In an article by the World Health Organization, it was revealed that billions of people around the globe are living with herpes – half a billion with genital herpes and several billion with oral herpes, highlighting the need to improve awareness of the disease among the masses.
“About 13% of the world’s population aged 15 to 49 years were living with herpes simplex virus type 2 (HSV-2) infection in 2016, the latest year for which data is available. HSV-2 is almost exclusively sexually transmitted, causing genital herpes. Infection can lead to recurring, often painful, genital sores in up to a third of people infected,” excerpts from an article by the World Health Organization.
Herpes Simplex Virus Type 1 (HSV-1) is transmitted via oral to oral contact and can cause oral herpes infection and may even lead to painful sores in the oral area called ‘cold sores’. Moreover, it can also be transmitted to the genital area via oral sex, leading to genital herpes.
“Around 67% of the world’s population aged 0 to 49 had HSV-1 infection in 2016 – an estimated 3.7 billion people. Most of these infections were oral; however, between 122 million to 192 million people were estimated to have genital HSV-1 infection,” the article adds.
WHO also mentioned that people with HSV-2 are three times more likely to be infected with Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV). Moreover, women in Africa have the highest HSV-2 prevalence and exposure to HIV.
To date, there is no cure for herpes. Medications like antivirals (acyclovir, famciclovir, and valacyclovir) have been used to alleviate the severity and frequency of symptoms.
“A vaccine against HSV infection would not only help to promote and protect the health and well-being of millions of people, particularly women, worldwide – it could also potentially have an impact on slowing the spread of HIV, if developed and provided alongside other HIV prevention strategies” states Dr. Meg Doherty, Director of the WHO Department of Global HIV, Hepatitis, and STI Programmes.