Booster Shots

Oddities, musings and news from the health world

« Previous Post | Booster Shots Home | Next Post »

Genital herpes is widespread, CDC says

March 9, 2010 |  4:32 pm

Nearly one in every two African American women ages 14 to 49 has genital herpes, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Tuesday. Overall, two out of every five blacks in that age group carry the virus, and one out of every six Americans, the agency announced at an STD Prevention Conference in Atlanta.  The proportions have not changed since the agency's last estimate for the period 1999 to 2004. About 80% of those who carry the virus do not know they are infected. Women appear to be particularly susceptible to infection, with 21% of women infected, compared with 11.5% of men.

"The message is herpes is quite common," Dr. John M. Douglas Jr. of the CDC's division of STD prevention said in a telephone news conference. "The symptoms can often be very innocuous," which explains why so many are unaware of their condition.

Genital herpes, known more precisely as herpes simplex virus type 2 or HSV-2, is the most common sexually transmitted disease in the country. It can cause recurrent and painful genital sores. The infections cannot be cured, but lesions can be controlled with antiviral drugs such as Zovirax, Zirgan and Valtrex, which halve the likelihood of transmission to a sexual partner. The virus is most commonly transmitted when sores are present in the genital area but can be transmitted even when they are not. "Many individuals are transmitting herpes to others without even knowing it," Douglas said. The agency does not recommend widespread screening for infections but does suggest that people with symptoms that might be caused by the virus be tested by their physicians. Surveys reported at the conference suggest that many people, especially women, are anxious or uncomfortable about seeking STD testing and are unwilling to have a positive result appear in their medical records.

Research has shown that people who are infected with HSV-2 are two to three times more likely than others to contract HIV. The virus can also render HIV-positive people more likely to transmit the virus to others. Dr. Kevin Fenton, director of the CDC's National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD and TM Prevention, noted in the conference that the wide dissemination of HSV-2 in the black community may be partialy responsible for the high incidence of HIV infections there. Although African Americans make up only 12% of the U.S. population, they account for 50% of all HIV infections.

The new data come from the CDC's National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey and cover the years 2005 to 2008. The prevalence is down slightly from the previous survey, but the difference is not statistically significant.

A different herpes virus, herpes simplex virus type 1, causes oral sores and is not considered to be as serious.

The CDC estimates that about 19 million new STD infections occur every year in the United States and that the infections cost the healthcare system $16 billion annually.

-- Thomas H. Maugh II

Post a comment
If you are under 13 years of age you may read this message board, but you may not participate.
Here are the full legal terms you agree to by using this comment form.

Comments are moderated, and will not appear until they've been approved.

If you have a TypeKey or TypePad account, please Sign In

Comments (17)

that's what people get for being promiscuous. doesn't anyone use condoms anymore?

I do not see the benefit in stating the prevalence of this illness in African American women while not mentioning that in women of other 'races', if not an attempt to use science to try to portray a negative image of African Americans. The writer of this article if not deliberately racist ,is grossly irresponsible and perhaps should leave scientific journalism to more intelligent and subtle minds.

Please take the time to go to the CDC website and read the research on African American females and AIDS. Take the time to research the medical, nursing and educational journals. We must educate ourselves and our children regarding the risks associated with sexually transmitted diseases. I am currently doing research in this area and this information is fact not fiction. Even the President recognizes that this is a CRISIS and he is currently given money to the CDC to conduct research so that we can educate ourselves and our children.

Um, what about the rates for other women? Basically, you're saying blacks (women) need to be more careful, what about other women? Even though black women make up a lot of those with STD infections, there are still more white women with STD.

You didn't mention that white women in prison are more likely to get HIV/AID than Hispanic and black women.

This is just one of those articles to portray blacks in a bad light. How about an article that shows how well black women have come since Jim Crow laws?

This so disheartening to see how this ill educated journalist portrays African-American women. What he fails to tell you is to look at the testing rates for HIV/AIDS. Many other cultures are simply not being tested is the bottom line because they think they are safe and that African-Americans are the only ones who get this disease. Next, in terms of Herpes this data does not see plausible. What was the number of the sampling is the question you need to ask when you hear/see these articles published. You want us to believe that we are just sick, daft, deaf and stupid (African-Americans). It appears there is a FEAR FACTOR of this one race.

Until journalists stand up and do what's right many of them are going to lose their privileges to write. You are officially on notice....Stop trying to tear down a race of people who built this country so you could write. There is a thing called cursing yourself. Stop cursing this culture or nothing good will come to you.

What bothers me is that is America will still segregate races in other countries like France whether you black, white, green you are just French man or woman.

The writer fails to profile all the powerful African-American women who are making strides such as Deborah Lee, Angela Burt-Murray, Susan Taylor, Marian Wright Edelman and just those who are not infected with any diseases. We are mothers, daughters, educators, entrepreneurs, etc.

Did you know there are researchers out there who have the technology for a potential Herpes cure?

Please check out the Herpes Cure Coalition (HCC) website. Our mission is to aid researchers with funding and support who are the closest to a Herpes Cure. We achieve this mission by forming a Coalition of individuals and websites across the globe.

Please see our page and find out about current work to cure herpes.
Forward Message

To whoever who emailed me, I never said the messenger was racist, but this has to possibly the worst week for black news:

Half of all black women have STDS, black people more likely to suffer from Alzheimer, black people sleep less hours compared to whites and Asians, black women's median wealth is $5 versus white women's $42,000, black role models like Michelle Obama being called a chimp...

Okay, when will it all end...oh wait, NEVER. I think the media purposely posts these kinds of studies to make blacks inferior.

I don't believe half of all black women have STDs, and anyone else who does is foolish. Where was I when they were casted black women for this study? None of my black friends got the memo.

80% of black high school girls have a sexually transmitted disease. Genital herpes is just one disease on the list. The degenerate black culture is to blame. The cure is to stigmatize black cultural behaviors and segregate the offenders from normal people. By no means should degenerate behavior be rewarded with jobs, welfare, food stamps, nor aid for dependent children.

It appears that many of you took the story personally, but completely failed to grasp the main message being conveyed.

The message is NOT that black people are dirty. The message is that the impact of HSV-2 is hitting disporportionately harder on the black community, and that the whole community (black, white, brown, yellow, red, green-with-purple-spots) needs to focus prevention efforts. There is something going on that is accounting for this difference in prevalence. Research and community advocacy can help get to the bottom of the problem and help lessen the spread of the virus.

btw, Ricky Jackson, HSV-2 is spread by direct skin contact. Condoms offer limited (though some is better than none!) protection against HSV-2.

And Prudence, please take your racism back underneath the rock from whence you crawled.

Thanks a lot, L.A. Times! It's not enough that black women are negatively stereotyped in the media, NOW you gotta make it out like we're all "dirty" or something by putting that specific statistic right at the top? It's hard enough for us to find husbands without the media making things WORSE by finding negative and probably false news. What about all the trampy white women, trampy hispanic women, trampy asian women, where's the statistics for THEM? Quit picking on us black women like this :(

It is misleading to state that, "A different herpes virus, herpes simplex virus type 1, causes oral sores and is not considered to be as serious." Due to the prevalence of oral sex, Type 1 can cause infections orally or genitally. Same goes for Type 2, though that's more rare. I read last year that almost half of Americans -- all "races" and ethnic groups combined -- have some form of herpes...just because it's Type 1 doesn't mean it's not an STD! Herpes is huge in our society, period. This article made it sound like far fewer non-blacks carry herpes but that's not true. Also, Type 1 herpes can extremely dangerous. Can lead to encephelitis.

There seems to be a disconnect between the CDC's recommendations and the medical industry's actions. Why aren't more people being tested for genital herpes? Despite the social stigma and its role in HIV transmission, it isn't part of the standard panel of STD tests, which include HPV, chlamydia, and gonorrhea. Every time I have been tested for herpes, I've always had to make a special request -- no doctor has ever brought it up independently.

Not only are doctors seemingly unaware of the importance of herpes testing, but some don't even know that an accurate blood test exists. It has been two years since I was diagnosed with herpes. About ten months before that happened, I tried to go to a nurse for a herpes blood test and she refused to give it to me, saying that you could only be diagnosed if you had a sore that could be cultured. As a result, I likely exposed several people to herpes before finally being diagnosed.

More doctors need to be educated about the availability of herpes blood tests, and herpes should be included as part of the standard STD panel. Once people are aware they have the condition, they can take steps to avoid transmitting it to others. I also believe that it will increase social awareness of herpes, which is key to finding a cure and to lessening the stigma faced by herpes sufferers.

Funding for herpes research is not a top priority. Herpes research is not as important as HIV research or saving lives in the developing world, but it is grossly undervalued. The virus's role in increasing HIV risk, not to mention the blindness it sometimes causes in infants, should be enough to warrant a greater commitment.

Okay, I did some digging and this is what I think happened: in 2005-06 they examined about 2600 African Americans, and in 2007-08 they examined about 2100 African Americans total. Each person in the study/survey represented approximately 50,000 people in the U.S. There were other ethnic groups surveyed of course, but my confusion was about the high numbers of herpes for African American women. I'm assuming it was a completely random survey but haven't found that info yet. My problem with the data is that I don't think the sample size is adequate to then generalize across the entire population of the US. I would like to know more about how they picked who they picked for the study. Something doesn't seem right about the percentages they came up with based on the data they had posted. See for yourself what I'm talking about:

Also, if I may add, when you look at their sample size, the total number of people sampled for both years was only 10,000. I don't know; it would seem to me that if you were going to make such a bold statement about half of ALL African American women between age 14-49 having herpes, you would wait and do a larger survey focusing on that particular subgroup, with the sample populations coming from all 50 states, all educational backgrounds, and all income brackets. Maybe have a sample size of 50,000 or 100,000 people. Then do one where the sample is only African American women and have the sample size at least half of the gen. pop. size. That would make the conclusions drawn more valid and more reliable.

I have been reading the research on HIV and other STDs among African American from Kaiser and the CDC. I think the researchers are just given us information on our race so we can be aware of our health as a community. Sure, other races are battling the same type of diseases; however, researchers tend to report on African Americans.
I work with teens and I know they are more sexual active then ever. Receiving this type of information helps me guide our discussions and keep me focus on the topics I need to discuss during our discussion periods. It would be great to have data from other races so we can compare. Hopefully, that will be coming soon. In the meantime, as a whole, as a people we need to educate our communities on how these diseases are robbing our communities. I have pledge to do my part. You may checkout . Please use the e-mail on this webpage to contact me.

YIKES! be careful where you put it.

I understand how hurtful the facts of this article are to African American women. I am an African American male. Still, I think we need to get over the indignation about the content of this story, and start getting indignant about the behavior behind the numbers. The ignorant racisim exhibited by Prudence, while indefensible, is no reason for us to assume that the study itself is biased. We need to make a committment to educating our youth and taking the steps necessary to ensure our survival through behavior modification. Stop blaming all our woes on racism and start taking responsibility for our health and future.


The Latest | news as it happens

Recent Posts
test |  March 15, 2011, 4:00 pm »
Booster Shots has moved |  July 12, 2010, 6:02 pm »