According to a recent New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene study, approximately 26 percent of New Yorkers (versus 19 percent of adults nationwide) are infected with the Herpes Simplex Virus-2, the virus that causes genital herpes the Associated Press reports ( 6/9). Higher rates were found among women, African Americans and gay men.

The sexually transmitted disease can cause painful genital sores in a minority of cases; there are no recognizable symptoms in most people. Particularly troubling is the potential impact the high rate of herpes infection could have on the HIV infection rate in New York as herpes facilitates the spread of HIV—doubling a person’s risk for contracting HIV.

City officials are stressing consistent condom use and free, confidential testing at local clinics.