Herpes is common. Really common. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about one in six adults has genital herpes, a sexually transmitted infection (STI) caused by the herpes simplex virus.
While it may be super-common, there are still a lot of myths out there about it — here are five I hear a lot.
Myth 1: If I don’t have any sores, I don’t have herpes.
Herpes can lay dormant (sort of like it’s in hibernation) for years without causing any noticeable symptoms. Because of this, many people don’t know they have it and may have trouble figuring out how or when they got it. When symptoms do occur, they often appear as small blisters on or around the genitals. The blisters may look like pimples with clear fluid in them, and they may be painful or have a burning sensation. The best way to find out if you have herpes is to see a health care provider if you have pain, blisters or a sore.
Myth 2: We didn’t have sex, so there’s no way I have genital herpes.
Herpes is spread by skin-to-skin contact with someone who carries the virus. That means you can get herpes by touching, kissing and oral, vaginal or butt sex. People who carry herpes don’t always know they have the virus, and they may not have any visible sores on their skin.
That said, your risk of getting the virus is higher if you’ve had contact with a partner who does have a visible sore. Using condoms can majorly decrease the risk of spreading the virus, but doesn’t eliminate it completely. Unfortunately, no other type of birth control reduces the risk of this STI.
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