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Genital Herpes: Intimate Conversations

with Terri Warren, RN, ANP

This blog has been retired.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Can Pap Smears Test for Herpes?

For all you women out there getting annual exams with pap smears: you need to be very careful. There is a bad thing happening out there – a pap with a herpes PCR test built in. This is sometimes called a “silver pap”. It often includes tests for chlamydia, gonorrhea, and herpes.

Here’s the problem: If you get a pap and the PCR HSV test portion is negative for herpes, does that mean you don’t have herpes? Of course not. It means that there was no herpes virus present at the moment the pap was taken, but that certainly does not mean that you don’t have herpes!

The bacterial infections gonorrhea and chlamydia are always present until they are treated. They aren’t there intermittently, and so the “silver pap” that includes only gonorrhea and chlamydia is legitimate. But in order to test for herpes, an antibody test needs to be done, not a swab test (PCR or culture) and certainly not a pap.

Herpes virus is present only intermittently and so looking at one point in time for VIRUS is not accurate, not legitimate, and a total waste of money in the asymptomatic individual. It gives false reassurance about lack of infection to patients who have no idea how to interpret these results. Clinicians are confused enough about testing that they don’t seem to get it either.

Testing for herpes with a pap test is like someone did a pap looking for sperm and found none and saying, therefore, this person never has sex. It just isn’t valid!

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Posted by: Terri Warren, RN, ANP at 4:24 pm