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STUDY SHOWS GENITAL HERPES CAUSES SIGNIFICANT EMOTIONAL STRESS -- Effect Of Infection Highlighted During STD Awareness Month --

 /ADVANCE/ RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C., March 28 /PRNewswire/ -- The emotional and psychological impact of genital herpes can be severe and long-lasting, according to a study appearing in the current issue of the medical journal, "Sexually Transmitted Diseases."
 "In this age of concern and awareness about AIDS, these study results underscore the need to support the one in six American adults who are affected by non-AIDS STDs, like genital herpes," said study co-author Peggy Clarke, MPH, executive director of the American Social Health Association (ASHA). ASHA conducted the study to clearly define the challenges that face people with genital herpes.
 Publication of this study coincides with STD Awareness Month, which is declared in April by states and cities across the nation to heighten understanding of non-AIDS sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). The STD public awareness effort is sponsored by ASHA and supported by Burroughs Wellcome Co.
 Study Defines Emotional Impact of Genital Herpes
 To better understand individuals' emotional response to genital herpes, ASHA surveyed readers of its newsletter for people with herpes. According to the 3,000 survey respondents, the first outbreak of herpes causes significant emotional stress. Eighty-two (82) percent of people in the study reported depression, 75 percent experienced fear of rejection, 69 percent cited feelings of isolation and 55 percent reported fear of discovery -- all due to infection. At the time of initial outbreak, 28 percent also experienced self-destructive feelings.
 "Although some of these feelings appear to diminish over time, in the long term, many people with repeated outbreaks of herpes still feel anxious and alone," said Clarke. Among those who had outbreaks within the 12 months prior to survey participation, 52 percent reported depression and 52 percent said they feared being rejected in social situations. When asked whom they rely upon for emotional support, roughly one-third expressed that they rely on no one.
 Survey respondents also noted that herpes affected their intimate relationships. Seventy-nine (79) percent said that having herpes had a "great impact" on the frequency of their sexual encounters while they first came to terms with the disease. Sixty-six (66) percent also noted a decrease in sexual pleasure around the time of diagnosis. Study findings suggest that the impact of infection on sexual behavior and experience is driven, in part, by fear of transmission; a strong majority, or 89 percent of survey respondents, cited fear of transmitting herpes to their partners.
 "Study respondents' significant concern about transmission underscores the need to educate all sexually active people about the prevalence and prevention of STDs," said Clarke. "People must be able to recognize symptoms and communicate with partners and healthcare professionals to help reduce or prevent transmission."
 Communication and Education are Critical to Control of STDs
 ASHA's Clarke adds that study results can be applied broadly to people with other STDs. "Despite the fact that infections like genital herpes, chlamydia, gonorrhea and genital warts are very, very common," she said, "coming to terms with infection can be a lonely and isolating experience."
 Study findings also indicate that improved communication between healthcare professionals and patients can help ease the emotional burden associated with diagnosis. Study participants who sought medical attention said that they could have benefited from more discussion with physicians about emotional and sexual issues related to genital herpes.
 An open and honest exchange of information between healthcare professionals and patients is the first step to successful STD management. "While the trauma associated with the onset of an STD can prevent many people from seeking medical help, diagnosis, treatment and communication empower people with STDs to take control and regain their physical and psychological well-being," says Marcus Conant, MD, professor of dermatology at the University of California, San Francisco. "The response of survey participants receiving treatment reinforces what those of us who treat genital herpes find in clinical practice: therapy with oral acyclovir helps people manage this disease and minimize its impact on their lives."
 The study authors concluded that survey results were very similar, although not directly comparable, to those collected in 1979, when ASHA surveyed 7,500 herpes newsletter readers. The similar findings of these two surveys indicate that social stigma is still associated with this disease, despite significant advances in treatment and the recent shift in public attention to AIDS. "Those who feel alienated and stigmatized have the greatest need for information and support," says Peggy Clarke.
 The American Social Health Association provides several resources for people who want counseling or more information about STDs. ASHA can be reached at (919)361-8400, or through the National STD Hotline -- which ASHA operates


under federal contract -- at 1-800-227-8922. ASHA is a national, non-profit organization working for the elimination of STDs through its programs of education, research and public policy.
 -0- 3/28/93/1800
 /CONTACT: Margaret Webb, American Social Health Association, 919-361-8416, or Daniel Berman of Ogilvy Adams & Rinehart, 212-880-5245, for ASHA/


CO: American Social Health Association; Burroughs Wellcome Co. ST: North Carolina IN: HEA MTC SU:

00:00 -- CHFNS1 -- 9361 03/25/93 07:33 EST
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Date:Mar 25, 1993
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