Statistically speaking, you, dear reader, and most adults you know will probably carry some form of the herpes simplex virus (HSV) at one point in your life.
In fact, the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) considers both genital and oral herpes "common." Estimates from the Johns Hopkins Center place oral herpes rates between 50 percent to 80 percent in the U.S., while roughly 1 in 6 Americans between the ages of 14 and 49 have genital herpes. Moreover, 90 percent of individuals will be exposed to oral herpes by age 50.
These facts shouldn't make you uncomfortable—but if they do, you're not alone. Despite the ubiquity of HSV, herpes stigma remains a pervasive force in our society. Whether in the bedroom or as the butt of a joke, herpes and its symptoms are often associated with promiscuity, sexual deviancy, sex work and uncleanliness.