National Herpes Awareness Day
Written by Julia Pelly, MPH Oct 03, 2023
What is National Herpes Awareness Day?
National Herpes Awareness Day was first recognized on October 13th, 2004 by the Australian Herpes Management Forum. While much work was done to spread the word, many U.S. residents only began to learn of Herpes Awareness Day in 2020, when FemiClear created the National Today listing that got women and women’s health advocates across the country talking. Since then, October 13th has been a day used to help raise awareness about how common herpes is and to support people with herpes to truly live life to the fullest.
As we move toward the third National Herpes Awareness Day, let’s all do our part to learn more about what it means to live with herpes, debunk persistent myths and, most important, bust the stigma attached to this common condition.
Herpes is one of the oldest sexually transmitted diseases on the planet but the stigma and shame that’s often attached to it today is relatively new. In the 1980s, TIME magazine labeled herpes “the new sexual leprosy,” which kicked off the cultural notion that having herpes is something people should feel ashamed about and that this disease primarily impacts people who are promiscuous or unclean.
In reality, having herpes is common (like really common) and doesn’t indicate anything about a person's lifestyle, values, or cleanliness. It also most often doesn’t necessitate big changes in a person’s everyday life or sex life. And it certainly shouldn't impact their self-worth or feelings of joy, happiness, and connectedness with others.
Herpes Awareness Day was created to start a conversation around herpes, encourage people to get tested if they experience symptoms, and let people know about the range of options to treat their symptoms. It was also created to promote a healthy discourse around the virus’s actual impact on people’s lives. This conversation is both important and long overdue and FemiClear is here to support people living with herpes as they work to live their very best lives, every single day.
Herpes By the Numbers
While almost everyone has heard of herpes, most people really don’t have a good understanding of how prevalent it is, who is most impacted, and how many new cases there are each year. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC):
- 6 million people are currently living with herpes in the U.S.
- 572,000 people are newly diagnosed with herpes each year
- 1% of people have genital herpes
- Herpes is more common in women than in men
- New cases indicate that 15.9% of women have herpes and 8.2% of men have herpes
- More than 85% of people with herpes are unaware they have it
Why Do We Need Herpes Awareness Day?
Herpes Awareness Day is a big deal. It's the one day of the year that we can count on our whole community to get in on the conversation about herpes and we hope it helps make some big changes. We’re here to drop information, bust stigma, advocate for open conversations, and help people living with herpes to feel better every day. In 2020, the National Today Data Science Team surveyed 1,000 Americans about their education and awareness of genital herpes. Here’s what they found out:
- The Stigma is Real: There is stigma! 85% of survey respondents believe herpes has a negative stigma that makes it hard to talk about.
- Most People Don’t Have Accurate Beliefs About Herpes: Less than 1 in 3 survey respondents were able to pass the herpes-basics quiz.
- Not Everyone Chooses Disclosure: 27% of respondents with herpes don’t always tell everyone they have sex with that they have herpes.
- Lots of People Turn Away Partners Based on Bad Information: Because many people don’t understand how the spread of herpes can be prevented or have misguided ideas about what herpes is, 57% of respondents report that they would not have intimate physical contact with someone if they told them beforehand that they had herpes.
- Women are Disproportionately Impacted By Herpes:9% of women have been diagnosed with herpes while only 8.2% of men have.
- People Are on the Hunt for Natural Relief: 83% of respondents wish there were more natural products to help kick the symptoms of genital herpes.
Herpes Should Matter to All of Us
The truth is, herpes should matter to all of us whether you or a loved one are impacted, or you don’t think of anyone who is. When we have open conversations, good things happen, and we can all be happier, safer, and more comfortable.
Herpes Myth Busting
If you’ve ever sat through a high school sex-ed class focused on herpes, there’s a pretty good chance you left believing some myths that might impact what you know and how you feel about it. So, let’s get to myth busting.
- Myth: I’m the only person I know with herpes.
Truth: Lots of people you know probably have herpes, it’s a lot more common than most people realize! 1 in 5 women in the U.S have genital herpes, so if you’re out to dinner with a big group of friends, there’s a pretty good chance you’re not the only one there with herpes.
- Myth: There’s nothing you can do to prevent the spread of herpes.
Truth: There are many steps you can take to prevent the spread of herpes whether you’ve tested positive or not. The use of condoms by everyone and the use of suppressive antiviral medication by those who have herpes can decrease the risk of spreading the infection to partners.
- Myth: If you have herpes, you’ll know it.
Truth: Many people (most in fact) who have herpes don’t know it. Outbreaks can be so mild that you don’t notice or don’t worry about it. Getting tested if you experience symptoms or if you’ve been exposed to herpes can help ensure you know your status.
- Myth: Once you have herpes, there’s no way to prevent outbreaks.
Truth: While there’s no cure for herpes, there’s a lot you can do to prevent uncomfortable outbreaks. Illness, stress, and fatigue can all trigger outbreaks so doing your best to keep your immune system healthy, keep your stress levels low, and get enough rest can help.Just Diagnosed? Here’s What to do Now
If you’ve just got the news that you're one of the 18.6 million people living with herpes in the United States, you might be feeling a lot of complex feelings and wondering what you’re supposed to do next. Don’t worry, you’re not the first one to walk this path and those that came before you are ready to help you understand what to do when you’ve been diagnosed with herpes.
- First find the support you need
Getting a herpes diagnosis is often associated with feelings of shame, anger, and panic. While no one should be ashamed of their status, the stigma associated with herpes can make it difficult not to feel ashamed. Getting the support, you need can help you feel comfortable in your skin and adjust to your diagnosis. Check out some of our favorite resources for self-care and mental health after your herpes diagnosis.
- The STI Project - https://thestiproject.com
- Life with Herpes - https://www.lifewithherpes.com
- Herpes Could Never - https://herpescouldnever.com
- Learn the basics
Once you know you have herpes, you’ll want to learn the basics of how to avoid outbreaks, how to treat symptoms when they do appear and how to avoid spreading it to others.
- Share your status with partners
Sharing your status with partners might feel intimidating but it's the respectful and responsible thing to do. To prepare for sharing your status, it’s important to remember that you can’t control how other people respond to your status, but you can control how you communicate about it and how you react to their response.
- When are you contagious?
Genital herpes is most contagious when you’re having an outbreak and there are visible sores, but it can also be passed from one partner to another when there are no symptoms visible at all.
- How do you know you have herpes?
While some people become suspicious of their herpes status when they notice uncomfortable or painful sores in their genital region, not everyone (or even most people with herpes), experiences a noticeable outbreak. The best way to know if you have herpes is to get tested at your local doctor’s office or urgent care if you have symptoms or have been exposed to herpes.
- How long do outbreaks last?
A first outbreak is usually the longest, lasting between 2 and 4 weeks. Though the symptoms pass within this timeframe, recurrent outbreaks are common, especially in the first year after diagnosis. Subsequent outbreaks are generally shorter, lasting just 1 to 2 weeks, and the symptoms can be addressed with products that offer major relief in as little as 1 day.
- How can you relieve the discomfort associated with outbreaks?
There are a number of products on the market that can be used to relieve the discomfort associated with herpes outbreaks. FemiClear offers multi-symptom relief products for both men and women as well as products specifically designed to address itching and tingling and pain and burning. These products are both fast-acting and highly effective so you can keep on living your life, even when you have an outbreak.
- Why is herpes not included in an STD panel?
Herpes is not included in a routine STD panel because the most accurate test relies on culturing an active sore or ulcer. If you don’t have an active outbreak, you can request a blood test but the blood test may give either a false negative or false positive and simply isn't that reliable. If you have genital sores or suspect that you’ve recently been exposed to herpes, talk with your doctor about the testing options available to you.
- What are the most common triggers?
Recurrent outbreaks are most common in the first year after an initial outbreak. Viral or bacterial infections, stress, and menstrual periods are the most common triggers for an outbreak. Preventing bacterial infections, like bacterial vaginosis, can help prevent herpes outbreaks.
- Is herpes curable or preventable?
Herpes is not curable, but it is preventable. Condom use can protect an uninfected partner from becoming infected and antiviral drugs can help prevent an infected partner from spreading herpes to their partner. Getting tested if you have signs of an outbreak can help ensure you know your status and can take appropriate precautions.
- What complications are associated with herpes?
Having an active outbreak can increase your chances of acquiring other STDs if you’re exposed to them during this time. Very rarely, herpes can lead to more serious infections that require prompt treatment. Acquiring herpes during pregnancy can also be dangerous for an unborn baby as it makes it more likely that they will contract the virus. Having herpes before pregnancy does not lead to an increased risk of passing it to the baby unless you have an active outbreak during delivery. Generally, herpes does not lead to any major complications.
FemiClear Herpes Support Products
In honor of Herpes Awareness Day, FemiClear is teaming up with CVS.com to bring you an exclusive herpes relief kit! The Herpes Symptom Relief Kit includes three of our best-selling products in one limited edition set, so you can face outbreaks with powerful defense:
Check it out HERE!
FemiClear has several products designed to help address the symptoms of a herpes outbreak, as well as products to add to your daily routine for additional support. Read more about each of these products by clicking the link below.
- Multi-Symptom Relief for Herpes Symptoms
- H-Clear for Him for Genital Herpes Symptoms Multi-Symptom
- Ultra-Gentle Feminine Wash with Lysine & Lemon Balm | FemiClear Restoratives
- Itching & Tingling Relief for Genital Herpes Symptoms | FemiClear
- Pain & Burning Relief for Genital Herpes Symptoms | FemiClear
- Immunity & Stress Support Drink Mix with L-Lysine | FemiClear® Restoratives