When it comes to public awareness, herpes has a pretty low profile. Even among those who have genital herpes, almost 90 percent aren’t aware of their own infection. One tried and tested way to bring attention to a health condition is to create an awareness day (or if you’re lucky, a whole month). While Herpes Awareness Day hasn’t made it on to the calendar of health observances in the U.S (yet), it has been an annual event in Australia since 2004.
According to Australian Herpes Management Forum (AHMF), an organization dedicated to improving the awareness, understanding, management and control of herpes virus infections in Australia, the purpose of National Herpes Awareness Day is “to raise awareness of herpesviruses within the Australian community, to provide facts, to break down myths and to encourage people to visit their doctor or health care provider to get screened.” The day of observance is October 13th each year.
While previous campaigns have focused on herpes “down under” (pun intended—see the AHMF 2007 campaign!) this year’s campaign focuses on kissing and oral herpes, with the aim of raising awareness about the risks involved with kissing. The campaign is promoted via public service announcements run on television from August until October. You can see these announcements yourself at the AHMF website.
The PSA includes a diverse array of kissing instances, from ones between men and women, men and men, women and women, mother to child and so on, and gives brief facts about herpes and the risk involved with kissing.
Previous AHMF awareness campaigns have won international acclaim and awards, including a New York Festival Global Award and a gold at the Rx Club of New York Awards. Whether or not the current awareness day has had a positive effect on promoting awareness about oral herpes in the community has yet to be seen, but the provocative “Kissing and Herpes” campaign seems sure to draw attention.