Genital herpes


Genital herpes is caused by the herpes simplex virus (HSV). There are two subtypes of the virus.

Type 1 causes:

  • oral herpes
  • cold sores
  • some genital infections

Type 2 is almost always associated with genital infections.

While HSV can cause painful ulcers, many infections can have no signs or symptoms. Symptoms can resolve themselves but can also be managed with antiviral treatment. The virus remains in your body and can become active again months or years later.

The virus can cause more severe disease in newborn infants and in those who are immunosuppressed. It may also facilitate human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) transmission.

Visit NHS Inform for information on symptoms and where to get a test.


Guidance for genital herpes can be found on the British Association for Sexual Health and HIV (BASHH) website for:


The Blood borne viruses (BBV) and sexually transmitted infections (STI) report, produced by our BBV and STI team, describes the epidemiology of Hepatitis C, Hepatitis B, human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and other STIs in Scotland to the end of December 2016. It also describes the impact of interventions in preventing infection and associated disease and highlights public health priorities. The report also signposts readers to other existing Scottish reports and data sources, these are available on our website. The commentary is structured around the outcome indicators detailed in the Scottish Government’s Sexual Health and Blood Borne Virus (SHBBV) Framework, 2015 to 2020.

Data and surveillance

Data on genital herpes are extracted from the Electronic Communication of Surveillance in Scotland (ECOSS).

In 2009, the universal use of ECOSS by testing laboratories in Scotland came into effect. As a result, trends observed since then are not directly comparable to those prior to this.

View our genital herpes annual report for 2014

Sexual health and blood borne virus framework

The Sexual Health and Blood Borne Virus Framework, first published by the Scottish Government in August 2011 and updated in September 2015, brought together policy areas on sexual health and blood borne viruses (BBVs), namely human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), hepatitis C virus (HCV) and hepatitis B virus (HBV). The framework supports improvements in sexual health and wellbeing and addresses the impact of BBV infection in Scotland. The framework seeks to strengthen and improve multi-agency partnerships to address the five high-level outcomes:

  1. Fewer newly acquired BBVs and STIs; fewer unintended pregnancies
  2. A reduction in the health inequalities gap in sexual health and BBVs
  3. People affected by BBVs lead longer, healthier lives
  4. Sexual relationships are free from coercion and harm
  5. A society whereby the attitudes of individuals, the public, professionals and the media in Scotland towards sexual health and BBVs are positive, non-stigmatising and supportive.