Love Island and herpes

“Don’t ask stupid questions…”

Most people don’t know that they have genital herpes. [1]

So, asking Love Island contestants about their herpes status is pointless.

Herpes is common – for most it is a minor, undiagnosed skin condition

There are two types of herpes simplex (HSV), and either can cause genital sores. Two thirds of the world’s population carry type 1, mainly on the face (cold sores).[2] So, through oral sex, type 1 is also a major cause genital herpes.

HSV type 2 is responsible for around half of genital herpes cases and some facial infection. [3] Two thirds of genital herpes infections go undiagnosed, and this is not considered a cause for concern.[1] Herpes simplex does not have any health implication, unless it is caught for the first time in late pregnancy.[4]

Herpes is mostly undiagnosed

Only one in three who has the virus knows that they have it. Most of the others will get occasional symptoms: a spot, a sore patch, an itchy patch, a little cut. These symptoms are too mild to be diagnosed. But they can infect partners by direct skin contact with the affected area, with friction, when virus is present.

Testing does not help

There is no test for genital herpes that Love Islanders could be asked to take to find out if they have undiagnosed genital herpes. Blood tests (antibody tests) advertised for detection of herpes simplex are not reliable. Three out of ten people who have herpes will be given a false negative result.[5]

Herpes is stigmatised so makes for good headlines

Comedians use herpes to get cheap laughs, unaware that most of their audience are infected and don’t know it – and about one in five of all adults do know they herpes, facial or genital.

The doctors advising Love Island must be aware this this infection is common and cannot be tested for – but ‘herpes’ makes headlines.

– ENDS –


The Herpes Viruses Association promotes better understanding of the mental and physical burden associated with herpes simplex virus infection.  Its aims are:

  1. To provide information to the public, to medical professionals and to the media.
  2. To support efforts in the development of new treatments for herpes simplex.
  3. To tackle stigma and the unnecessary trauma associated with the infection.


1. BASHH guideline

2. WHO report on herpes simplex type 1:

3.  WHO report on herpes simplex type 2:  

4.  BASHH and RCOG: Management of Genital Herpes in Pregnancy.  17/10/2014

5. W Roest, M van Rooijen, D Kwa, G Jansen, H de Vries. GGD Amsterdam, Amsterdam, The Netherlands. False Negative HSV IgG1 and IgG2 Antibody Responses in Individuals with a Recurrent Genital Herpes Infection

For further information, please contact: 
Marian Nicholson 
Herpes Viruses Association 41, North Road, London N7 9DP Tel: +44 (0) 20 7607 9661 
E-mail  [email protected]Ref: HVA/ Love Island campaign 2021