Today’s Headlines on the WHO Herpes Report: RANKED


This was a big day for herpes coverage. The World Health Organization released a study saying that 2 in 3 people in the entire world have HSV-1, and the Internet collectively freaked out. It was both glorious and terrible. Herpes trended on Facebook. I had a lot of feelings about it.

So without further ado, in order from best to worst: TODAY’S HERPES HEADLINES: RANKED!

(Note: None of this is based on the articles themselves. I’m a big believer of the idea that if your headline is horrendous, you have done more harm than good.)

1. Oh, You Don’t Have Herpes? What’s That Like? — The Cut

This is so sassy it physically hurts, but in that way a love bite hurts. It hurts so good. It brilliantly inverts herpes stigma to mess with your expectations and make you feel like an asshole. You don’t have herpes? Congratulations, you are the outlier here. Freak.

2. You Probably Have Herpes, But It’s Chill — Broadly

I want to get a drink with this headline and talk about men and Tinder and where my career is going. I want to be best friends with this headline.

3. You Likely Have Herpes, and You Almost Definitely Don’t Know It — VICE NEWS

Okay, this is clickbait. But I respect this clickbait because it is not wrong. And you know what? This is something people should goddamn know about, so I hope they clicked the fuck out of this headline. (Notably, Broadly is a part of Vice, which is why I’m not surprised to see them side by side on this list).

4. There’s a Good Chance You Have Herpes, Says New Data — But That’s Totally OK — Mic

This headline plays it adorably safe. It’s respectful, reassuring, and a little bit boring despite the surprise gap. Basically I hate the word “data.”

5. World Health Organization to planet: We’re pretty sure most of you have the herpes virus — Quartz

This headline wants to be classy but still have personality. It succeeds in sounding like someone with a terrible personality. I love Quartz, but this is snootier than I’d expect from them. It is both judgmental but distant. It reads as insulting. Most of you have the herpes virus. But we definitely don’t.

6. Think you don’t have herpes? Think again — New York Post 

Well, I’d click it. And then I’d get tested REAL FAST. Which is the appropriate response to have to this study if you don’t know your status. You escape this time, New York Post.

7. 67% of the people on Earth have this ‘incurable’ viral infection — Tech Insider

Your surprise gap is bad and you are bad.

8. Most of the World Has Herpes, and There’s Little We Can Do About It — Slate

Go look at the Broadly headline again. Now re-read this one. See the problem? This is alarmist, fear-mongering, and also flat-out wrong. Sure, herpes is incurable, so everyone who already has it will continue to have it. But it’s actually not hard to prevent the transmission and spread of herpes if people have access to medical care and solid information. But “we need more sex education” isn’t exactly a sexy headline.

9. I’m pretty sure you have herpes — Gawker

Oh, Gawker. Obviously you would write a headline that would make me spit with rage. Obviously. Look at the language choices here: I’m pretty sure you have herpes. You filthy, filthy animal. You totally would have herpes. It’s judgmental and full of blame, and it instills fear and shame in the reader.

10. Two Thirds Of Your Friends Probably Have Herpes. Fact — Marie Claire


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Ella Dawson is a sex and culture critic and a digital strategist. She drinks too much Diet Coke.

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