Despite the ubiquitous jokes and general misinformation about herpes, a majority of the population has it, according to a study by the World Health Organization, which found that “two out of three people worldwide have herpes simplex virus (HSV-1),” reports Britni De La Cretaz.
Meanwhile, the Centers for Disease Control “estimates that one in six people have genital herpes (HSV-2).”
Occasionally recurring sores on the mouth, genitals, or anus go typically go away with or without medication, while many others infected with the virus have no symptoms at all. Some may never experience another episode after the initial outbreak.
Nevertheless, the “stigma surrounding herpes is often much worse than the symptoms of the virus itself,” says De La Cretaz.
“Whether the virus is being compared to glitter by Demetri Martin because it ‘doesn’t go away’ or called the only thing that doesn’t stay in Vegas in The Hangover, herpes jokes are everywhere,” De La Cretaz points out.
Even as we have become more knowledgeable about prevention, reveals how common herpes is, we have not changed how we speak about herpes in particular, and STIs in general, over the last few centuries.
An ubiquity of shaming jokes and general misinformation about the relatively benign virus discourages people from telling their sexual partners about their positive status, which ultimately leads to more infections.