According to a study conducted at the University of Washington, 17% of all Americans aged 14 to 49 have the herpes simplex virus 2 (genital herpes)... and of them, 85% are not aware of it. Yikes!
If this sounds too bizarre to be true, let me add that, according to the same study, that 85% are unaware they're infected because they don't experience the symptoms most of us expect from herpes — giant painful sores on the genital area. Most of the time, that's not how herpes simples virus 2 presents itself. Often, the symptoms are slight burning or pain for a week or so, then... nothing for a few months... then slight burning or pain for a week or so... you get the idea. Since the symptoms are so vague, and could so easily be diagnosed (or self-diagnosed) as something else, that shocking 85% (of the 17% of the general adult population) don't know they're infected. This is horrible for three main reasons. First, if you don't know you're infected, you're likely spreading the virus to your partner(s). Even if you correctly use a condom every time you have sex, it only decreases the spread of the disease by 25-50%. It's also terrible not to know of an infection because being infected with herpes simplex virus 2 increases your chances of contracting the HIV/AIDS virus two or three times over. Last, if you're pregnant, and don't know you're infected, you could pass the virus on to your baby.
According to public health officials, if you're sexually active, you should request a herpes simples virus 2 blood test as a part of your annual exam. Yes, there is a social stigma associated with the virus, but that pales in comparison to the embarrassment, pain, and potentially deadly consequences of NOT knowing you're infected.