Removing Herpes Social Obstacles

In the midst of concerns over AIDS, many ask, "What ever happened to herpes?" Many who don't have it, that is. The "Disease of the Decade" in 70s' magazines has now been relegated to second-class status because, after all, it doesn't kill you. Meanwhile the physical and emotional pain of this virus continues on, residing in nerves near the spine, migrating every so often to the skin supplied by these nerves, blistering and shedding at varying intervals. It was all the rage of discussion back when "sexually transmitted diseases" were called "venereal," after Venus, the goddess of love.

Stigmata of promiscuity labeled those afflicted, and it was viewed by the self-righteous as the come-uppance for those who sought the sex-and-drugs-and-rock-and-roll lifestyle of the 90210 set. A new class was prejudiciously looked upon as scourged by those who escaped infection. But although the herpes "class" was readily discussed in social circles, the individuals remained unseen, unknown, and uncured.

The battles a patient with herpes fights is on two fronts--the medical and the social. On the medical front, the advances in treatment for this viral infection has been somewhat disappointing. Acyclovir and its related derivatives have been able to lessen the severity of outbreaks and perhaps lengthen the intervals between them, but do not eradicate the virus. The medicine is expensive and maintenance involves daily medicines year in and year out. On the social front, infection with herpes is an educational experience, making people exquisitely sensitive to the permanent ramifications of the adult act of sex. For a generation those single men and women with herpes have sought what everyone else wants¡Va partner, spouse, and family. But they wore on their consciences a scarlet letter.

Enter the Internet--Herpes Awareness

I saw a patient the other day who informed me of a trend that I wasn't aware of. She told me that since she had herpes, she only wanted to date those who were also afflicted. In this way she would not unfairly expose someone to it if a relationship were to blossom, and at the same time she would be curtailing the disease in the world in general. In stark contrast to what those in glass houses feel about the disease is the fact that for the most part people with herpes are good and want to do good and have a conscience. If the passage of time has put the "Disease of the 70s" on the back burner, it has also mitigated the stigmata to such a degree that people who need people don't mind a registry of sorts in which to meet others with this condition.

Think about this. If a single woman or man meets someone interesting, at what point is it appropriate to ask, "Oh, by the way, do you have herpes, too?" You could imagine the social pressure to not ruin a good start, combined with the ethical pressure to do the right thing.

On the Internet there are news groups for Star Trek fans, user groups for Barney, forums for medical specialists, and so on. For the first time in the history of the world, people are interrelating by identifying with each other in every conceivable way. And now this has happened with herpes. People with herpes can meet people with this criterion sorted out on the front end, allowing them to seek natural relationships unfettered by all of the wrong psychodynamics. The hindrances of deep, dark secrets can be eliminated by putting the diagnosis of herpes on a shelf so that a relationship can flourish the old fashioned way--based on respect and devotion.


For information on the Yahoo! Club site, the New Orleans HELP group can be contacted at 733-5104. This is where the STD Hotline refers local callers. Their address is P.O. Box 55811, Metairie, LA 70055-5811.

The local social group for the greater New Orleans area and Gulf South has a web site at:

Another site with links to support and social resources is at:



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