Most Common STD: About 16% of Americans Age 14 to 49 Infected with Genital Herpes

About 21 percent of women were infected with genital herpes, compared to only 11.5 percent of men. Also, about 39 percent of blacks were infected with genital herpes compared to about 12 percent for whites, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

About 48 percent of black women are infected with genital herpes. The increased rate of infection in blacks is not due to increased risky behavior but likely due to biological factors that make women more susceptible. There is a higher rate of infection within black communities. The CDC estimates that more than 80 percent of people with genital herpes do not know they are infected.

The statistics make genital herpes the most common sexually transmitted disease (STD)There is no cure for genital herpes, or herpes simplex virus type 2 (HSV-2), which can cause recurrent and painful genital sores and also increases the likelihood of acquiring and transmitting the AIDS virus. It is related to herpes simplex virus 1, or oral herpes, which causes cold sores.

Several drugs are available to treat herpes symptoms and outbreaks. Acyclovir, which is available generically or under the Zovirax brand name, and valacyclovir, known generically as Valtrex, are both made by GlaxoSmithKline PLC. Ganciclovir, sold as Zirgan, is made by privately-held Sirion Therapeutics, Inc.