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

It is possible to develop genital herpes with or without the risk factors listed below. However, the more risk factors you have, the greater your likelihood of becoming infected with genital herpes. If you have a number of risk factors, ask your healthcare provider what you can do to reduce your risk.

Studies have found that cases of genital herpes have continued to increase. From the 1970s to the 1990s, HSV-2, the virus that causes genital herpes, has increased by 30%.

Anyone who is sexually active (anyone who has any vaginal, oral, or anal contact with others) can get it. If a person has oral herpes and performs oral sex, it is possible to develop genital herpes from that contact.

The following factors can increase your risk of becoming infected with genital herpes:


  • Having unprotected sex
  • Becoming sexually active at a young age
  • Having been sexually active for many years
  • Having had several sexual partners
  • Having a partner who is infected with genital herpes
  • Engaging in male homosexual activity


Women are more likely to be infected with genital herpes.

Socioeconomic Factors

  • Young adults
    • The majority of new infections occur in adolescents and young adults.
    • In young adults, herpes simplex virus 1 (HSV-1) infection is becoming a more common cause of genital herpes.
  • Age: 20-40

Health Factors

  • HIV infection and other conditions that affect the immune system
  • History of other sexually transmitted infections