Health Library

Risk Factors for Genital Herpes

A risk factor is something that increases your chances of getting a disease or condition.

Genital herpes is more common in women than in men, and the infection is more easily transmitted from men to women. The risk is highest among adolescents and young adults who are more likely to take risks with their sexual behavior.

The most important risk factor for genital herpes infection is the number of sexual partners in a person’s lifetime. Other factors that may increase your chance of genital herpes include:

  • Sexual contact with a person who is infected with genital herpes
  • Multiple or frequent changes in sex partners
  • Inconsistent or incorrect condom use—latex condom use helps prevent the spread of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs)
  • History of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs)
  • HIV infection or other conditions that weaken the immune system
  • Sexual activity at an early age

For people with no or mild symptoms, genital herpes can't be seen, so you can't tell if someone has it. Since most people are unaware they are infected, genital herpes can get transmitted from person to person without their knowledge.


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