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Would a Vaccine Change Responsibility?

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Supposedly, some of the vaccine's that are coming down the pipeline are said to be able to reduce risk of transmission by 92%. Whether or or not this is fact or fiction, it brings up an interesting point. If someone can take a vaccine to make themselves 92% chance of being immune to getting herpes, then what does that say about responsibility and disclosure.


Imagine you have two people, one infected and one not. Both are taking the vaccine. That's a massive transmission diminution from both sides. Let's say for the sake of discussion that it reduces 92% of shedding and transmitability from the person who has it as well as 92% blocking from the person who doesn't.


Any math nerds reading this? What would the overall, combined double-pronged risk of transmission be in that scenario?


I imagine it would go down to to something like .0001 percent chance or something really tiny. If that's the case, what would that mean for disclosure if the uninflected person can now take matters into their own hands to such an extent?


Again this is a hypothetical question at this point because none of these vaccines have been completely verified yet.

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I recently participated in a conversation about avoidance of STIs in the dating world. Most of the participants in the conversation were in the 35-55 age range. Fairly even gender distribution. Most were concerned about the possibility of contracting herpes and felt they could manage this risk through testing before new sex partners or a combo of consistent condom use and relying on positive partners to disclose (there was limited awareness that most people with herpes do not know they have it). OTOH, most were not unconcerned but resigned to the fact that they probably already have HPV or will contract one or more strains of HPV eventually. Most seemed to come to this conclusion after discussing the HPV vaccine with their doctors. The doctors told them it was no longer worthwhile for them to be vaccinated because they likely already had contracted it. They emphasized how common and unavoidable it is among sexually active people. One person went ahead and got vaccinated anyway and paid out of pocket. The others just accepted it was a risk they take to have sex.


I found this really interesting because it's a good example of how perceptions can change based on education by doctors. IIRC, when I was young, HPV was known as "genital warts" (even the non-wart causing variety) and there was very little understanding about it. It seems like the introduction of the vaccine prompted older people to ask about it and those people were then told it's super common and they almost definitely already have it. And really, this is probably how it went with "cold sores" too. It's rarely called oral herpes and instead called by a name that is not saturated in stigma. Often people seem much more accepting of oral herpes based on the belief that so many people have it anyway and it's inevitable. I even see some similarities with HIV which, when I was young, was often referred to as AIDS, even when someone had not progressed to having AIDS. All of these trends lead me to believe that change is possible and is usually accompanied by a shift in language (such as HSV rather than herpes or HPV rather than genital warts) and doctors educating their patients about risk and prevalence.


Perhaps a herpes vaccine or some significant medical advancement would prompt more discussion between doctors and patients that might lead to a better understanding of risk and prevalence.


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I read that 70% of people in America have HPV, and 20-25% have genital herpes. One of them can lead to cancer, and one of them doesn't do much for most people who have it. They both can cause skin conditions.


However, one of them is much more stigmatized than the other. It's got to be due to the percentage of people who have it, not any actual effects that herpes has.


The only somewhat scary thing about herpes is that it's more easy to get HIV (3x more likely) if you are having sex with high HIV risk populations.

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@hippyherpy It sounds like you are referring to HSV2 only. If so, even that varies between 0% and 80% depending on demographic (age, gender, marital status, race). And yes, the fact that having HSV2 increases risk for contracting HIV is a real issue. It is not my intention to be dismissive of that.


I'll PM you links to the Dan Savage columns.

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  • 3 weeks later...

As long as there is any risk it all it needs to be disclosed every time. You should not be making a decision in somebody else's health. With the disclosure you could inform them that the risks are minuscule which would give them more assurance, but to not tell them at all is bordering on a criminal act in my opinion.

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