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PLoS One. 2017 Jun 27;12(6):e0179969. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0179969. eCollection 2017.

Herpes simplex virus 1 and 2 educational assessment of young adults in rural southwest Virginia.

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Department of Population Health Sciences, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Blacksburg, VA, United States of America.



Herpes simplex virus 2 (HSV-2) causes genital herpes, one of the most common sexually transmitted infections (STIs) in the U.S. HSV-1, commonly associated with cold sores, is increasing as a cause of genital herpes. Abstinence-only sexual health classes, commonly taught in Virginia, generate young adults who are under-educated in sexual health, increasing STI risks. College students in southwest Virginia were surveyed to assess comprehensiveness of high school health education regarding HSV-1 and HSV-2 and to identify students' preferred methods for STI education.


To obtain data on knowledge of HSV, comprehensiveness of sexual health education in high school, and preferred learning methods, 237 college students participated in an online questionnaire and 28 students were interviewed using structured interviews.


Questionnaire and interview data indicated that Family Life Education classes need to include more comprehensive information on prevention, viral transmission, and differences between HSV-1 and HSV-2. The majority of total respondents (both the questionnaire and interview) (65%) reported non-comprehensive high school sexual health education. The majority of interview (79%) and questionnaire (55%) respondents wished they had learned more about herpes and other STIs in high school. Education preferences of both interviewed and surveyed respondents included interactive internet programs or games, more realistic lectures, and learning about STIs later in high school when students reported greater sexual activity.


Our results indicate that more comprehensive sexual health education is needed and wanted by students in southwest Virginia. More relevant educational programs should be implemented for VA high school students utilizing technology and interactive methods to improve student engagement in sexual health education.


These studies provide information on knowledge of herpes simplex viruses among college students, comprehensiveness of sexual health education received in high schools, and preferred methods to learn about HSV and other STIs. These studies inform the facilitation of improved health education practices and programs for high school and college students.

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