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Stigma Health. 2018 Feb;3(1):27-34. doi: 10.1037/sah0000067. Epub 2016 Nov 10.

Genital herpes stigma: Toward the Measurement and Validation of a highly prevalent yet hidden public health problem.

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Center for Interdisciplinary Research on AIDS, Yale University.
Ferkauf Graduate School of Psychology, Yshiva University.
Center for HIV/AIDS Educational Studies and Training (CHEST), Hunter College, City University of New York.
Department of Chronic Disease Epidemiology, Social and Behavioral Sciences Division, Yale School of Public Health, Yale University.


Despite its highly prevalent and stigmatizing nature, genital herpes has received little attention from stigma researchers relative to other sexually transmitted infections. This limitation is of great relevance to researchers and practitioners in both clinical and healthcare settings, given that stigma can cause psychological distress and hinder disclosure to sexual partners, hence contributing to the spread of genital herpes. The present research developed and examined the psychometric properties of a quantitative measure of genital herpes stigma. Two hundred individuals diagnosed with genital herpes recruited through online genital herpes support groups completed a survey containing 37 items adapted from the HIV Stigma Scale, questions about demographic and herpes-related characteristics, and measures of relevant psychosocial variables. A confirmatory factor analysis yielded an 18-item scale with four factors: personalized stigma, disclosure concerns, negative self-image, and concern with public attitudes. All subscales demonstrated good internal consistency, with Cronbach alphas ranging from 0.74 to 0.87. Construct validity was supported by correlations with relevant psychosocial variables, including negative affect, rumination, and perceived social support. As a psychometrically sound assessment tool, the Genital Herpes Stigma Scale can be used in both clinical and research settings to facilitate future efforts to alleviate the negative psychological consequences of this incurable viral infection.


genital herpes; measurement; psychological distress; sexual health; stigma

[Available on 2019-02-01]

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