There are two types of herpes, HSV 1 and HSV 2. But they’re just two strains to the same herpes virus. One strain has no stigma whatsoever and the other has entirely too much. Can you guess which is which?
To keep it all straight, here are all the ways oral herpes is referred to as:
- “cold sores” or mouth herpes
- HSV1 (or HSV-1)
- Herpes simplex virus 1
- Herpes type 1
- Herpes A
… and all the ways genital herpes is referred to as:
- penis herpes or vaginal herpes
- HSV2 (or HSV-2)
- Herpes simplex virus 2
- Herpes type 2
- Herpes B
Oral herpes is known as the common cold sore. 80% of Americans have oral herpes, so there’s a clear lack of stigma. HSV1 prefers to be in the drier mucous membrane of the outer mouth, yet can still show up on the genitals (if oral sex is given during an outbreak, for example). If you have a herpes outbreak on your mouth, then there is a 99% chance that it is HSV-1. HSV-2 doesn’t like to show up on the mouth.
Genital herpes has way too much stigma. Here's why: 16% of Americans have genital herpes (1 out of 6). What shows up on people’s lips without a stigma is pretty much the same virus that shows up on the genitals with a stigma. The stigma is simply a manifestation of our inherited cultural shame around sex, especially if we enjoy it (imagine that!).
Genital herpes can be caused by either virus, HSV-1 or HSV-2. (And about 50% of new genital herpes cases are due to oral sex — someone who has an active cold sore/oral herpes going down on someone else and spreading it that way.)
Depending on which site your HSV-1 or HSV-2 resides, there are varying risks of transmitting (download the e-book & handouts for more info on all of this). These are the rates of asymptomatic viral shedding in between herpes outbreaks):
- Genital herpes (HSV-2) = 15-30% of the time
- Genital herpes (HSV-1) = 3-5% of the time
- Oral herpes (HSV-1) = 9-18% of the time
- Oral herpes (HSV-2) = 1% of the time (quite rare, but not impossible)