Due to the stigma associated with a herpes diagnosis, many people feel uncomfortable talking about it or asking questions. This can be especially true for young people who may not want adults in their life to know they’re sexually active. No matter what your age is, it’s important not to rely on gossip, and to know the facts when it comes to herpes!
Here are common myths about herpes (and the truth, vetted by doctors):
Fact: It’s one of the most common STIs. According to the American Sexual Health Association, 1 in 2 people between the age of 14-49 has Herpes Simplex Virus Type 1 (HSV-1) and 1 in 8 people between ages 14-49 have Herpes Simplex Virus Type 2 (HSV-2).
Fact: You can still spread herpes even if you don’t show symptoms. Symptoms can go away for years and come back in outbreaks. An outbreak of herpes means physical symptoms appear, including small red bumps, tiny white blisters, ulcers, scabs, flu-like symptoms, pain, or itching. Outbreaks can be controlled with treatment.
Fact: There are two types of Herpes Simplex Virus (HSV). HSV-1 typically causes oral herpes, sometimes referred to as cold sores. HSV-2 typically causes genital herpes. Whether you have either HSV-1 or HSV-2, it’s possible to get outbreaks in both areas (the mouth and/or genitals).
Fact: Whether you’ve had one or a dozen sexual partners, you can still contract herpes. Herpes can be spread through skin-to-skin contact, so you can still get herpes without having intercourse.
Fact: Good news - there is no evidence that herpes leads to cancer. In terms of other health concerns, people who are pregnant should speak to their doctor to minimize risks for the baby during pregnancy.
Fact: STIs are common and people continue to date and have sex after learning they have an STI like herpes. There are ways to protect yourself and your partner and minimize the risk of spreading. Check out our Dating with Herpes article for more info!