Herpes simplex virus: ‘to disclose or not to disclose.’ An exploration of the multi-disciplinary team’s role in advising patients about disclosure when diagnosed with genital herpes simplex virus

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Abstract

The first UK prosecution for genital herpes simplex virus (HSV) transmission in 2011 attracted strong criticism from medical experts. To address the dearth of research on the topic, this study aimed to explore the nature of advice given to patients by the multidisciplinary team (MDT) in the West of Scotland on HSV disclosure to partners. Ten semi-structured interviews with members of the MDT were conducted and the interviews were analysed using Burnard’s Thematic Content Analysis. Four themes emerged which explored practitioners’ knowledge of HSV and their feelings regarding the emotional aspects of the diagnosis on clients including the challenges of discussing disclosure. Within this framework, participants’ attitudes to the legal prosecution were also surveyed. This study revealed that participants had good knowledge about HSV. Furthermore, participants believed disclosure to be the patient’s choice and had not altered their practice to advise disclosure to all partners in accordance with local protocol. However, there was a general consensus that disclosure was not required due to the prevalence of HSV and prevalence was used to dissipate emotional reactions to HSV diagnosis.

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