The Influence of STI Status on Romantic and Sexual Behavior Intentions

Thornton, Paul
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[Honolulu] : [University of Hawaii at Manoa], [December 2015]
It is estimated that approximately 90% of the world population has contracted oral herpes, genital herpes, or both (Wald & Corey, 2007). Although the prevalence of herpes may seem alarming, it rarely causes any serious health problems (Fanfair et al., 2013). Despite the ubiquity and typically harmless nature of herpes, the genital variety in particular is highly socially stigmatized, evoking significant psychosocial distress in those who acquire it (Kimberlin & Rouse, 2004). While research has tended to focus on internalized and anticipated stigma experienced by those who have contracted genital herpes, as well as ways of decreasing transmission of the virus, enacted stigma has largely been ignored. The present study examined the influence of herpes status on romantic and sexual behavior intentions by randomly assigning participants to see targets that were said to either have oral herpes, genital herpes, or no herpes. Differences between social stigma associated with oral and genital herpes were also compared. Results indicate that respondents are significantly less willing to pursue romantic relationships or have sex with targets who are described as having oral or genital herpes compared with targets not described as having herpes of either type. Results further indicate that, while stigma associated with genital herpes is greater than stigma associated with oral herpes, both herpes types appear to be highly stigmatized. Findings and suggestions for future research are discussed.
Ph.D. University of Hawaii at Manoa 2015.
Includes bibliographical references.
genital herpes, enacted stigma, HSV-2, oral herpes, social stigma, stigma theory
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