There frequently is confusion between HPV (Human PapillomaVirus) and herpes. While there are similarities between the STDs - both cause ugly skin conditions and are incurable. They also are the most common STDs in the US. (1)

What Is Herpes?

Herpes is a very common viral infection that affects about ⅕ of the US population. It comes in two varieties: herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1) and herpes simplex virus type 2 (HSV-2). It affects the nervous and skin systems and can cause sores on various parts of the body, including the mouth.

The Difference Between HSV-1 and HSV-2

Herpes can create painful, annoying sores no matter the type. Both kinds can cause the sores to appear anywhere on the body. The major difference between the strains is HSV-1 usually causes sores in the mouth. HSV-2 causes sores on the genitals. Because of this, HSV-1 is referred to often as oral herpes. HSV-2 is referred to as genital herpes.

Oral herpes is more common than the other type that affects the genitals. The WHO stated in a report recently that two of three people under age 50 have it. The population that has herpes of the genitals in much less but still significant at 16%. Other than the location of the herpes sores, the difference between the two strains are minor.

Is A Cold Sore Herpes?

Yes. If you get cold sores in your mouth, this is oral herpes. Even though there are large differences in the social stigma between the two types, the are essentially the same type of infection.

Symptoms of Herpes

Oral herpes is the cause of the common cold sore, which is a small red sore that is in the mouth. Genital herpes is the same virus as oral herpes as it causes pimples and blisters but on the genitals. The sores can itch and hurt but tend to heal on their own. No matter where the herpes happens on your body, you will have different stages of the infection if you get it.

Stage 1 of herpes causes severe symptoms, such as ulcers, blisters, swollen lymph nodes, flu symptoms, joint pain, fever and headaches. The infection symptoms are mostly worse for women but will get better in 14 days. The next stage is recurrent herpes. It usually involves the sores that herpes is best known for.

What Is HPV?

HPV is the most frequent STD in the US. There are a variety of HPVs, and every type has varying symptoms. It is though that almost 80% of people who are sexually active people will get HPV in their lives. This is because it can be spread by almost every sort of sexual activity, including through skin contact. (2)

Different Types of HPV

There are at least 100 types of HPV. Most of them are completely harmless. This is why so many people have the virus but do not know about it. Some HPV strains can lead to genital warts, but most of these are treatable. Types 6, 11, 16 and 18 are strains that can lead to cancers in the anus, vulva, cervix and vagina. Types 16 and 18 are known to cause about 70% of cervical cancers,  and types 6 and 11 cause 90% of genital warts for all HPV infections.

Symptoms of HPV

HPV is the top cause of genital warts and can cause several forms of cancer, depending on the strain of HPV. There rarely are symptoms, so what is the worry. While symptoms may not present themselves clearly, the virus could be causing serious damage. HPV has been related to causing abnormal changes in cells. This can cause several types of cancer depending on type. Cervical, penile and anal cancer are the most common types of cancer that HPV causes. But cancer is rare with HPV and genital warts are more common.

HPV vs Herpes

There are similar but different; even their names are similar to each other. If you want the simplest comparison, here it is:

  • Are herpes and and HPV the same? No. Herpes is not HPV or vice versa. Both are forms of STDs that lead to rashes, bumps, and sores in the mouth or on the genitals but they are almost totally unrelated.
  • Similarities: These common STDs are often known to lead to skin perfections. But cannot be cured and are had through sexual contact. There are many variations of STDs and two herpes strains and more than 100 HPV types are common.
  • Differences: Both cause skin problems, how they manifest are very different. Herpes can lead to sores in the mouth and on the genitals. But unlike herpes, HPV frequently has no symptoms at all, but is often the cause of warts on the genitals. HPV can lead to cancer so it makes it one of the most dangerous of these two STDs. Both are spread via sexual contact but HPV also can be shared simply by skin touching skin.

How To Treat Herpes

Herpes is not fatal, but it is annoying. There is no current cure for either strain of herpes, but there are antiviral drugs such as Zovirax that can clear your sorest faster and reduce how often you have outbreaks. These drugs reduce the toll that herpes has on daily life. But these drugs are only available to people who have been diagnosed with the STD through appropriate test.

How to Treat HPV

Just with herpes, you can provide treatment for HPV but never cure it. HPV vaccines such as Gardasil can protect you from an HPV infection in the future if you are given it during early adolescence. If you have been diagnosed with HPV, the only effects that tend to be noticed are warts on the genitals. If they do not go away, there are prescription drugs that can effectively treat them. There are many ways to deal with abnormal cell changes that are caused by HPV that can cause cancer.


(1) Herpes vs HPV the Complete Breakdown. (n.d.). Retrieved from

92) What’s the Difference Between HPV and Herpes? (2019). Retrieved from


by AtHomeSTDKit

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