Psychosocial Impact of a Positive HSV-2 Diagnosis on Adults with Unrecognized HSV-2 Infection


Hayley Mark, Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing, 525 North Wolfe Street, Baltimore, MD 21205-2110. E-mail:


ABSTRACT Objective: To evaluate the current research on the psychosocial impact of a positive herpes simplex virus type 2 (HSV-2) diagnosis on asymptomatic adults.

Design and Sample: A structured review of PubMed, CINAHL, and MEDLINE resulted in 8 articles published between 2000 and 2008.

Measures: Articles were included if they investigated psychosocial reactions to HSV serological testing, including asymptomatic individuals, and used measurement instruments with adequate psychometric properties.

Results: The studies included participants of various backgrounds, including individuals with a new HSV-2 diagnosis concurrently receiving human immunodeficiency virus treatment, students within a university setting, and an HMO population. Current research indicates that a diagnosis of HSV-2 does not result in persistent psychosocial morbidity. However, studies that assessed for more nuanced reactions noted an impact on quality of life related to herpes.

Conclusions: Further research is needed to confirm these findings among varied populations, to explore quality of life following HSV screening, and to identify the characteristics that may make particular individuals more susceptible to adverse psychological consequences.