Objective: To compare and contrast attitudes and behaviours of family doctors and patients with regard to genital herpes and its management.
Methods: Family doctors and infected patients were surveyed online to explore disease importance/seriousness, emotional impact, transmission and treatment. The study received ethics approval.
Results: 400 patients and 200 doctors participated. Doctors estimated the emotional impact of genital herpes to be higher than did patients. Patient distress increased with recurrences and more recent diagnosis. Doctors and patients underestimated the risk of transmission during periods of asymptomatic viral shedding, 45% and 51%, respectively. Doctors reported that 74% of their patients were taking medication, whereas only 29% of patients reported use of anti-virals. Doctors reported discussing suppressive therapy with 59% of patients, whereas only 25% of patients recalled such a discussion. Only 40% of patients were aware that daily anti-viral therapy was available to reduce the risk of transmission. The most compelling reason for high interest in suppressive therapy was to reduce the frequency or severity of outbreaks (62%).
Conclusions: Although doctor and patient attitudes and behaviours coincide in a number of areas, there are many areas of misalignment. This presents opportunities for education and improvement in the management of genital herpes.
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Presented in part at the 17th International Society for Sexually Transmitted Disease Research, Seattle, Washington, USA, July 2007, poster 395.
Funding: Financial support: GlaxoSmithKline Inc, Canada
Competing interests: BR is a consultant for GlaxoSmithKline and has received research funds and honoraria for speaking engagements from them. YMZ and STO are employed by an independent market research company and have received consulting fees from GlaxoSmithKline to conduct the fieldwork for this study as well as to consult on the methodology, analysis and preparation of the journal article.
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