Vanity Fair profiles The eXile: "Gutsy...visceral...serious journalism...abusive, defamatory...poignant...paranoid...and right!"
MSNBC: Mark Ames and Yasha Levine
Broke the Koch Brothers' Takeover of America
eXile Classic / April 20, 2007

And there is no cure. Those late night TV commercials advertising herpes medications promise relief and that’s all you get. The best you can do is cut down your outbreaks to a few times a year, and that’s if you’re on the daily meds. Other than total isolation from humanity, there’s nothing you can do to protect yourself. On top of being present in all the major bodily fluids, herpes is extremely contagious in skin-to-skin contact. That means that not even abstinence-bent Evangelical teenagers are safe from it. Clothes-off dry humping is enough to do the trick.

CDC says that herpes is one the most transmitted STD out there. They even call it an epidemic. At least 20% of all American adults are infected with the genital strain and anywhere from 50 to 80% have the oral variant. But these stats go back to 1997. More recent studies have shown that the rate of infection is increasing. The culprit? Oral sex. Scared shitless by the overblown threat of AIDS, kids are screwing less and sucking more. And that’s good for herpes because the mouth and genital areas — the two most dirty places where mucous tissue connect with regular skin — are always dotted with micro tears and extremely susceptible to herpes penetration. But you don’t hear about this low-level herpes epidemic on the news. Who knows, maybe they’re embarrassed to talk about painful genital lesions on TV. Or maybe the media doesn’t want to admit that the AIDS scare they’ve been pushing has boosted another viral epidemic that’s almost impossible to contain.

The good news is that, for most people, herpes sores are pretty mild. They’re so mild, in fact, that only 10% of infected people know they actually have herpes The bad news is that they inevitably get worse with age as a person’s immune system begins to crash. Old people have been known to break out in seeping, bleeding sores all over their bodies. The old don’t heal well and the sores turn into permanent lesions that get infected. The newest antiviral meds help some, but the condition quickly spirals out of control. And the pain gets bad, so bad even morphine isn’t much help. My friend’s grandfather threw himself out a hospital window because he couldn’t take it anymore. His entire head turned into one huge open herpes sore. And he was infected with the milder HSV 1 herpes form. In old age, HSV 2 is much worse.

But cheer up, if you got herpes, chances are you’re pretty healthy and won’t be old anytime soon. Most people with decent immune systems might not experience an outbreak for years, and when they do, it’ll be so mild that they’ll mistake it for a pimple. But again, even if the direct symptoms aren’t so bad, herpes’ evil appeal is in the details. For a seemingly harmless skin condition, herpes has some gnarly and bone-chilling complications. The thing to remember is that herpes attacks your nerve cells. And your nerves control everything, including your eyes.

Herpes of the eye — yeah, it’s possible — is called ocular herpes. You get the same deal as you do with genital/oral herpes, except that the optical nerve becomes infected and the herpes sores pop up on your eyelids, cornea and retina. Imagine that. It’s easy to get it in your eye. Kiss a girl with a herpes sore inside in her mouth, wipe her spit from your lip and then rub your eye. A girl I used to know peripherally in Berkeley got into porn when she graduated and somehow got herpes in her eye. Now she’s slowly going blind. About 50,000 Americans join her every year.

Herpes encephalitis. That’s another herpes condition that doesn’t get much airtime. Most of the time, during an outbreak, herpes-infected facial nerves send their viral particles forward along the nerve cell and pop up around the oral cavity. But sometimes, for no apparent reason, the viral army gets its orders confused. Instead of traveling towards the surface, it travels deeper into your head and gives you a massive herpes sore on your brain. If you have oral herpes, this can happen to you at any time. There’s no warning. Brain matter is tightly packed, so even the most minute swelling can destroy huge swaths of brain tissue. There are about 2,000 cases of diagnosed herpes encephalitis in America. Less than 30% survive. Those that do end up retards for life.

And that’s the thing; in recent studies herpes is thought to be a serious player in nervous system disorders. The links are only starting to emerge, but the most troubling is the connection between herpes and Alzheimer’s, the feared mystery disease that slowly kills off brain cells and gradually develops from general senility to total brain death. (People in advanced stages of Alzheimer’s that have been left alone have been documented forgetting to eat and slowly dying of starvation.)

Yeah, herpes has a hand in this. There is evidence that suggests herpes viruses hijack a cellular transport molecule called APP (it’s basically a cellular truck used by neurons to move large molecules around) and use it to speed up their own movement. Over time, these APP molecules, which herpes viral particles dump after using, aggregate into sharp, spiky masses that grow and puncture the nerve cells around them. Now it seems that they are the throw-away remnants of fuel that herpes extracts from our cells. It reminds me of the way we humans treat the earth.

This article was published in issue #261 of The eXile, April 2007.

Read more: , , , Yasha Levine, eXile Classic

Got something to say to us? Then send us a letter.

Want us to stick around? Donate to The eXiled.

Twitter twerps can follow us at


Add your own

  • 1. Cal  |  May 7th, 2009 at 12:29 pm

    Not just herpes. My friend just died of cancer after a two year horrific battle, marked by chemotherapy that melted his 6’3″ 240 lb frame down to 130 lb. He had oral cancer that was linked to HPV – that’s right, he died from eating pussy. Which pussy, who knows ? Probably a teen slut he slurped back in the 1980’s while he was a musician. There is a rapid increase in oral cancers in men linked to HPV. See, your grandfathers were right, you shouldn’t eat that shit….

  • 2. geo8rge  |  May 7th, 2009 at 9:00 pm

    herpes seroprevalence by country.

  • 3. Dan  |  December 2nd, 2009 at 5:52 am

    People pretend like herpes, hsv is TOTALLY normal to have. I feel like the world refuses to see connections between herpes, hsv and other illnesses because even our DOCTORS have cold IS a pandemic, epidemic. But whats worse is the severly uneducated of the world and even the educated continue to spread it out of irresponsibility and the fact that they are all infected. People die of herpes related illnesses just like the comment above..but i guess not enough people have died yet for anyone to take it seriously. I dumped my boyfriend because he refused to get tested for herpes, hsv. and i was quite sure he had it. I was called paranoid and over dramatic for caring about my own health. WHATS wrong with these people??

  • 4. Scared Sexless  |  November 21st, 2010 at 10:06 am

    Note cold sores are visible on or around the lips. Don’t mistake them for canker sores inside the mouth. Canker sores are not cold sores and are not caused by the herpes virus. I’ve had canker sores off and on in my life since a teen (dental work mostly caused them).

    However gum disease is a suspected cause of Alzheimer’s disease. Cold sores are a major factor in Alzheimer’s disease.

    I had risky oral sex about two and a half years ago but was lucky enough to not get any cold sore – yet. I got a sinus infection and a secondary infection after that oral sex and also was prescribed Valtrex…just in case. If I recall correctly, I had a blood test for herpes and it came out negative. I also try to keep my teeth and gums in good health. I know better these days. I’d rather be celibate than to risk my life and be old prematurely just for an hour’s worth of fun. Life is short. At least I’m in my early 50s and if I do have the dormant herpes and it breaks out, at least I probably will die of something else in my early 80s before I get the terrible lesions described in the article.

    If the article above is correct that 50% to 80% of young people have oral herpes, it’s a good idea to not do oral at all, but use a condom during normal sex.

    I’m not religious at all. And in my experience, I met ministers who were fraudsters. Just because you claim to be pious (like the Tartuffe!) does not mean you are. I trust atheist nerds far more than extrovert social butterflies.

  • 5. DrunktankDan  |  June 1st, 2011 at 12:02 am

    this article made my dick shrink by at least an inch or two

  • 6. ALLIE  |  July 4th, 2012 at 9:15 am

    You’re trying to instill fear in people. Either you’re the rare percentage that doesn’t have hsv or you’re completely unaware you have it. Either way, ocular herpes, and herpes encephalitis are less prevalent and your outbreaks decrease with time not increase. You build up antibodies over the years that keep the virus at bay. I agree it’s not the best thing in the world, but there are far much worst things in the world. I caught it genitally from oral sex with my fiancé while he had no sore present. I was aware of the risks. I’ve only ever had one out break. I do worry about ocular herpes but even if you do get that it’s a small percentage that have vision loss because of it. There’s a tone of treatment and cure research with some treatment and preventative vaccines and gels on the horizon. Get your facts straight. Or keep your insane anxieties to yourself, go live in a bubble. Hell if I was gonna let a harmless virus stop me from living my life, and enjoying my Time with the love of my life.

  • 7. Stack  |  November 8th, 2012 at 6:52 am

    U had a boyfriend and dumped him bc he refused to test
    unless you were “never” intimate of any kind and no protection You have it hun
    if you’ve ever had chickenpoxs the virus is in your body
    an array of young kids become ill by chickenpox
    you don’t have to have sex per say and can still contract that virus i kno got tests and it showed. .04 the med assistant had the nerves to say “its nothing you have nothing to worry about ”
    oh yea¿

  • 8. rog  |  January 23rd, 2013 at 12:40 am

    Why why is this not taken much more seriously by authorities than it is? Is there a deliberate cover up?

Leave a Comment

(Open to all. Comments can and will be censored at whim and without warning.)


Required, hidden

Subscribe to the comments via RSS Feed