What Do the Genital Herpes Statistics Mean for You?

by | Herpes Facts and Myths | 0 comments

In March of 2010 the New York Times said that 17% of all Americans between the ages of 14 and 49 have genital herpes. When it comes to statistics most people think, “Okay, but what does it mean for me?” What’s the point of knowing the statistics if you don’t know what they mean for you?

Consider what if the statistics would mean if:
• 2% had genital herpes OR
• 80% had genital herpes OR
• 97% had genital herpes OR
• 100% had genital herpes

Billy Idol was a rock star is the 80’s… and he knew the statistics. In Rolling Stone Magazine he is quoted as saying, “Let’s give it to each other and get on with it!” Herpes was the worst that could happen… so what were the chances that he could have any fun being a rock star and not get herpes? Sex… drugs… and from time-to-time, a little rock n’ roll. That’s what the herpes statistics meant to Billy Idol, “Let’s give it to each other and get on with it!”

What Does Having… or Not Having Herpes Mean for You?

Saturday Night Live had a skit where everyone had pig noses. Pamela Anderson (the Baywatch star) had been in a terrible accident and when the bandages came off it revealed that she did not have the pig nose anymore. What was supposed to happen is that since everyone else has a pig nose, she is supposed to be perceived as grotesque. However, this is not what all the men in the skit seemed to think; in fact they thought she is “HOT!”

This SNL skit was a take-off on the “Twilight Zone” episode where the beautiful “Janet Tyler” was perceived by the majority as grotesque.

Basically, it’s “beauty in the eye of the beholder” meets “majority rules.”

What are The Herpes Statistics Supposed to Mean?

It’s true that sometimes statistics are simply presented to state how things are. But with herpes, these statistics mean something and the reality is that the statistics will mean different things to all these different people.

• People who are against sex
• People who want to have a lot of sex
• People who are very old
• People who have just had sex for the first time
• People for whom sex is declining in importance
• People for whom sex is increasing in importance
• People who are single
• People who are married
• People who are selective in their sexual activities
• People who are not selective in their sexual activities

Even among people who have genital herpes there will be different sentiments among:

• People who have mild and infrequent outbreaks
• People who have severe and frequent outbreaks
• People who want to have children
• People who will not have any more children
• People who are looking for one true love
• People who are looking for many, many true loves

What Do the Herpes Statistics Mean for YOU?

Statistics Don’t Always Tell the Whole Truth

The New York Times reported the statistics objectively, but with statistics, it can be hard to determine exactly what it means for US. For example, that same article said, “-people with genital herpes are 2-3 times as likely to acquire H.I.V. as those without herpes.”

• That’s scary… however a person who buys 2-3 lottery tickets is 2-3 times more likely to win the lottery. Still, it’s pretty unlikely that they are going to win the lottery.
• Also, it makes it sound like it is the “herpes virus” that makes it more likely to get H.I.V. when I’m pretty sure that it’s the broken skin that makes the transmission of H.I.V. easier.
• Also, there is the missing fact that if you are not having sex with someone who has H.I.V., your likelihood of getting H.I.V. has not increased at all.

The list of things this particular statistic does not talk about is endless. First and foremost, a person who is engaging in lots of casual unprotected sex is more likely to get H.I.V. than a person who engages in safe sex with few people.

Point being, many people may just read the statistic and may (at least subconsciously) think “I am 2-3 times more likely to get H.I.V.” That is not the case. You are an individual and not a statistic. Your own behavior will determine your own likelihood of getting H.I.V.

Herpes Statistics on the Internet are used to Provoke, Shock… and Sell

Most herpes statistics you will find on the internet are presented in a way to draw strong emotions. (There may even be some shocking pictures to go along with the statistics.) They don’t tell you the significance of the statistics… and the pictures rarely represent reality for most. The ways these statistics are presented are designed to provoke and sell. There is a specific formula for accomplishing this. It is called problem, agitate, solve.

Problem, Agitate, Solve

Problem, Agitate, Solve is an Old Three-step Marketing Maxim:
1. Describe a problem.
2. Agitate the person who has the problem.
3. Then present your solution as the only viable solution.

One of the goals of HERPES NEWS is to help provide clarity and sanity to having herpes. A lot of what I see on the internet in regards to herpes is “problem, agitate, solve” or “just plain ignorance.”

It’s important for everyone to be educated about herpes (as well as a variety of other sexually transmitted diseases.) Thinking about what the statistics mean is one step in the right direction.

Comparing Apples-to-Apples

One reason getting a grip on herpes statistics can be difficult is because statistics are presented in many different formats and with many different purposes. Statistics often take information and look at it from a specific point of view.

“There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.”
Mark Twin – frequently attributed to Benjamin Disraeli as well, as others.

Point being, lots of smart people are skeptical of statistics. Smart people are often skeptical of statistics because they know that statistics are often calculated “starting with the end in mind.” “Let’s see… how can I make the numbers be true, yet come out proving what I wish to prove?”

Let’s be honest, as a person with herpes, don’t you try to skew the numbers in a favorable light? “Let’s see… if 80-90% have either HSV-1 or HSV-2… and HSV-1 can be transmitted to the genital area… that means that… hmm… what does this mean?”

When You Evaluate Herpes Statistics Consider what is Being Manipulated

• U.S. vs. world statistics
• Age groups
• Sexual orientation
• HSV-1 vs. HSV-2
• Sex (male or female)
• Race
• Estimated – Certain statistics are not statistically significant… so they are just giving an estimate. Since it’s just an estimate… they are free to be right or wrong.
• Extrapolated – They use one set of statistics and applying them to a different situation.

Watch Out for Meaningless Statistics

Studies show that 99% of one-armed males ages 19 living in the southern states who are in college and who are strait and have experimented with marijuana all have herpes. Shockingly, studies also show that 0% of 20 year olds in this same situation have herpes. Wow! What a difference a year makes!

Some More Statistics from the New York Times and CDC

The New York Times article also referred to genital herpes as, “one of the most common sexually transmitted diseases in the United States.”

It’s not “the most common?” What is? It seems Chlamydia is the most common sexually transmitted disease, with gonorrhea second, and syphilis third.

(The way the statistics get presented gets pretty complicated, so I will leave it at that.)

Here are a few more recent statistics from the New York Times and the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention:

• Women are infected at twice the rate as men.
• Blacks are 3 times more likely than whites to have genital herpes.
• About 48% of black women have herpes.

Statistics can be upsetting but when you examine exactly what they mean for you… they may be less upsetting. They sure were for Billy Idol!

Knowing the statistics, knowing what they mean for you, (and knowing how they are being used against you) will likely make you feel more in control of your life.