Saturday, July 12, 2008

Gender and Well-Being: Herpes

Missed a post but this replaces Friday's and end the series on Well-Being.

Black communities and communities of color and lack of affluence have suffered horrible injustices related to health disparities. The legacy of the Tuskeegee Syphillis experiments is one of the worst reminders within the black community.

Today another health disparity lurks within our community and whites/outsiders are not the culprit though historical legacy of racism around health certainly is a factor. Herpes.

Attention on the viral infection known as Herpes should be a major concern for the average sexually-active black man or women than perhaps AIDS/HIV. Why? Because Herpes Simplex I and II are often difficult to detect. THough you may experience tingling sensations and lesions around your buttocks, suffer unusual breakdowns in your immune system akin to flu like symptoms, or have sores appear on your face, many show no symptoms not unlike Syphillis.

As a result, Herpes is easily transmitted. Some report that as few as 1 in 5 or as many as 1 in 8 are infected with the disease in the general population in the U.S. Herpes is incurable though not terminal. It is a silent and unnoticable health risk in relationships with black men and/or women. It is particularly a public health concern among sexually-active black teens.

According to
Oral herpes, an infection caused by the herpes simplex virus, is estimated to be present in 50 to 80 percent of the American adult population. 20 percent, over 50 million people, are infected with genital herpes, also caused by the herpes simplex virus, and the majority of these cases may be unaware they even have it. Studies show that more than 500,000 Americans are diagnosed with genital herpes each year, and the largest increase is occurring in young teens.

There is no cure for herpes to date. Supporting your immune system should be your first goal. A weakened immune system is more prone to outbreaks. Efforts to develop a herpes vaccine by biotechnology companies are ongoing. Until an effective herpes vaccine or cure for HSV infection is found, the prevailing approach to treatment continues to be suppressive antiviral therapy.
A website tracking AIDS reported in 2006 called AIDSMAP stated:
  • "the prevalence of genital herpes is two times greater in African Americans than among whites with as many as 50% of African Americans infected.

  • 'Our data confirm that African American men are approximately twice as likely as white men to be infected with HSV-2', write the investigators."
Another website stated:
Women (in general) were more likely to test positive for Herpes Simplex Virus Type II (HSV-2), the virus strain associated with genital herpes. Researcher Sara Head also found that African-Americans and those less fearful of HSV-2 were more likely to test positive for HSV-2. Sara Head is a research assistant at the University of Kentucky College of Public Health
From Wikipedia:
For genital herpes, condoms are highly effective in limiting transmission of herpes simplex infection. however condoms are not completely effective. The virus cannot pass through latex, but a condom's effectiveness is somewhat limited on a public health scale by their limited use in the community, and on an individual scale because the condom may not completely cover blisters on the penis of an infected male, or the base of the penis or testicles not covered by the condom may come into contact with free virus in vaginal fluid of an infected female.
One website indicated two critical issues:
  • Infection triples the risk of acquiring AIDS from an HIV-infected person
  • Treatment cuts the odds of transmission in half
All these indicators suggest that we don't talk about Herpes in productive or informative ways not only in the black community, but in my experience in our relationships. Nor have I ever really talked about it in my dating, with sexual partners or other until now. It's a topic barely mentioned on online dating profiles. Disease-free hides any attempt at that publicly. It's the thing that is NOT said that matters. I intend to keep this matter public and raise it ongoingly.

QUESTION FOR COMMENT: How would you begin this conversation? Can we really afford to keep it so secret anymore? And what should we discuss next week as a theme? Any suggestions?


1 comment:

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