Over 25 million Americans (and counting) have genital herpes: 16.2% of Americans ages 14 to 49 having herpes (CDC) multiply that by the 300+ million Americans there are (of which 49.2% are ages 14-49); that would bring the total number of Americans with genital herpes is well over 25 million (more than the entire population of Australia!). There are 776,000+ new herpes cases yearly (that’s 2,000+ new herpes cases daily).
- Genital herpes (HSV2) prevalence varies with sex and race: HSV-2 prevalence is nearly twice as high among women (20.9%) than men (11.5%), and is more than three times higher among blacks (39.2%) than whites (12.3%). The most affected group is black women, with a prevalence rate of 48%.
- CDC estimates that over 80% of those with HSV-2 (genital herpes) are unaware of their infection.
- There are two forms of Herpes Simplex Virus (HSV). Oral herpes (cold sores, HSV1) and genital herpes (HSV2). 80% of Americans have the oral version of herpes, which doesn’t carry the stigma of genital herpes (due to our old-fashioned shame around sex itself)
- Herpes is the secondmost common STD in America behind genital warts (HPV)
- Herpes can only be transmitted via direct contact in a warm and moist environment (mostly on genitals and/or mouth) Herpes is transmitted only when the contagious area of the skin comes in direct contact with the mucous membrane or crack in the surface of the skin.
Herpes myths, herpes facts
With so much herpes stigma in our culture, there’s bound to be some misinformation as well. Here are some myths that are floating around out there accompanied by their truths to set the record straight.
- Myth: I can get herpes from _________ (toilet seats/towels/drinking after someone else)
- Truth: Herpes can only be spread via skin-to-skin contact. The virus cannot exist without a hospitable environment — our bodies.
- Myth: “I just had my first genital herpes outbreak. I’ve been faithful to my partner. My partner must have cheated on me.”
- Truth: There is no way to know for sure. Herpes can lie dormant for any amount of time and can be passed to others whether or not the person ever has a herpes outbreak.
- Myth: “Now I can’t have children.”
- Truth: The only possibility of passing herpes to your baby is if you're having an active outbreak during childbirth. If that happens, you can have a C-section. You can also take herpes medication to suppress viral shedding and possible outbreaks. Since herpes is transmitted through the skin and not through the blood, your baby will be herpes-free if it doesn’t come into contact with the outbreak itself.
- Myth: “My sex life is over.”
- Truth: Your sex life as you have known it will change, yes. But don’t assume it will change for the worse. Having herpes might just change your perception of sex and intimacy for the better if you’re open to it. (Yes, even if your partner doesn’t have herpes).
- Myth: A cure for herpes is right around the corner. That will save me!
- Truth: There have been many seemingly promising cures and vaccines touted over the years, but none (so far) have come close to passing our stringent medical testing procedures. So, putting your life on hold (which I did for a few years!) until a cure is found might just be wasting valuable time for you to live your life right now.