The Stigma of Herpes Can Lead to Poor Treatment Options and Mental Health Problems

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A natural treatment offers those infected with herpes a new way to seek care

 

Breaking down some of the opposition is a natural alternative heralded as the first treatment option that has proven to be more effective than the antiviral competition.  Of course this is not without it’s challenges, after all how can a Doctor or pharmaceutical medications prescribe or recommend a natural treatment that’s not off the pharmacists shelf.  Although it does provide a more accessible and affordable alternative.  For those that are accustomedto take what the doctor ordered, breaking down some of those stereotypes and generalisations that only pharmaceutical prescribed medications are the only option takes time. 

 

Of all the STIs a person could contract, HIV was once the most controversial and least understood.  But over time, due to better treatment options and medical breakthroughs[1], that stigma has decreased considerably. Despite this cultural evolution, however, the same compassion hasn’t been extended to herpes sufferers.

 

Herpes is a less visible and less severe STI – it’s not the “squeaky wheel” that gets the oil.  In turn, there’s a general lack of understanding about the disease, including what it does to the body, how it’s contracted, and how it alters the patient’s life.  Herpes sufferers face a lot of social stigma as a result.

 

An age-old stigma

The fearmongering and misinformation date back nearly 50 years.  A 1973 TIME magazine[2] article deemed herpes “today’s scarlet letter”.  Fast forward to today and views have barely changed.  A 2015 article from Verywell Health[3] showed the search term “herpes dirty” produced 600,000 results, with many substituting the word dirty for herpes.

 

In entertainment, herpes sufferers are widely ridiculed.  Shows like The Office, Broad City, Family Guy, and Bob’s Burgers have worked herpes jokes into their episodes over the years. And quite often, these jokes focus on inaccurate information about the virus and reinforce the idea that herpes patients are tainted.

 

These negative views of herpes sufferers can have serious consequences.  Of the estimated 12% of Americans who’ve contracted HSV-2, 4 in 5 haven’t been officially diagnosed[4] because they refuse to get tested.  Their fear of the stigma far outweighs the benefits of seeking treatment.

 

Even after being properly diagnosed, there’s still the sense of shame and disappointment that many patients feel afterward.  For example, NPR profiled a patient[5] named Adrial Dale, who first learned of his diagnosis in 2015.  In the article, Dale referred to the virus as a “death sentence to my love life”.  He eventually went on to create Herpes Opportunity, an online community and retreat for herpes-positive people.  But his initial reaction – of fear and shame – is quite common among herpes patients and many of them fail to move on to more a positive mental state.

 

Herpes and mental health

In the first few weeks, or even months, after the initial herpes diagnosis, patients experience a range of emotions – embarrassment, shame, anger, and depression.  Some patients can spend as long as six months processing the news and adjusting to their new reality[6].

 

Later, once the diagnosis sinks in, depression can become a serious threat to a patient’s mental health.  Health.com profiled Lee, a 32-year-old woman who had lived with the virus for 5 years at the time of publication[7].  She reported rampant outbreaks and feeling “depressed all the time” during the first year after receiving the news.  Moving forward and getting healthier required her to face the stigma head-on and talk openly about herpes with her friends and former partners.  To get a positive response and avoid judgment, she had to frame the conversation as one that would help protect the people around her.

 

Even in dealing with this major change to her health, Lee still had to consider the social stigma before seeking support from her inner circle.  She is an exception to the rule, however.  Some never get past Lee’s first-year depressive episodes, and they can feel higher levels of sexual anxiety and sexual depression[8].  The stress from these conditions can cause even more outbreaks.  Consequently, herpes sufferers may not only need treatment for herpes but also for stress, anxiety, impotence, and insomnia.

 

Though manageable and not as serious or life-altering as we’ve been led to believe, a herpes diagnosis can lead to declines in mental health and further complications with physical health.

 

Doctors aren’t always the answer

For new herpes patients, a medical doctor’s office can seem like a place of hope, where they can learn more about the virus and get the help that they need.  But no two patients have the same experience.

 

A 2004 study found that some herpes patients received prescriptions while others didn’t[9].  Different forms of testing (e.g. cultures, antibody tests, physical examinations) were used to make the diagnosis.  Some patients received additional educational resources about the virus; others didn’t.  And not every patient had an appointment that was long enough to answer their questions and make them feel at ease.

 

Furthermore, herpes isn’t usually screened for during routine STI exams.  The reasons for the omission are justifiable[10] –herpes screening can cause undue anxiety, and testing before symptoms appear doesn’t always lead to better health outcomes.  But this means herpes is the STI that’s talked about the least in medical settings, and the silence further fuels the stigma.

 

When herpes sufferers do receive treatment, they’re typically prescribed a daily antiviral that they’ll need to take year-round or an episodic antiviral that they’ll only take during an outbreak.  These antivirals can reduce the frequency and inconvenience of outbreaks, but they can’t stop them.  So, in essence, patients have to battle the social stigma around herpes to seek treatment, only to feel slightly better. Not to mention the costs and side effects associated with long term antiviral dependency. 

 

What herpes patients need is a solution that doesn’t just suppress the virus but eradicates it, and they need access to this treatment in a discreet way, on their own terms.  Synergy Pharamceuticals appears to have the first true answer in the herpes field.

 

The Combination Herpes Treatment is comprised of five natural ingredients – L-Lysine, Tribulus, Astragalus, Rhodiola, and a proprietary Unique Amino Formula.  Patients can access the treatment online without a prescription and have it sent to their homes.  And testing has shown that successful outcomes are achieved after 4-6 months of daily treatment.  No doctors, no antiviral medications, no social stigma.It’s creating a groundswell of attention in the medical industry with the first reported cases of herpes being completely cured.

 

Conclusion

Herpes patients don’t just suffer when they receive their initial diagnosis or when they have an outbreak.  They suffer every time they hear an insensitive joke or every time they reveal their status to a friend, family member, or past partner.  With Synergy’s treatment, the hope is that patients can treat the virus on their own terms and get back to living the lives they were meant to live.And perhaps they can tear down the social stigma along the way.

 

[1]Mandavilli, Apoorva. (March 4, 2019). H.I.V. Is Reported Cured in a Second Patient, a Milestone in the Global AIDS Epidemic. Retrieved from: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/03/04/health/aids-cure-london-patient.html

[2] TIME. (April 23, 1973). Medicine: The Case Against Herpes. Retrieved from: http://content.time.com/time/subscriber/article/0,33009,945246,00.html

[3]Boskey, Elizabeth. (December 13, 2019). Addressing the Consequences of Herpes Stigma. Retrieved from: https://www.verywellhealth.com/addressing-herpes-stigma-3132586

[4] Anderson, L.V. (December 2, 2019). How Herpes Became a Sexual Boogeyman. Retrieved from: https://slate.com/technology/2019/12/genital-herpes-stigma-history-explained.html

[5]Ravani, Sarah. (January 22, 2016) A Common Secret: Struggling With The Stigma Of Herpes. Retrieved from: https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2016/01/22/463845334/a-common-secret-struggling-with-the-stigma-of-herpes

 

[6] American Sexual Health Association. (2020). Emotional Issues. Retrieved from: http://www.ashasexualhealth.org/stdsstis/herpes/emotional-issues/

[7] Sloan, Louise. (February 29, 2016). Living With Herpes. Retrieved from: https://www.health.com/condition/herpes-simplex/living-with-herpes-i-was-ashamed-of-having-herpes-until-i-learned-how-to-treat-it

[8] University of California, Santa Barbara. (October 16, 2018). Psychological Issues Related to Herpes. Retrieved from: https://sexinfo.soc.ucsb.edu/article/psychological-issues-related-herpes

 

[9] Patrick, D. M., et al. (May 28, 2004). Patient satisfaction with care for genital herpes: insights from a global survey. Retrieved from: https://sti.bmj.com/content/80/3/192.info

[10] Saint Thomas, Sophie. (May 10, 2019). Here’s Why Doctors Don’t Usually Test for Herpes. Retrieved from: https://www.self.com/story/why-doctors-dont-usually-test-herpes

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