If herpes is such a minor deal, why does it come with such a pervasive stigma? In the first half of the 20th century, genital herpes was not on the public radar, and it wasn’t even recognized as a discrete type of herpes infection until the 1960s. But by the 1980s, it was slapped on the cover of Time with headlines like “Herpes: The New Sexual Leprosy.” What happened in the intervening years shows how a public sex panic is made. What’s still happening—herpes shame, fear, and confusion even now—shows how that panic can morph and persist. One of the oddest subplots of the stigma’s endurance has to do with who’s been falsely blamed for making herpes a boogeyman in the first place: drug companies.