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 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. 47% of Americans between the ages of 14 and 49 have HSV 1 infection, so there’s a clear lack of stigma. HSV1 prefers to be in the oral area, which includes inside the nose, yet can still show up on the genitals (if oral sex is given during a time when the virus is being given off from the body – that’s with or without symptoms). 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 is shedding virus from the mouth going down on someone else and spreading it that way.)
Depending on where your HSV-1 or HSV-2 resides, there are varying risks of giving off this virus – also known as viral shedding which can happen when you have a visible outbreak or not (download the e-book & handouts for more info on all of this). \
- Symptomatic genital herpes infection (HSV-2) = about 20% of the time
- Asymptomatic genital herpes infection (HSV 2) = about 10% of the time
- Genital herpes (HSV-1) = 1-14% of the time, depending on the duration of the infection. After being infected for 2 years, the virus is shed on about 4 total days of the year.
- Oral herpes (HSV-1) = 9-25% of the time. People with frequent cold sores shed virus more often than those who get infrequent cold sores.
- Oral herpes (HSV-2) = 1% of the time (quite rare, but not impossible)