

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

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