Still, herpes has a social stigma attached to it that for many sufferers is worse than the actual infection.
According to a 2006 online poll conducted by pharmaceutical company Novartis, the stigma surrounding herpes is second only to HIV.
The infection may cause painful sores, a slight fever, swollen lymph nodes and body aches, but in many cases, people don’t experience any symptoms.
Mc Kay said the percentage of the population with herpes is “huge,” but most people don’t know they carry the virus.
While having many sexual partners does carry increased risks of acquiring any STI, herpes can spread between partners in long-term relationships just as easily, he said.
Have any two letters ever before had the power to strike such terror into the hearts of singletons everywhere?
Hey, it’s a cruel world out there and anyone bandying about phrases about how it’s ‘empowering being single’ or ‘it’ll clear up in three to five days’ whilst looking vaguely pitying, might as well be mentally confining you to a life of sexlessness - or so it can feel.
“Many of the people who may be making jokes about herpes may in fact have it themselves and they are unaware of it,” said Mc Kay.
For these letters convey stand for two of greatest plagues on sexiness: Valentine’s Day and venereal disease.
But with the number of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) rising in the UK each year, it’s not only those who wear a lot of zebra print and have a working knowledge of the Wetherspoons’ toilet cubicles that are affected, as urban myths would have you believe.
A brief glance at the statistics will paint a very different picture: almost 500,000 new cases of STIs were diagnosed in 2012 in the UK; more than 90,000 were living with HIV and one in two people under 25 tested positive for Chlamydia.
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The blisters break, leaving tender ulcers (sores) that may take two to four weeks to heal the first time they occur.