Fear & Realities
Leanna Wolfe, PhD
The Society for the Scientific Study of Sexuality
November 19, 2016 – Phoenix, AZ
• Two types of viruses : Herpes Simplex 1 and Herpes Simplex 2
• HSV1 is typically found on the face
• HSV2 is typically found below the waist (genitals, anus, etc.)
• Fluids in Herpes sores contain the virus
• Contact with the sores can spread it to others
• Herpes can also be spread asymptomatically
• 80% of people who have herpes do not know that they have it
• 90% of the US Population has been exposed to HSV1
• By adolescence 62% of Americans are infected
• 85% of Americans over 60 are infected
• 20-30% of the US Population has genital herpes
• 50% of single US women aged 40-50 have genital herpes
What Does Herpes Look Like?
When Herpes is Serious
• A baby passing through the birth canal of a symptomatic mother
can be blinded, go into a coma and potentially die.
• Lesions can be a portal for spreading HIV-AIDS
Herpes as a Social Problem
Prior to the 1970s cold sores were not
considered social problems. Drug
companies manufacturing remedies
needed to create a market for a
condition that had never before been
regarded as a stigmatized social
Herpes Internet Survey
• 534 Respondents
• March 2009 – November 2014
• No Funding or Sponsorship
• Voluntary Anonymous Participation
• Those “with” and “without” Herpes Invited to Participate
• Designed to Explore Fuzzy Beliefs and Practices
• 28 Questions
• Toggles for those with HSV1 and HSV2
• 42.9% Male
• 54.5% Female
• 2.6% Transgender
• 29% Single (US Census 27%)
• 33.5% Married (US Census 48%)
• 16.8% Living with a Lover
• 20.7% Living Separately from Partner
• 43.8% report being Herpes-free
• 56.2% report having Herpes
• 27% report having Oral Herpes (cold sores)
• 28% report having Genital Herpes (representative of U.S. Population)
Under a microscope the two strains look almost identical. Evolutionarily they
separated when humans started to have face-face sex. HSV1 typically remains
dormant in the nerve cells at the base of the neck, while HSV2 lodges at the
base of the spine. More than 30% of new genital infections are HSV1.
• One third of the respondents were accurate as to the high
percentage (90%) of Americans that have oral herpes
• Half of respondents were accurate regarding the 20-30 % of
Americans that have genital herpes
• Two-thirds of people without herpes contend that there are no
conditions under which they would have sex with people with
• Most respondents with oral herpes have had the virus since
childhood; greater numbers of respondents acquired genital
herpes over the last 10 years
• Suppression drug therapy and stress reduction are the most
common approaches for outbreak prevention.
• While pharmaceutical therapies are used by more than half the
respondents, close to 30% do nothing to treat their lesions.
• Top safer sex practices include using barrier methods (condoms,
dental dams) and avoiding sexual contact during outbreaks.
Other popular practices include taking suppression therapy
• So much hysteria has been created that nearly 80% of
respondents would absolutely seek to be vaccinated against
herpes if it were possible.
• Doctors do not typically test for herpes as part of sti panels
due to its high concentration in the population; many people
carry it without expression of lesions.
• Pharmaceutical companies created herpes as a condition that
required treatment in the early 1980s.
• HSV1 and HSV2 are nearly identical, sharing a common
evolutionary history. HSV2 has been stigmatized due to
America’s prudish attitudes towards sexuality.
• Dating challenges for midlife and older widows and divorcees
who are new to the world of herpes.
• One theory contends that herpes is in fact dormant in most of
us and first onsets are not caused by having contact with an
infected partner, but rather by other factors such as stress.