Genital Herpes: Stigma Still Strong
Stigma Ranks Second to HIV in Poll
Aug. 24, 2007 -- Genital herpes is common but it still carries a big social
stigma, an online poll shows.
The poll included 503 U.S. adults with genital herpes and about 1,400 other
adults who said they didn't have genital herpes.
Participants answered questions about their relationships and views of
They ranked genital herpes second for social stigma, out of all sexually
transmitted diseases (HIV took the top spot for STD stigma).
The poll also included a list of other potentially taboo topics, including
HIV, gonorrhea, mental illness, obesity, substance abuse, and cancer.
Most participants -- 64% of those without genital herpes and 56% of those
with genital herpes -- said they didn't think any of those topics were taboo.
However, genital herpes was the top-ranked "taboo" topic.
Among genital herpes patients, 39% said they were troubled by societal
stigma about genital herpes. Far more genital herpes patients -- 75% -- were
troubled by bothersome symptoms of genital herpes outbreaks.
Most people without genital herpes said they would avoid having a
relationship with someone who has genital herpes and break up with a partner
who had genital herpes.
Among people with genital herpes, 36% said they tell their partners about
their genital herpes "well in advance of having sexual intercourse for the
first time," and 68% said they were concerned about transmitting genital
herpes to their sexual partners.
But that doesn't mean it's easy for patients to talk to their partners about
their genital herpes.
For instance, of the 325 genital herpes patients who reported having genital
herpes outbreaks, 38% said they'd made up an excuse to avoid having sex during
a genital herpes outbreak, instead of telling their partner about their
Harris Interactive conducted the poll between Dec. 14, 2006, and Jan. 12,
2007. The poll was commissioned by the drug company Novartis.