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80% of people who have herpes don't know they have it?

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This stat makes me scratch my temple. If 80% of people don't know they have herpes, how do statisticians know that these 80% have it? Also, with such a high number of people not knowing they have it, it seems like the 16.5% stat would be growing exponentially. Is this number growing greater and greater by the year?

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Good question. The majority of cases when people go in to get their herpes test results, the doctors have been able to determine that what the person thought was their first herpes outbreak was not their first. Many people assume it's an ingrown hair, or a yeast infection or getting cut shaving, or skin irritation from new laundry detergent, etc. The fact that a lot of people's outbreaks are so minimal mixed with plain denial will have many, many people not even realizing they have herpes. And no, the 16.2% of Americans with genital herpes stat won't grow exponentially because even with people having herpes, there's only a 2-10% chance of herpes transmission at any given time.


From Dr. Leone's NY Times Q&A:

"The classic way to tell you had herpes was sores or ulcers on the genital area that were painful and lasted a few days, and then went away. But our understanding of herpes has increased as the technology has improved. What we’re finding now is that most cases do not fit this classic description. The typical, common way herpes presents is mild irritation that may be mistaken for trauma to the genital area. Most people miss these signs, and most clinicians aren’t looking for it. But what we see is that most will have four to six of these outbreaks in the first year of infection, which decreases over time."


Read the post-disclosure cheat sheet for all these helpful stats:



... and watch the full hour-long video when Dr. Leone stopped by the Herpes Opportunity in-person support group. It covers a lot of need-to-know information:


Note: This is for informational purposes only. This information does not constitute medical advice or diagnosis.
I'm not a medical professional, so please take this as friendly peer support. 

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Great video Adrial. I find it interesting that even the medical profession has trouble dealing with this issue. One, they are uncomfortable talking about sex, which I find really odd, but I guess we are all human. Two, that there are no black and white answers on herpes and how to control it, prevent it or deal with it. There are guidelines but nothing that they can say "this is it". And no real research going into it as well. Something that is SO common and has been around since man started having sex and yet we know so very little and have really not come very far with dealing with it. Thank God for people like you Adrial who have stepped up to the plate and are getting people to have these conversations. Thanks for getting this information out there and creating the space for open and frank discussions. I really think this is a bigger issue than just herpes. Herpes is a fantastic opportunity for us to be open and honest and authentic about ourselves, about our sexuality, our health and really make authentic connections with people. You know, if I had a choice now - do I want herpes and have the experiences I have had to this point or not have herpes, after all I have experienced, I would actually pick herpes. Maybe that sounds odd, but my life has opened up so much as a result. The Universe does have a bigger plan and I am so glad I could be open to it and, as a result, have met people like you Adrial and all the people you have inspired along the way. :)

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Thank you, both. Very helpful :c) I was at the discussion with Dr. Leone and wanted to ask him this question but I also wanted to give others a chance to ask questions as well. I think I had already asked him a few before I remembered this one.

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