Genital herpes infection is common in the U.S. Nationwide, over 24 million men and women are infected with HSV-2, the virus that causes genital herpes, And there are 776,000 new HSV-2 infections each year. About 16% of Americans between the ages of 14 and 49, or one in 6, is infected with the virus. In addition, there is an increasing number of cases of genital herpes that are attributed to an HSV-1 infection, the usual cause of cold sores. Along with causing genital herpes, infection with HSV-2 can facilitate infection with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.
HSV-2 infection is more common in women (approximately 1 out of 5 women) than in men (almost 1 out of 9). This may be because male-to-female transmission is more efficient than female-to-male transmission. HSV-2 infection is also more common in blacks (39.2%) than in whites (12.3%). Factors that influence race differences in prevalence of infection include a higher rate of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) in African-American communities and access to quality health care.
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Since the late 1990s, the number of Americans with genital herpes infection has remained about the same. Young people between the ages of 15 and 24, however, are the most likely to get a new STD infection. Half of all the new STD infections are in this age group, though they only reflect about 25 percent of the total population.