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 doctor what you can do to reduce your risk.

The virus can spread from direct person-to-person contact. Any sexual or non-sexual contact involving the mouth, genitals, or anus can increase the risk of the virus being transmitted.

  • Having a partner who is infected with genital herpes.
  • Having unprotected vaginal, anal, or oral sex.
  • Having multiple sexual partners.
  • Becoming sexually active at a young age.
  • If your partner has a cold sore and performs oral sex, you can get genital herpes.

Women are more easily infected with genital herpes than men.

Many new infections occur in adolescents and young adults. Herpes simplex type 1 virus, which causes cold sores, is becoming a more common cause of genital herpes in young adults.

  • Having HIV and other conditions that affect the immune system
  • Having a history of other sexually transmitted disease
  • Having a mother with genital herpes increases a newborn's risk of getting the virus