Objective The aim of the study was to evaluate the lay public’s portrayal of disclosure of Herpes simplex virus (HSV) infection.
Methods The Australian Herpes Management Forum and Novartis Pharmaceuticals organised an on-line contest in 2011, challenging contestants to develop 30-second videos addressing ‘how you tell a partner you have HSV’ given that ‘for many people shame and stigma are so overwhelming that they don’t feel comfortable talking about it.’
Results Sixty-three videos were analysed for the following thematic content regarding disclosure: motivation, strategies/logistics and timing/context. The portrayed motivations included: no reason not to disclose, given the ease of disease management; to be consistent with values (e.g., respect, honesty); or to avoid the risk of accidental ‘outing’. Other videos only commanded disclosure without providing a rationale. With regards to strategies and logistics, most disclosures occurred in a private or semi-private setting, often of a romantic/intimate nature and in a direct manner. However, some used an indirect/non-verbal approach (e.g., giving a pamphlet or as part of a game). A few showed consideration of the partner’s need for time to respond. A few showed the individual practising disclosure. The timing and context of disclosure varied and was often unclear; however, some videos demonstrated disclosure occurring post-coitally.
Conclusions Some video creators viewed disclosure as occurring in romantic settings, post-coitally, and in a non-direct manner, all of which are not consistent with traditional counselling messages. Disclosing in a romantic setting and in non-direct ways may be reasonable; it would still be desirable for disclosure to occur pre-coitally. Understanding these differences may help develop counselling messages that resonate with patient expectations and are more effective in promoting disclosure. Future research should collect patient experiences and perceived outcomes of disclosure in terms of the setting, method, and timing of disclosure.