- registered charity 291657
June 2004 - STI helplines under the microscope - survey findings reveal that callers are often misled about a common infection
New research results demonstrated that up to 46 per cent of people are being given incorrect information about herpes simplex (the virus that causes cold sores and genital herpes), and that only 54 per cent of people are given correct or partly correct information. This was presented at the recent second joint conference of the British Association of Sexual Health and HIV and the American Sexually Transmitted Diseases Association in Bath.
The research carried out by the Herpes Viruses Association (HVA) gave mystery callers four background stories and sets of questions and gave them eight helplines to contact. The replies were assessed for accuracy of information and for a dispassionate and non-judgemental attitude, as many people with herpes simplex perceive that they are being judged as being dirty.
It was found that the most accurate helplines work office hours only. Others operate a call back service, which is inappropriate because many sufferers say that their questions about sexual health need to made in private, and that they would prefer helplines that offer an evening service and do not insist that personal details are provided.
Nearly 80 per cent of people with herpes simplex are traumatised, depressed or suicidal on diagnosis.
“It is very worrying that so many people are being given incorrect information at precisely the time when reassurance and facts could transform their outlook”, comments Marian Nicholson, Director of the HVA “Many people suffer emotionally and psychologically when this is quite unnecessary. Our survey demonstrates that people are crying out for factual, unbiased information.”
In response, the Herpes Viruses Association (HVA) has published a new, updated patient leaflet, which aims to reduce the stigma associated with the virus and correctly inform people of the facts and myths. The leaflet provides details of the HVA helpline. It operates out side of office hours so that people can call at a time that suits them best.
Marian continued: “The leaflet will be effective in tackling people’s concerns and misconceptions about the virus.”
Helpline for the general public:
The Herpes Viruses Association exists to promote better mental and physical health with regard to the family of herpes viruses. Our aims are: