Herpes: Folklore, Fear and Realities

Speaker/Social Researcher at LA Valley College
Dec. 21, 2016

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Herpes: Folklore, Fear and Realities

  1. Herpes: Folklore, Fear & Realities Leanna Wolfe, PhD The Society for the Scientific Study of Sexuality November 19, 2016 – Phoenix, AZ
  2. Herpes Basics • Two types of viruses : Herpes Simplex 1 and Herpes Simplex 2 • HSV1 is typically found on the face • HSV2 is typically found below the waist (genitals, anus, etc.) • Fluids in Herpes sores contain the virus • Contact with the sores can spread it to others • Herpes can also be spread asymptomatically • 80% of people who have herpes do not know that they have it • 90% of the US Population has been exposed to HSV1 • By adolescence 62% of Americans are infected • 85% of Americans over 60 are infected • 20-30% of the US Population has genital herpes • 50% of single US women aged 40-50 have genital herpes
  3. What Does Herpes Look Like? Oral Lesion Genital Lesions
  4. When Herpes is Serious • Childbirth • A baby passing through the birth canal of a symptomatic mother can be blinded, go into a coma and potentially die. • Lesions can be a portal for spreading HIV-AIDS
  5. Herpes as a Social Problem Prior to the 1970s cold sores were not considered social problems. Drug companies manufacturing remedies needed to create a market for a condition that had never before been regarded as a stigmatized social disease.
  6. Time Magazine: August 1982
  7. Herpes Internet Survey • 534 Respondents • March 2009 – November 2014 • No Funding or Sponsorship • Voluntary Anonymous Participation • Those “with” and “without” Herpes Invited to Participate • Designed to Explore Fuzzy Beliefs and Practices • 28 Questions • Toggles for those with HSV1 and HSV2
  8. Survey Demographics • 42.9% Male • 54.5% Female • 2.6% Transgender • 29% Single (US Census 27%) • 33.5% Married (US Census 48%) • 16.8% Living with a Lover • 20.7% Living Separately from Partner • 43.8% report being Herpes-free • 56.2% report having Herpes • 27% report having Oral Herpes (cold sores) • 28% report having Genital Herpes (representative of U.S. Population)
  9. Correct answer
  10. Closest to correct
  11. Under a microscope the two strains look almost identical. Evolutionarily they separated when humans started to have face-face sex. HSV1 typically remains dormant in the nerve cells at the base of the neck, while HSV2 lodges at the base of the spine. More than 30% of new genital infections are HSV1.
  12. Conclusions • One third of the respondents were accurate as to the high percentage (90%) of Americans that have oral herpes • Half of respondents were accurate regarding the 20-30 % of Americans that have genital herpes • Two-thirds of people without herpes contend that there are no conditions under which they would have sex with people with herpes • Most respondents with oral herpes have had the virus since childhood; greater numbers of respondents acquired genital herpes over the last 10 years
  13. Conclusions • Suppression drug therapy and stress reduction are the most common approaches for outbreak prevention. • While pharmaceutical therapies are used by more than half the respondents, close to 30% do nothing to treat their lesions. • Top safer sex practices include using barrier methods (condoms, dental dams) and avoiding sexual contact during outbreaks. Other popular practices include taking suppression therapy pharmaceuticals. • So much hysteria has been created that nearly 80% of respondents would absolutely seek to be vaccinated against herpes if it were possible.
  14. Considerations… • Doctors do not typically test for herpes as part of sti panels due to its high concentration in the population; many people carry it without expression of lesions. • Pharmaceutical companies created herpes as a condition that required treatment in the early 1980s. • HSV1 and HSV2 are nearly identical, sharing a common evolutionary history. HSV2 has been stigmatized due to America’s prudish attitudes towards sexuality. • Dating challenges for midlife and older widows and divorcees who are new to the world of herpes. • One theory contends that herpes is in fact dormant in most of us and first onsets are not caused by having contact with an infected partner, but rather by other factors such as stress.