This is what other sites don’t tell you:

This site is about helping you with herpes on the genitals or on the face called “cold sores“. (For the related condition shingles, herpes zoster, please go to the Shingles Support Society page.) Find answers to all your herpes questions. Here are a few points to start you off:

  1. Genital herpes is caused by a herpes simplex virus (type 1 or type 2) – nearly everyone will catch at least one type, sooner or later. This means 7 out of 10 by age 25.
  2. Most don’t know they have it. Only 1 in 3 will have symptoms and get diagnosed. Two out of three have such mild symptoms, they don’t get diagnosed – or they have no symptoms at all.
  3. The word ‘incurable’ is used to make it seem important when it isn’t.
  4. Some people get recurrences and we can advise on how these can be reduced and stopped.
  5. Many other infections stay with us – chickenpox, glandular fever are two. Other infections also hide in the body. Nobody makes a fuss about them.

You can get a 2-page summary: “All you need to know about herpes” – as a printable PDF. For answers to all your questions about herpes, see the herpes FAQs page.  You can call our ‘herpes helpline‘ which is answered by trained volunteers. And read our comments on current news stories.

Be sure to check the news page for updates.

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Herpes videos

You can listen to our director, Marian Nicholson, with a sexual health doctor in September 2021 on Woman’s hour .

Woman's Hour logo
BBC 4 Woman’s Hour talks about herpes

Earlier, before COVID,  two members and Marian were chatting about getting rid of the stigma on Woman’s Hour – we start talking 6 minutes into this programme.

In 2022, we created a 6-minute video explaining herpes to help dermatologists to counsel people with genital herpes. Enjoy!

More video links at the bottom of this page and also on other pages.

There’s a video on our Useful Links page that you will like too.

Why we don’t show herpes photos

Other websites exaggerate the worst cases and tell you genital herpes is serious. Don’t be fooled. You don’t have to worry about it. Serious complications of herpes are incredibly rare. As we state above, most of us have at least one type of herpes simplex and don’t even know.

Other websites may show herpes photos: these are usually chosen for their ‘drama’! Yours are unlikely to look like that. A photo of an average case, bad enough to get diagnosed, would be a single sore. (But we do know that a few people will get really bad outbreaks with lots of sores. Your reaction to the virus is to do with your genes.)

For answers to most of your questions see “Frequently Asked Questions about herpes” For information about shingles and post herpetic neuralgia (PHN) go to

Our director gives her personal account:

Click on the video – right – “Will this affect my life? Marian answers”

More personal stories in our magazine (this is an old one from 2017, but it gives you an idea of what sort of thing it is) and, of course, on our private Facebook page (members only)

Click to get lots of information

For example, 4-page instructions for ‘Talking to a new partner’ and 2 pages on ‘How to protect my partner (transmission)’, and lots more… We can help you get it in proportion: see subscription details. See a current magazine’s contents.

As well, we have leaflets in French (brochure en français sur l’herpès ), in Spanish (folleto en español sobre el herpes), in Italian (un opuscolo in italiano sull’herpes ), in Brazilain Portuguese (um folheto em brasileiro o portugues sobre herpes), in Polish (ulotka w języku polskim o opryszczce), in Romanian (un pliant în română despre herpes) and in Russian (listovka na russkom yazyke o gerpese).

Professor George Kinghorn, an emeritus professor of sexual health, says:

“… to be infected with a herpes simplex virus is a state of normality. We tend to make this into a big deal instead of saying that to be infected with herpes virus is something that happens to all adults, some with symptoms and some of us without.”

Read more

More about us

Find out more about us, the Herpes Viruses Association, and what how we can keep you informed about herpes.

Important: If you have not been diagnosed, do not jump to conclusions! People ask “How do I know I have herpes?”

Find out if you have genital herpes: go to a Sexual Health (Genitourinary Medicine) Clinic. You will find one in most towns and cities – or search databases here or here. We cannot diagnose what might be affecting you by email or on the telephone helpline. You are just guessing until you have had a swab taken at a sexual health clinic (or sometimes, by a GP).

 The more you know, the less you worry!

Health care information on herpes you can trust. The Information Standard. Certified Member.

The information pages on this website were written under the Information Standard rules.
Issued on 22/12/2017.  This page was updated on 28-3-2024.
Full references for the statements made can be sent on request. Send us an email at:  [email protected].