Black America Allows the CDC to Stack Herpes Numbers: The Truth Behind the “Statistics”

“I’m a Black woman in America, and I’m very concerned.”

There have been several reports, press releases of sorts stating some very unnerving news about the Black woman in the United States. Reports say that 48% of Black women have herpes, 46% of Black women have a net worth of $5, and 70% of Black women are not married. With numbers like this, is there any hope left for Black women? These statistics, in my opinion are of PANDEMIC; even EPIDEMIC proportions. Over the next several weeks, I will investigate these “reports.”

Besides the slight media flair, and the flurry of posting and repeating of this ominous news on internet blogs and news sites, nothing has been done to attack these problems. At some point, will we realize that we have a problem here–of drastic proportions.


The CDC, which is the Center of Disease Control for the United States of America, released a statement in March of this year. It stated that 48% of Black women in the USA have Herpes Type 2; yes , 48%–this means, half of the Black women in the United States of America. Is this only alarming to me?

If true statistically speaking, that would mean that, between myself and my BFF, one of us has herpes.

Well, it’s not me…

One thing that I have learned in life is, you just don’t believe something because someone tells you. You ask qualifying questions. You ask for supporting information. You ask for proof. So that’s what I did. I asked for proof. I called the CDC, and asked for the data results collected in the National Health….Survey–conducted by responsible doctors, which supported this alarming find that half of Black women in America have herpes.

I wanted to know, why, if this number was true, hadn’t a State of Emergency been declared on Black women’s health. After 5 phone conversations with my assigned CDC representative, Amber, she asked me what my “position” was. I asked her, “My position?” She says, ‘Yes, who are you?’ I responded, “A black woman in America, and I’m very concerned.”


I wanted to know how these statistics were collected, and what study groups were included. I knew that I hadn’t ever received a call about herpes from anyone. My personal, private practice physician had never asked if I would be a part of any studies about herpes.

So, who DID they ask, and when?

Amber, my CDC rep never answered my questions directly. I did, however, receive an email which stated that the CDC was unable to forward the clinical studies referenced for the NHANES findings.

Hmm…so I started researching.

The info for this alarming announcement came from the NHANES data received in 2005-2008. The survey’s subject was the Seroprevalence of Herpes Simplex Virus Type 2 among persons 14-49 years old. By design, NHANES data is collected from 3 primary sources. (Although currently, most of the data is obtained from the first 2 sources:)

1. Direct Interviews

2. Direct Examinations

3. Physician Inquiry/Medical Records

Remember, I asked the CDC rep if she knew the studies used for the NHANES data, and she couldn’t answer? Well, I then looked for the sources through an internet search, and found that most of the clinical studies that were used for the 2005-2008 data were meta-analysis and post analysis from previous studies conducted.

So what does this mean?

Researchers are using older studies to gather information that is needed to release the “new findings.” According to a previous article in, The Root, Dr. John Douglas, the director of the division of STD Prevention at the National Center of HIV, STD and TB prevention at the CDC, “The herpes numbers for black women have remained relatively the same over several years at 46% and 51%.”

Relatively the same, huh? I guess that means no need to conduct new studies.

The Root was one of few online sources that questioned these CDC findings. I question why did so many well-known sites, that supposedly represent African-American interests and concerns, publish this finding without any provocation? I definitely had questions, and I searched for an actual study.

I had to search back several years, to actually find a study CONDUCTED. (Although the NHANES data collection includes several clinical studies, I have just provided information for one similar study.) The clinical study is called: Seroprevalence and Correlates of Herpes Simplex virus Type 2 Infection in 5 Sexually Transmitted-Disease Clinics; Gottlieb et al; The Journal of Infectious Diseases 2002.

● Enrollees: Blacks (60.7%), Whites (20.6%), Hispanics (11.3%), Other (7.4%), Male (56.9%), Female (43.1%)

● The study was conducted from July 1993-September 1996 in Baltimore, Long Beach, Newark, Denver, and San Francisco.

● The median age was 25 years

● Participants were predominately low-income

● Fewer than 1/3 had an education beyond high school

● Almost 2/3 had been previously treated for at least 1 STD, with gonorrhea being the most commonly reported.

After reviewing this study, I have some qualifying questions.

➢ There were 4128 total participants in the study, but 2506 were Black and only 850 were white. If Blacks only comprise 12.9% of the U.S. Population, why is 60.7% of the study group Black?

➢ The participants were predominately low-income. The U.S. Census Bureau states that 24.5% of Blacks live below the poverty-level. As a numerical whole, 48% of Americans living in poverty are White. Why is 75.5% of the Black community being represented by its lowest group?

➢ Free clinics provide services to low-income, uninsured and under-insured families. This study was conducted in 5 STD clinics in the inner-city. Why are these findings used to represent ALL of Black women? If you are a Black woman, or you know of one, does the inclusion criteria for the study represent most of the Black women that YOU know?

➢ Fewer than 1/3 of the participants had an education beyond a high school education. Yet, U.S. Census Bureau information from 2009 states that of 25,910 Blacks used in their survey, 82% of those Blacks had a high school degree or higher. Only 18% of Blacks had less than a high school degree. Why use an undereducated population of people that doesn’t truly represent the true population? (Incidentally, this study only used 8.76% Black population, even though Blacks represent 12.9% of the U.S. Population.)

How can the Center for Disease Control for the United States of America make such a broad and inclusive statement about an ENTIRE group of people, with such an erroneous platform? Yes herpes needs to be prevented in Black and White America, and all of those represented in between. But why must ALL Black women be the Poster Child for preventing herpes?

When will we stop allowing researchers, journalists, surveyors and the like—to make such egregious misrepresentations of our entire American Black population? When will enough be enough?

NOTE: Routine testing at your family doctor will notify you of any STDs and will potentially assist in preventing further spreading of any disease.

(Richelle R. Ransom is a FAMU Journalism Graduate. Over the next few weeks she will be covering several subjects that effect the Black community in a series entitled: The Black Diamond Series.)

Article Photo by Lauren Rinder

35 responses to “Black America Allows the CDC to Stack Herpes Numbers: The Truth Behind the “Statistics””

  1. Great read and great way to dig and go beyond such a myth. One of the reasons why outlets such as AR are necessary – to try as hard as possible to truly represent us. Great work.

  2. This is an amazing post! Absolutely amazing. You asked all the right questions. Questions I would have NEVER asked. Never thought to ask.

  3. You are so on point with this article! Your research questions and analysis is very important for our community to be aware of. One of the problems that this article does not address is why don’t people from a more representative sample participate in clinical trials. 1. The trials do not take place where a more diverse sample receives care. 2. Many researchers do not seek out representative samples. But there is also another issue that many people do not concern themselves with, and that is… if you ask our general pop to participate in studies of this kind, they usually will refuse, not show up for the appointment (data collection), or not return for appropriate follow up. Many people do not trust (for some very valid reasons) or do not value research, so if they are approached by even the most well meaning honest scientist, they may not take the study seriously. Even when an incentive like CASH Money is offered, they may still put the study on the back burner of their busy lives, which in many cases is understandable. Keep in mind that many of these studies are conducted over only a few years at a time (Avg 5 years, 2 of that is formative research, about 6 months is spent getting human subjects and ethical board approvals, 2 years to collect the data, and 6 months to analyze the data and write up the findings for publication.) If they don’t reach their target numbers within this generic timeline they run the risk of having the study snatched all together, and then they have nothing to inform the public about our health. So as much as CDC and other scientists have non-representative samples of the general population and then try to statistically extrapolate data to generalize to the greater population, our community is not giving them much to work with. It’s sad, it’s really scary, but it’s true.

  4. Great article. It is important for our community to research what we read, before accepting any data as fact. Based on your findings, it is obvious that the CDC used these findings to generalize our community.

  5. Sad that you are so willing to bite the hand that helps you. You do not seem to understand what goes into developing these figures or how to interpret them. Burying your head in the sand does nothing to help a situation, only the opposite.

  6. It looks like the results of this study are skewed from the beginning because the representaive sample does not represent the population in the US. Thanks for bringing this to light. I am saddened by the fact that the CDC would out a report of this nature out based on a longitudnal study that was done 1993. RIDICULOUS! It’s 2010, almost 2011.
    If’s its a Pandemic THEN MORE needs to be done to advocate for these findings to alert black women of the seriousness this threat. GOOD READ

  7. After reading the entire report, I was floored even more than when the caption caught my attention. Quiet as it is kept, this report is not a lone ranger. There are many more out there that are just as skewed. I could not help but laugh at the thought of me and either on of my BFF’s looking at each other and trying to figure out which one of us had herpes! I had once dreamed of working for the CDC when I was a kid and maybe I should have stuck with it but the reports that they are putting out with their stamp of approval sure has placed a sour taste in my mouth. If these reports were accurate, it would be a sad state of affairs for Black Women in America.

  8. Well written– You asked all the right questions. This article needs to be re-printed in Essence, Ebony and the Washington Post. Media uses such skewed numbers to further the stigmatizing and stereotyping of black people. Our community regurgitates the misinformation as reasons not to relate to each other intimately, such false data breeds mistrust and fear. Thank you for pulling the masks off of this weird science.

  9. Very good article….. America is controlled by special interest groups . They have different agendas depending on the subject matter. The type of research you conducted and conclusions you came to are indicative of the types of questions that should be made to pollsters (who always tell us who is winning a particular political campaign so we may as well not vote this way or that way),

    or the Census Bureau that has been telling us for 30 yrs that there are only 30 million of us in the country..yet we are supposed to be babymaking machines LOL !!

    I like what you are doing so please continue to speak truth to power and everyone in between ….

  10. As someone who does public health research, this article makes some irrelevant critiques. The critiques about distribution of whites and blacks in the study or the overall characteristics of all the participants does not negate the statistics about the black participants. The one valid critique is that the black study population does not reflect the black general population in the U.S. in terms of education and income. This is a factor that may affect the overall prevalence of HSV in the population, as STIs are often more prevalent among those who are less educated and less affluent (for a variety of reasons) in all racial groups. I would recommend reading The Root article, which is much more thoughtful about the under-representation of middle and upper class black Americans in the study.

    So, should the statistic be questioned? Absolutely. For all the reasons cited? No. Is the inflammatory dissemination of this statistic related to racism against black women? Quite possibly.

    However, I would like to remark generally on the tone of this article about HSV. The writer gives off a perception that genital herpes is a) a huge problem; and b) something awful that she herself could not have.

    In terms of a) genital herpes is actually a fairly minor concern for the vast proportion of the population who have it. In fact, 80% of those with HSV-2 have no symptoms or symptoms so mild that they go unnoticed. In terms of public health concern, HSV isn’t actually a major one – it can slightly increase your likelihood of contracting HIV, but otherwise has no serious longterm health impacts – unlike HPV, for example, which can cause cancer. For most people, it is not a major factor in their lives, particularly if they practice safe sex.

    In response to b) how does the author know that she doesn’t have it? Has she been tested? Most people assume that when they say to their doctor “test me for everything,” the doctor is also testing you for genital herpes. That isn’t true. There is a blood test available, but doctors and gynecologists do not routinely offer it or administer it – it is usually only done if asked for by name or if there are symptoms to suggest that you have it. So, unless she has asked her provider to give her a blood test for HSV, it is entirely possible that she herself has it and is asymptomatic.

    This also makes her note at the end of the article that routine testing with your doctor will tell you if you have ANY STDs (STIs, actually) inaccurate – it leads the readers to believe that their routine STI testing is helping them to know if they have HSV, when in fact it is not in most cases.

    I wish that this article had been better researched and more objectively presented. Although the sensationalistic reporting of the statistics may be doing harm in reinforcing negative and unfair stereotypes about black womens’ sexuality, this article reinforces some negative perceptions about HSV. I personally feel that publicizing studies about how common HSV is among Americans in general (1 in 4 women of any race) helps to reduce the stigma surrounding it and encourage people to speak to their partners about their STI status as a whole. It is entirely possible that your BFF does have genital herpes, but would no longer want to talk to you about it after your attitude expressed in this article.

  11. I was going to read this story, and not comment, but then I began to read the comments from the other readers. My concern is with Public Health girl. It sounds as if you missed what the author was saying. She questioned the number of blacks in the study, because it was very unbalanced. Why would the researches need 60% Blacks in the study?
    You say that HERPES is not a big deal? Tell that to the people who catch it from someone else.
    Does she have herpes? Who knows, but the people who conducted the survey probably wouldn’t know either, because she is college educated.
    She didn’t question the findings. She questioned whether or not the numbers should represent ALL of Black women.
    You sound uptight. Did you show THIS much concern when the CDC put out the information? Or do you just beat up people who don’t do this everyday?
    Public Health Lady, stop beating up the public, go after the Health guys next time.
    LASTLY, duh, it’s HER OPINION. Of course she writes it as a black woman. She can be bias if she so pleases, but can the CDC be biased?

  12. My mouth is wide open after finally reading this. Great job Richelle. Good investigative research. It is unbelievable that they would report inaccurate data of this magnitude. Hopefully you have opened up eyes and ears to not believe everything they read but to do their own research.

  13. For me its the way the information was presented is the issue. Herpes is a VERY common STI regardless of race.

    The truth lies somewhere between this article and Public Health girls statements.

    We can’t just blow this off as the CDC giving off some crazy stats. We also having look at Herpes may go undiagnosed because it can appear a little differently [HSV2] looking like a hair bump instead of a blister.

    Let’s not throw out the study completely but lets take into consideration that Black people do have to start taking care of our sexual health. I’ve worked in HIV/AIDS since the 90s. We need to do better.

    There’s some fluff…..but its not a pillow. Balance it out.

  14. I am sorry, I am going to try to be more polite in this comment. That being said, it takes ALOT for an academic insitution such as CDC to publish data like this. Literally, global experts in the field of epidemiology and biostatisitics. Pillars with a lifetime of education and experience putting hundreds if not thousands of person-hour of work into uncovering the truth. One can’t just design a crappy study then publish incorrect information. The community won’t let it. And for someone, untrained in the field, who happened upon a bit of information, to pass judgement on its accuracy or the institution’s integrity is ridiculous! It’s like someone picking up a tennis raquet for the first time, and thinking they can play at the professional level.

    The last thing I will say is just to address the technical note that seems to be tripping people up. The investigators did not use a nationally representive sample…most studies don’t. That because they are almost impossible to get! They probably used a convenience sample then extrapolated the information out to a national level using biostatistics and census data. It amost always done.

    Just because the news is tough to hear, doesn’t make it untrue, and it doesn’t make the messenger and less honest.

    • Perhaps THIS article is tough for YOU to hear, evidenced by your desperation to refute it. I mean,desperation. Like you have something at stake, which makes you too biased to be credible. This article reveals, unmistakably, an effort to disseminated damaging information about one race for the benefit of another, the one I’m sure you belong to, given the blood sweat and tears you shed with every statement you put forth. Again you are obviously personally invested in the illusion of white supremacy and therefor your point of view is rejected outright on those grounds. I could give two shites how eloquent you try to make your argument. Half of black women do not have herpes, period. I grew up in a monumentally diverse environment where the whites where vividly more promiscuous than any other group. So coming from where I come from, just the notion of these findings are beyond ridiculous. Black women have always been among the most prude of any group of people I’ve encountered in my 40 years. The oversexed retarded black woman image that you stroke yourself to Japhey is largely fabricated by a white race that utilizes the tenets of racism as a survival mechanism. Here’s some truth that may be hard for you to hear: All this effort to perpetuate a survival advantage and still you need to rely on statistical fallacies in order to erect a fantasy about who you are in relation to everyone else. All these comparative statistics basically state that we live in a world where whites are pristine, beyond reproach, not promiscuous, always law abiding or never inclined blow up buildings, inbreed, do drugs, etc. You know very well those statements couldn’t be more false, in which case the statistics used as an attempt to convey such absurd notions must themselves be false. Deal with it, dear. You lost. Now run along.

  15. Japhney,
    i think you need to re-read this article a couple of times, like i have.
    the author NEVER QUESTIONED THE CLINICAL STUDY. she asked why THAT group was used to represent ALL OF BLACK WOMEN.
    i’m sure that poorer people are easier to get to participate in studies, but does that make it right?
    it may be “convenient” as you say to use this group of people, but if it is, the CDC should say-“48% of undereducated, underemployed Black women have herpes.”

    not, 48% OF BLACK WOMEN….do u see the difference??

    slow down, read it again. not once did she say the clinical study was wrong-she just said that it didn’t represent the BIGGEST GROUP.

    plus, how do u know what she knows and how many times she’s done this?

    i need to leave this alone, but before i do, i have ONE QUESTION

    What time do you and PUBLIC HEALTH GIRL get off work at the CDC?

  16. No_researcher — maybe you should look up what “extrapolated the information out to a national level” means. It means it doesn’t matter where the hell the sample comes from… they use biostatistics to alter the frequencies so that they DO represent the general population.

    I don’t work there, but get off at 5? When do you get off Wendy’s?

    • You can’t argue with people who are not willing to become more educated. You can imaging how frustrated attorneys get when their clients go on and on about things that are totally irrelevant to their legal situation even though it’s important to them.

      I understand what you’re staying about statistical sampling and sadly, this is the exact kind of thing that kids should learn in high school (at least intermediate statistics) so they’re not ignorant about what they read later in life whether the subject matter is STDs or problems in the poultry industry.

      Irrespective of some nit picks over the article, the one thing that remains true is the *** bottom line*** which is the elephant in the room staring back at everyone..,.

  17. lol Japhey,
    If i did work at a fast food place, i’d be a great worker either way. are u saying something is wrong with working fast food?

    Please just ANSWER why they had to go to the poorest cities to get the sample??-biostatisticized that.

    but, do me a favor, post YOUR ARTICLE on any thing. then we’ll talk.

    FYI…being a phone person, at the CDC makes you NO SCIENTIST.

    • When a study is skewed it dies not represent the whole population. Its like going to a midwesternt white Midwestern town where their are a lot of methattics and saying we find that 60% of the whites in thus study are meth users and only 19% were black. That would be silly. The study was not broad enough and too many of the perticipents were black.

  18. Good job not only questioning the pablum fed to the masses, but also in SAYING SOMETHING about it. Quite a few supposedly educated people swallow whatever is put in front of them without ever questioning the source. (“I will never eat at McDonald’s again!”)

    I’m encouraged that you questioned, investigated, sought corroboration and then spoke up. That’s critical thinking and an excellent example for all of us.

  19. Sorry, about that last crack. I just got worked up. There is nothing wrong with working fast food and I am sure you would be a good worker. I am passionate about this not because, I want to be right, but rather because I fear about a implications of creating mistrust around public health in underepresented communities. There is no nefarious agenda, in fact, reducing gender, racial, and ethnic disparities is part of the mission statement of most public health institutions.

    I can answer your question too (based of likelihood): There is very little money for research in public health. Because of this, research organizations can’t afford to track down a representative sample then pay then to take a long survey. Instead, they go to places where people are already receiving government services (clinics, etc.). These tend to over-represent low income, low education, people of color, urban zipcode, and drug users compared to the general population. They then adjust the number to represent the general population and all this is done behind the scenes in the analysis. They just don’t have the money to interview in rural North Dakota.

    I don’t work for CDC, but I am a scientist. All I hope is that people try to get all the information about something before they start to seed mistrust of process that is trying to help. Public health (not just CDC) and under-represented communities need to work together in order to make a healtier life, and spreading fear and mistrust just derails that. Me being a hot-head doesn’t help either. Sorry and good luclk.

  20. thanks for that scientist jafhey,
    well, first i like the way you did admit that the SAMPLING was from the poorest area. Wouldn’t it be easier to “adjust” the numbers of the group that is REPRESENTED IN GREATER NUMBERS, than lower?

    I appreciate scientists. I appreciate the CDC. I appreciate doctors that are used in the studies.

    What i DON’T appreciate is Blacks being represented in the worst light possible. I’m not sure that they could release the same information using white america.

    i clicked on the CDC link, japhey, they started it, she just asked a question, why couldn’t the CDC answer it as level-headed as you just did? others questioned the numbers also…because of us going back and forth, i’ve been google happy on this subject.

    i think she just showed us what black america really looks like…use some of them for the study, if you can’t find any, this is an ALUMNI WEBSITE..ask for them here.

    besides, there’s nothing wrong with answering questions. just because something is done ONE way, doesn’t mean that it’s right.

    hey- do you remember the scientists and doctors who did lobotomies to rid the crazy folks of the “crazy?” yeah…they were wrong.

    keep up the good work- and let us know when you finish that article.


  21. I actually do not understand the outrage over the study. Shouldn’t the outrage be directed instead at the irresponsible women….yes women who facilitate STD infections by granting UNPROTECTED access to her lower region’s two orifices?

    With an approximately 70% out of wedlock birthrate within the so-called “black community” is it not by default and corollary fact that black women are GIVING PERMISSION to their sex partner(s) to insert that particular body part designed specifically for the purpose of injecting a fluid (which could be asymptomatically infected) into the receptacle THE WOMAN gave him access to?

    Isn’t it THAT VERY BLACK WOMAN spotlighted in this study whose own organ contains body fluids (which could be asymptomatically infected) that will mix with the fluids (which could be asymptomatically infected) of the man SHE GAVE PERMISSION FOR INTROMISSION TO contained within her vagina and cervix?

    It therefore makes absolutely perfect sense for a 48% herpes infection rate to possibly exist among the same group who at at least a 70% rate ALLOWS HERSELF TO GET “infected” with a PREGNANCY that will ultimately and unfortunately produce a socially, financially and statistically verifiable “doomed” bastard child destined to make it onto other undesirable statistical lists.

  22. What information are you basing your claim on that most of the clinical studies in the 2005-2008 NHANES data were meta-analysis or post analysis? Are you basing this on the References listed in the first article that you link to (the April 23, 2010 MMWR)? If so this claim is incorrect. Those references are for claims made within that article, those are not references or sources for the NHANES survey results. The NHANES is a national study that has been conducted once a year since 1999 with approx. 5000 people and includes, as you stated, direct interviews and direct examinations (including an HSV-2 antibodies test). So the NHANES results from 2005-2008 comes from survey data (direct interviews and exams) conducted from 2005-2008. You don’t do meta-analysis and direct data collection at the same time. Also, you didn’t really quote Dr. Douglas correctly, he provided specific years for the percentages he presented. The rate was 51.3 in from the NHANES for 1988-1994 and 46% in for the 2004 NHANES. So all the percentages are actually based on data that was collected.

  23. There is only one problem or oversight in the investigators story. That is when you consult with your physician, and test for STD’s, of which HSV II (Genital Herpes) is included. The results become a permanent part of your medical record! With the advent of Affordable Health Care exchanges, this so called private data is now available to all hospitals, insurance companies, nursing homes, dietitians, dentist, eye doctors–anyone who has need to make a healthcare appointment for you.

    The pea icy story is the real “back” story that the well intended author missed.

    The implication that low Income and low education is an excuse to violate that privacy or right to be free from disease/virus–in particular, one that has been in existence for thousands of years and is incurable –is just the stereotype that allows.

    It seems that the CDC would study why these rates are so high in African countries and low in countries like Italy and Israel?

    Most notable, why is it low in Syria but not in Jordan? Both Muslim countries? Reporting or behavior or reporting differences?

    It is obvious that two things need to happen:
    1) Behavior needs to change!?
    2) And a since of urgency needs to be given toward funding and research for a vaccine for these “sex driven” viruses.

    Perhaps strict religious adherence is the only answer?

  24. I’m not going to comment on the legitimacy of your critique of the CDC data – that’s a bigger subject for another day. What I am going to say, however, is that your writing needs serious work.

    There are basic rules of the road when it comes to grammar, usage and syntax. Randomly capitalized words (e.g., “Poster Child”) and basic grammatical errors undermine your message. Consider asking an editor to review your writing on future Black Diamond subjects before posting.

  25. This is a testimony this year 2016. on the 2nd of this month i saw a post that Dr okos cure his Herpes Virus and i contacted him, as i speak now i am free from herpes Virus. all glory to Dr okos. if you have herpes Virus contact Dr okos and i promise the world will be free from Herpes Virus.

    Contact his email:

  26. At what point to we start looking at the issue for what it is, and before you answer. Explain why there has been numerous stories of Black Women sleeping with inmates while on the job…….please explain how this does not tie in.

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