Genital herpes is a common sexually transmitted infection throughout the world. The majority of new infections occur in adolescents and young adults, although prevalence rates generally increase with age and cumulative sexual experience. In young adults, herpes simplex virus 1 (HSV-1) infection is becoming a more common cause of genital herpes. Reasons for this trend include changing sexual practices, notably oral-genital exposure and the use of condoms for intercourse. Important implications of having genital herpes include the risk of transmission to sexual partners and the increased risk of acquiring and transmitting HIV. Genital herpes infections are often unrecognized, and transmission to uninfected partners is likely to occur during asymptomatic shedding. A diagnosis of herpes may also affect psychosexual development, particularly in adolescents. Such factors contribute to the growing global HSV prevalence and suggest a need to implement better screening programmes in young adults. Recognizing and treating HSV early offers benefits to patients and their sexual partners by reducing the frequency and severity of outbreaks, limiting the likelihood of disease transmission, and preventing new infections.