Article Text


Social and behavioural aspects of prevention poster session 9: Women
P2-S9.14 A qualitative, longitudinal study of post-diagnosis reactions among HSV-2 serologic positive women
  1. J E Brand1,
  2. B Van Der Pol2
  1. 1Marion County Health Department, Ball State University, New Palestine, USA
  2. 2Indiana University Medical Center & IU-Bloomington, Bloomington, USA


Background Herpes simplex virus type 2, the main cause of genital herpes, is found worldwide among populations. US National seroprevalence is estimated at 16.2%, with highest rates among women (20.9%) & non-Hispanic blacks (39.2%). Medical consequences of HSV-2 infection includes a two- to five-fold increased risk for HIV 1 transmission & neonatal herpes. The advent of type-specific HSV serologic tests offers accurate methods of diagnosis for those who are asymptomatic. However, diagnosis of HSV-2 has been noted to be distressing for those who are asymptomatic & unaware of infection. The purpose of this study is to understand social & emotional impact of HSV-2 serodiagnosis on asymptomatic women over time.

Methods Purposeful sampling was conducted & 28 women, newly diagnosed as HSV-2 serologic positive & asymptomatic, were recruited from a Midwestern STD clinic & urban community court. A series of three open-ended interviews were conducted over 6-month period. Interviews were audio recorded & transcribed. Important areas explored: emotional & social responses to diagnosis; motivations for (non) disclosure of HSV-2 status; exploration of sexual behaviour post-diagnosis; use of condoms & suppressive therapy. Qualitative analysis was done using manual coding.

Results Age of participants ranged from 19 to 61 yrs. Majority were African-American (71%) with 21% white. No participants reported knowledge of HSV-2 status at diagnosis. Five themes emerged during analysis of first interviews: rumination & disclosure anxiety; knowledge deficit anxiety; stigmatisation & alteration in self-concept; fear/apprehension regarding future; impact on sexuality & partnering. With analysis of 6-month interviews there was an iteration of two themes--alteration in self-concept & impact on sexuality & partnering. Of 23 participants who completed three interviews-22% had no plans for sex after diagnosis, 39% never disclosed HSV-2 status to partners & 56% never used suppressive therapy.

Conclusions Findings suggest that despite increased public information related to HSV-2, initial diagnosis remains traumatic, & for a small percentage anxiety lingers for at least 6 months. Providers should be aware of need for written information targeted to non-clinicians & that further follow-up should be initiated after diagnosis to reinforce learning, clarify concerns, counsel & support. Providers should plan additional time for client integration of diagnosis, implications & questions.

Statistics from

Request permissions

If you wish to reuse any or all of this article please use the link below which will take you to the Copyright Clearance Center’s RightsLink service. You will be able to get a quick price and instant permission to reuse the content in many different ways.