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Home Support Emotional Support A Look Back from an Herpes Resource Center Alumnus

A Look Back from an Herpes Resource Center Alumnus

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In honor of the 30th Anniversary of the launch of The Helper, J. Mitchell Herndon, a former Managing Director of the Herpes Resource Center, looks back on his years of HSV education and advocacy. During his tenure at ASHA, Herndon served on the editorial board of The Helper and managed the National Herpes Hotline.

As I reflect back on my years at ASHA’s Herpes Resource Center (HRC), I remember the successes and challenges we faced as individuals and as an organization. Having the luxury of working with a dedicated group of employees, interns and volunteers over the years, I was able to critically appraise the directions and intentions of the HRC and the organization as a whole, serve on the editorial board for The Helper, conduct herpes trainings and outreach for an assortment of entities, and seek out and attain collaborative relationships with other organizations for new and ongoing initiatives. Yet, my most pleasurable and productive efforts were related to the day-to-day interaction with the public and professionals.

In a typical work day, I would address biases, inaccuracies and misconceptions from the public, educators and healthcare professionals surrounding HSV; discuss the limited resources for individuals wanting straightforward and honest herpes information; address challenges of fear and stigma from and toward those affected; and communicate how simple knowledge of the virus was the key in dealing with any concerns.Working in the field for more than 11 years accentuated for me the importance of providing necessary programs for the public in a non-alarmist, unbiased manner.

Two items stick out from my memory – the evolution of technology and the diverse individuals who would utilize our services. Regarding technology, we moved from having just hotlines and support groups to the Internet, e-mail, live chat, and 24-hour message boards. My, how times did change as a result of technology! In terms of diversity, the individuals we served spanned all races, ages, and income levels throughout this country and abroad. The common misconception that herpes only affects certain people would quickly be squashed by anyone working at the HRC.

As far as working with professionals and healthcare practitioners, I was able to participate in such efforts as discussion groups surrounding risk reduction and overall sexual health, assist in strategic planning sessions such as those geared toward increasing accessibility of herpes type-specific testing, convene with nurse practitioners to discuss the importance of addressing the specific needs of youth, minority women, and pregnant women, and take part in scientific advisory committee meetings dealing with an array of herpes topics.

Contributing to the development and availability of herpes resources in public and professional forums can have far reaching benefits to communities that rely on quality service and information. My hope is that the HRC and ASHA will continue their role in the field and contribute to a positive impact at the local, state, national and international levels.


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