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Herpes myths are 'busted' in new campaign

Herpes myths are 'busted' in new campaign
Tuesday 20 May 2008

With genital herpes affecting almost a third of adult New Zealanders, a new campaign is seeking to dispel the myths and negate the stigma associated with the infection.

The New Zealand Herpes Foundation is running the six-week campaign to raise awareness that herpes is common, manageable and treatable.

Herpes Foundation Manager, Claire Hurst, says, "There is still a lot of misunderstanding surrounding this infection and as a result people often feel a great deal of distress when they discover they have the virus. But genital herpes is simply a skin condition 'down there' which affects tens of thousands of New Zealanders."

Up to 30 percent of adult New Zealanders have the virus that causes genital herpes. And 80 percent of these are likely to be unaware they have it because they have no symptoms, or the symptoms are so mild that it has gone unnoticed.

Another key factor is that the virus that causes genital herpes also causes facial herpes, or cold sores. And those with facial herpes – up to 80 percent of the population – can unwittingly spread the virus through oral sex, resulting in their sexual partners getting genital herpes.

"Recent studies have shown that for around one third of people with genital herpes, the infection has been caused by the HSV1 infection, which is the one that more commonly causes facial 'cold sores'," says Claire Hurst.

The fact that the virus can remain undetected for lengthy periods, and that people without symptoms can still pass it on, means a herpes diagnosis can often create uncertainty and doubt about the source of infection. This can cause problems within relationships that can be avoided if the right information is available.

"We hope this campaign will highlight that herpes is very common and any one who has ever had sex can get it. It's not about being clean, dirty, good or bad. It's about ordinary people leading ordinary lives. Understanding the facts is really important."

Alongside advertising, posters and postcards, the Herpes Foundation is also running a series of seminars, and has an online survey at aimed at building better understanding of the medical and emotional impacts of herpes.

For more information – or if you would like to discuss arranging an interview with someone who has been diagnosed with genital herpes, please contact Claire Hurst at the New Zealand Herpes Foundation on 09 433 6526 or 0274 399 440, or via email at

Seminar dates:

Herpes: Dispelling the Myths

"The Simple Truth about a Common Problem"

Auckland: Wednesday 28th May – 7-9pm
Ellerslie Park Function Centre-Great Northern Room,
80-100 Ascot Ave Greenlane East (Exit Motorway at Greenlane)
Claire Hurst: QSM NZRN Manager New Zealand Herpes Foundation
Catherine Cook: Nurse Counsellor
Dr. Nicky Perkins: Clinical Director, Auckland Sexual Health Service

Wellington: Tuesday 3rd June – 7-9pm
Mercure Hotel 355 Willis Street Wellington
Claire Hurst: QSM NZRN Manager New Zealand Herpes Foundation
Dr Jane Kennedy: Clinical Director, Wellington Sexual Health Service

Christchurch: Wednesday 4th June – 7-9pm
Châteaux on the Park, Cnr Deans Ave and Kilarnock St
Claire Hurst: QSM NZRN Manager New Zealand Herpes Foundation
Dr Edward Coughlan: Clinical Director, Christchurch Sexual Health Service


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