Objective: To identify factors which determine whether and when patients will disclose infection with genital herpes to sexual partners.
Methods: The sample was 26 women and 24 men attending a herpes clinic in a sexually transmitted disease clinic. Semistructured interviews yielded quantitative data and also qualitative data which were subjected to content analysis.
Results: Characteristics of partners were very important in determining whether disclosure occurred. Respondents were less likely to tell partners regarded as casual. Perception of the likely reaction of partners was important in deciding whether to tell. Many respondents assumed that they were not infectious if they were not currently having an attack or if they were taking antiviral medication. The decision whether to tell tended to be based on considerations of likely discovery and of honesty towards the partner rather than control of transmission. Of patient characteristics only self rated depressed mood was related to disclosure to the most recent partner.
Conclusions: Perception of the partner and anticipated partner response is crucially important in determining whether and when disclosure of genital herpes infection occurs.