Heads Up: Lots of People Have Herpes. Maybe Even You!


Since knowledge is power, Vox would like you to know that you definitely, probably most likely have herpes. Don’t you feel powerful?

Through a set of charts charts charts, Vox‘s Susannah Locke lays out the facts, many of which you probably already knew. Here they are anyway: 1. There is no cure for herpes. 2. The older you get, the more likely it is you have herpes. 3. Black women are the most likely to have herpes, followed by black men, followed by all other women, followed by all other men. 4. Single people are the most likely to have herpes. 5. Most people don’t know they have herpes – like 80% of people who have it. 6. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention doesn’t even recommend doctors test for herpes. Herpes. Herpes. One more time, we are talking about herpes.

It’s points numbers five and six that are the most universally frustrating: Most people don’t know they have herpes because their doctors don’t suggest they get tested for it. Most doctors are pretty bored with herpes because they see it everywhere. The CDC doesn’t suggest that doctors test for it because, ”It is not clear whether knowledge of a herpes diagnosis improves the health of people taking the tests and reduces spread of HSV in the population.” So even if they were telling you to get tested and even if more people knew they were carriers of HSV-1 and HSV-2, there’s no indication from medical professionals that it would do anything to cut the actual number of infections down.

Though the CDC admits that more research needs to be done into that possibility, there’s other stuff at play here:

In addition, these tests can be expensive; false positive test results may occur in some persons with a low likelihood of infection; and the diagnosis may have adverse psychological effects for some people.

Herpes might be one of the few infections where not knowing is the preferred medical treatment. And there is something about the chillness of doctors on this topic that’s comforting. They’ve seen everything, so their tendency to find the diseases that you consider horrible not a big deal can be a great reality check. On the other hand, they’ve seen everything, which prevents them from remembering that for some individuals, these health problems can be a very big deal.

Bottom line, which you knew before this Vox piece: Use a condom (even though it doesn’t always prevent herpes). And/or just chill out the way your doctors want you to.

Image via Seanika/Shutterstock

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