Out of the Darkness

Herpes Testing in HIV+ Patients
by Teddi Fine

Nine in ten people with genital herpes (HSV) probably don’t know it. Among them are at least two-thirds of people with HIV. Because the risk for one disease is amplified by the other, JHUSON assistant professors Hayley Mark, PhD, MPH, RN, and Jason Farley, PhD, MPH, RNP, and colleagues wanted to know why HSV testing for people with HIV isn’t regular practice.

The key impediment, they discovered, was insufficient awareness. In one of the first research studies on the topic, Mark and Farley analyzed data on healthcare providers working with HIV patients from the American Social Health Association (ASHA). Even in this HIV-savvy group, fewer than half knew that most people with HIV also are infected by HSV or that most often, symptoms of HSV are silent. Their findings were reported in “Providers’ knowledge, practices and barriers related to genital herpes testing for patients with HIV,” [Journal of the Association of Nurses in AIDS Care, July/August 2010].

Mark observes, “We need to better educate healthcare providers who, in turn, can educate their patients. Patients with HIV need to know that if they have HSV too, it can be transmitted to their partners. And if they don’t now have HSV, they are at heightened risk for acquiring it unless they practice safe sex.”

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