March 24th, 2007
For immediate release
Contact: Tamela at firstname.lastname@example.org
One Million Coloradans without Support
Imagine a contagious disease that affects over one million Coloradans and, according to the American Social Health Association, up to 90% of them may not even know they have it. Even more disconcerting, those who know they have it often live in denial or self-imposed isolation due to the social stigma surrounding the disease. They are often depressed, afraid and, especially in Colorado, without many resources to cope.
This disease affects all socioeconomic classes, races and ages. A study conducted in affluent cities across America, including Denver, by GlaxoSmithKline in 2004 discovered that 25.5% of participants carried the disease, though less than half knew that they had it. The study was for genital herpes.
According to the CDC, one in four adults has the disease. That is over 60 million Americans, including approximately one million Coloradans. Many people think the disease only strikes people of low character. So it may be a surprise to hear the demographics of this GSK study in affluent Denver neighborhoods. “Eighty percent were employed full- or part-time, 74 percent had some college or higher education, 45 percent had a household income of $60,000 or higher….” The herpes rate for this population was similar to the national average between 20-25%.
The odds are that everyone has a friend or family member with the disease. Most are too ashamed or afraid to talk about it. For many people, being diagnosed with herpes feels like a social death sentence. A study in the Canadian Journal of CME showed that over a quarter of herpes sufferers have had suicidal thoughts due to getting the disease. Almost seventy percent feel isolated, depressed and afraid. And, unfortunately for Coloradans there is very little support to help them cope with lifestyle and social changes after diagnosis.
Recently, a local group, ColoradoHfriends.com has been expanding its efforts to create a safe environment for herpes sufferers. This group offers free social events for people with herpes. It utilizes the internet for anonymous online discussions, education, dating and social activities.
For someone who has been hiding from the world, this group can be a lifeline to more normal social interaction. “Knowing that everyone else here has the disease is so comforting.” Says Al, 42, “I was made to feel welcome immediately. Everyone is so nice. You quickly forget why we all came together in the first place.”
The group encourages questions and education about living with the disease. They bring in therapists and other health practitioners to address concerns. More than anything, meeting other people with the disease provides much needed solace. Knowing that there are options for dating and socializing, without the judgment that can happen in regular social situations, allows herpes sufferers to get back to a more normal lifestyle. Tammy, 34 said about her experience with the group, “I have met so many great people in this group! I now realize that I don’t have to be alone due to having something as common as genital herpes.”