Q: I may very well have been exposed to a girl with genital herpes and now I have a rash on my penis. My urologist (who doesn’t seem to know a lot about herpes) thinks I only have a fungal infection, but gave me a lab form for herpes blood tests anyway. My question to you is: How many weeks after my 1st outbreak should I wait to make sure I’ve built up enough herpes antibodies, to be ABSOLUTELY SURE that I really do or do not have herpes?
A: Many doctors incorrectly diagnose herpes as a fungal infection, jock itch, ingrown hairs, friction, yeast infection, or any number of other things. This is extremely common, and very frustrating!
It takes about 12-16 WEEKS after you were first exposed to herpes in order to give the virus antibodies enough time to show up in your blood stream. Otherwise the test results may not be accurate and you might get a “false negative” result. If you take a blood test now, and the result is positive, then it is possible that you were already infected with the HSV2 virus BEFORE your encounter with this last person.
Statistics show that @ 20% of all US women have the HSV-2 virus, and 60-80% of all adults in the US carry the HSV-1 virus (either orally or genitally), but most of them DON’T EVEN KNOW IT. This is because most people have mild, infrequent or even NO symptoms. And most doctors do NOT routinely give blood tests for herpes even when they are testing you for other STD’s – unless you SPECIFICALLY request a herpes blood test. So most people have never been tested for herpes!
Some people who become infected with herpes don’t have their first outbreak until YEARS after they were first infected. So unless you had a negative herpes blood test prior to having sex with this last person, you’ll never really know if you got herpes from HER, or someone else BEFORE her. It is possible to spread herpes even when there are no symptoms. Just think – one in every four of your previous sexual partners had genital herpes and probably didn’t know it! Safe Sex is always the best policy.
According to Dr. Gary A. Richwald, the Medical Advisor to LA HELP, as long as your doctor has ordered one of the GOOD herpes blood tests (such as the dual HerpeSelect 1 & 2), then the antibody test can be positive as early as 3 weeks after lesions appear. (But if the result is negative, it just might be too early to know.) After 16 weeks (four months), the vast majority of folks will have a positive test if infected. Doctors should order a test at the beginning (because some individuals are already asymptomatically infected from a previous exposure) and repeat the test at 3-4 months.
It’s very important to find out the Name and Manufacturer of the test your doctor is using and make sure it is one of the NEW, GOOD herpes blood tests which are very accurate. Unfortunately, many doctors and labs are still using some of the OLD, VERY INACCURATE blood tests that are still on the market. There is a list of the GOOD HERPES BLOOD TESTS and more information see How to Get Tested for Herpes.
Print out this information out for your doctor! And make SURE your doctor is using one of the newer, very accurate blood tests! If they don’t know the name and manufacturer of the test they are using, make sure they find out! You’ll be helping yourself, and you’ll be helping your doctor get educated about herpes so that they can better treat their future patients.