Managing The Herpes Stigma

Managing the herpes stigma can be done in many different ways but most people tend to manage it in one or more of these different methods: Secrecy, Withdrawal,Covering,Informing, or Disclosing

Secrecy is the most popular method that people use. But keeping genital herpes a secret has negative effects on a person’s mental awareness and may lead to stress and anxiety from fear of the constant threat of being discredited.

Withdrawal is another common method that people use especially when handling social issues such as dating or meeting someone new. A person with genital herpes may altogether remove themselves from social situations in which the herpes stigma can become apparent. This may involve withdrawing from situations that physical intimacy is anticipated.

Covering is a method where a person with genital herpes makes attempts to deflect their virus and enable others to be more comfortable with the condition.People will often tell jokes or present an open acknowledgement of their condition. This method will ‘grant permission’ to others to either accept it and move the issue to the background or reject it and move on.

Informing is a method of telling others about the genital herpes virus in a thoughtful manner. Individuals who anticipate that their genital herpes will become obvious over time should consider using this method. An example of this is when someone who has been diagnosed with genital herpes should inform their future sex partners about their condition. They may also have to inform past sexual partners if their unique situation warrants it.


Managing the herpes stigma can also occur through disclosure, which may be protective, spontaneous or preventive.

Protective disclosure is usually a planned event where the person controls the situation and how they reveal their condition.

A spontaneous disclosure is often known as an “emotional outburst” in which a person’s herpes is revealed. This often leads to regret.

Preventive disclosure occurs when a person with genital herpes believe that they are at risk of being discredited. Rather than risk being exposed, the person chooses to disclose their condition under the belief that by doing so they can change the negative perceptions of themselves.


Medical Community Should Take Responsibility in Managing The Herpes Stigma

The medical community and the CDC should take note and use their understanding of the psychological and social consequences of the herpes stigma to expand the scope of treatment beyond disease management and include managing and caring for the entire person who has the herpes simplex virus.

Like the stigma associated with cancer that was lingering not so long ago, the stigma surrounding genital herpes has changed through the decades and will continue to change through the influence of the herpes community, the mainstream media and with new treatments being discovered.

There was a time when society looked upon someone who was diagnosed with cancer as a walking corpse. It was only through a cancer community outcry, education and protesting did the stigma finally fade.

It took years to develop the stigma and it took years to reverse. These strategies have worked before and they will work again but only if the herpes community unites, stands up and demand that our voices be heard.

Our goals should not focus on seeing immediate results from managing the herpes stigma but rather develop a long-term vision that’s free from the herpes stigma altogether.


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