A 2008 study featured in the June issue of “Sexually Transmitted Diseases”, shows that an astonishing number of sexually active Americans living in New York have sexually transmitted infections and are not aware of having these infections. New Yorkers have higher rates of sexually transmitted infections including genital herpes (herpes simplex type 2), Chlamydia, gonorrhea, and infectious syphilis compared with the national average, according to this research project.
The focus of this study, conducted by lead researcher Dr Julia Schillinger, MD, Director of Surveillance for the City’s Health Department’s Bureau of STD Prevention and Control and her team, was genital herpes (or herpes simplex type 2, also known as HSV-2). Herpes simplex type 2 is a sexually transmitted disease (infection) that will last throughout the infected person’s life. There is no cure. Once infected, the virus will remain in the body in a latent state and will reactivate once or twice a year. While this infection may go underdiagnosed because it may cause mild or no symptoms, the main concern of the researchers is the association with HIV. Genital herpes infections also significantly increases the chance of spreading HIV. A person exposed to herpes simplex virus type 2 basically doubles the risk of contracting HIV, say the researchers.
The result of this study is based on data collected from surveying almost 2000 New Yorkers. Out of these individuals age 20 or older, 1,784 were tested for HSV-2 and the infection rate was 26% in New Yorkers, compared with 19% among American adults overall. This data also shows that women were more affected than men (36% compared with 19%), more African-Americans compared with whites (49% and 14 % respectively) and more homosexual men compared with heterosexual men (32% compared with 18% ).
Another concerning fact discovered during this study was that as many as 80% of the infected adults were undiagnosed. Because of this shocking finding, the researchers believe that HSV screening, counseling on sexually transmitted diseases, the use of condoms, and medical treatment should all be improved in New York. According to statistics from 2007 alone, over 65,000 cases of sexually transmitted infections were reported to the city’s health department. As a result, the City’s Health Department advised that all at-risk New Yorkers be vigilant in checking for genital sores and to see a doctor for an evaluation. They also recommended free testing for HSV-2 for all those who have sores or if they live with a partner infected with HSV-2 or HIV.
In order to proactively prevent infections with HSV, obviously abstinence is the best protection. However, in adults, that recommendation is not realistic. Therefore, the second best prevention is to use condoms correctly and on a regular basis. New Yorkers can get free NYC condoms at many prominent locations in the city. Extra precautions are also necessary if the partner has active herpetic lesions, although, an infected person without active, visible skin lesions can infect a healthy person too. Consult a physician to learn more about anti-viral medications that may help and just as importantly, investigate the natural supplements and products such as coconut oil and grapefruit seed extract, just to name a few.
“Seroprevalence of Herpes Simplex Virus Type 2 and Characteristics Associated With Undiagnosed Infection: New York City, 2004.”
Schillinger, Julia A; McKinney, Christy M; Garg, Renu; Gwynn, R Charon; White, Kellee; Lee, Francis; Blank, Susan; Thorpe, Lorna; and Frieden, Thomas.
Sexually Transmitted Diseases, 35(6):599-606, June 2008.