Held in Atlanta this year, the 2010 National STD Conference included a variety of speakers ranging from the new Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Dr. Thomas Friedman, to YouTube personality Kicesie Drew, who has reached millions using the video sharing site to discuss sexual health. The diversity of this year’s session did not end with the speakers. The topics discussed were diverse too and ranged from correctional health to changes and innovations in health communication.
But one of the most notable happenings at the session was the unveiling of a recent study that found 1 in 6 Americans aged 14-49 has HSV-2 and a 48% HSV-2 infection rate amongst African American women.
These results generated a buzz in the media and on Internet message boards. Below is a sampling of the response to the study results:
I stumbled across this disturbing bombshell yesterday afternoon while researching another column and was stopped cold. Without any fanfare, the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta released the startling fact that 48 percent of African-American women are infected with the herpes virus.
-- Jenice Armstrong Philadelphia Daily News Columnist
I don't think that there's any evidence that there's more promiscuous behavior, that we have as significant number of sexual partners over a lifetime. So, I would not agree that that is the case. I do think that what I've seen in my practice is that young women often don't protect themselves in the way that they should protect themselves. I find that there is lot of guilt and shame when it comes to sex and talking about sex.
--Dr. Hilda Hutcherson (Clinical Professor, Obstetrics and Gynecology, Columbia University) in interview posted on NPR.org
This study serves as a stark reminder that herpes remains a common and serious health threat in the United States. Everyone should be aware of the symptoms, risk factors and steps that can be taken to prevent the spread of this lifelong and incurable infection.
--Dr. Kevin Fenton, director of the CDC's National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD and TB Prevention, on CNN.com
We can't afford to be complacent about this disease. It is important that persons with symptoms suggestive of herpes -- especially recurrent sores in the genital area -- seek clinical care to determine if these symptoms may be due to herpes and might benefit from treatment.
--Dr. John M. Douglas Jr., director of the CDC's Division of STD Prevention.
How disappointing. I couldn't make it to the conference this year. But last time there was a little more focus on "How can you prevent transmission if we don't know who has it in the first place?" I don't like that they are focusing the diagnosis and prevention burden primarily on those who get symptoms. What about the 80-90% who don't have obvious symptoms?! Shouldn't they know their status as well? Shouldn't they be diagnosed and take steps to prevent transmission too?
--Posted by muffin ~ GHSV1 since 1986, on the Original Herpes Home Page
Responses to the results are divergent with the only synchronism being the fact that people are talking about genital herpes. We applaud conversation, and in fact encourage it. But with any conversation we do encourage people to read up on the topic at hand and to not only accept the statistics but to ask why this is so, and what can be done to encourage change? We also acknowledge the unfortunate backlash of these findings and the reinforcement of stigma it may generate. However, we hope that some will use this as opportunity to educate others on genital herpes as a foil for stigma.
In light of these recent findings from the conference, we brought the conference to you-well sort of. Our subscribers may view exclusive excerpts from the session titled “Doing Herpes Care Better.” This session included several notable herpes experts including Terri Warren, RN, ANP of the Westover Heights Clinic in Portland, Oregon, Peter Leone, MD of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and H. Hunter Handsfield, MD University of Washington, Seattle. What do you think about the findings and the buzz they generated? What are your opinions on what can be done to reduce the prevalence of genital herpes? What are your opinions on the session “Doing Herpes Care Better?”
Video of H. Hunter Handsfield, MD
Video of Terri Warren, RN, ANP
Video of Peter Leone, MD