Many High-Risk
Individuals Unaware
Of Genital Herpes Risk
By Jennifer Deseo
NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - A new survey shows that many adults in a high-risk category do not believe that they are at risk of contracting genital herpes.
Experts note that individuals under age 30 and those with multiple sex partners are at highest risk for this sexually-transmitted disease.
The American Social Health Association (ASHA), which conducted the survey of 1,414 adults and revealed its findings at a news conference here Thursday, found that 46% of men and 39% of women believe they are not at risk for genital herpes, even though they currently have multiple sex partners.
``We call this the 'No-not-me' phenomenon,'' said Dr. Linda Alexander, president of ASHA. ``They understand that the risk is high if you have multiple partners, but what is most fascinating is that they did not perceive themselves to be at risk. This represents phenomenal denial.''
The survey also revealed that 22% of women and 17% of men believe they have been tested for genital herpes, when in fact they may not have been tested.
``One of the great myths surrounding herpes is that people think they're routinely tested for STDs (sexually transmitted diseases),'' said Alexander, who pointed out that routine blood tests and annual Pap smears do not generally include tests for the genital herpes virus.
More than one in five American adults are infected with the genital herpes virus, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Genital herpes can be transmitted with or without the presence of symptoms like open sores, and most individuals are diagnosed long after becoming infected.
``This produces more anxiety for my patients than the diagnosis itself,'' said Dr. Hilary Baldwin of the SUNY Health Science Center at Brooklyn, New York. ``They're overwhelmingly concerned about from whom they got the infection and to whom they may have already unknowingly passed it on.''
According to Alexander, the social stigma surrounding genital herpes infection plus the results of this survey point to the need for more public education, and improved communication between sexual partners and between patients and their health care providers.
``If we all continue to walk around as if there aren't any infections out there, and if we don't make any effort to change the situation, the epidemics we have today will just propel themselves out of control,'' she concluded.


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