A clinical guideline released as part of the new herpes Medical Resource Kit for doctors, created and distributed by the Australian Herpes Management Forum (AHMF), indicates that 70% of people infected with genital herpes – HSV-2 – acquire it from a partner who has no apparent symptoms and is even unaware he or she has it. Anyone with the virus, whether they experience symptoms or not, can shed the virus and pass it on to another person.
Ongoing daily treatment with anti-viral medication has been one sure way for those who know they have HSV-2 not to pass the virus on to their partners. However, changes to the PBS as of 1st May 2004 has meant that doctors must now provide proof of microbiological confirmation of diagnosis for patients whenever they prescribe anti-viral medication for a patient with genital herpes. This is particularly important for patients who have previously been prescribed treatment from a doctor without microbiological confirmation. According to the Department of Health and Ageing’s Schedule of Pharmaceutical Benefits 1 May 2004, “microbiological confirmation of diagnosis is required but need not delay treatment. Pathology reports from accredited laboratories must be available for audit by the HIC.”
Genital herpes – HSV-2 – is one of the two most common sexually transmitted infections in Australia and up to one in eight people are infected with it. Often people unknowingly pass the virus to a partner because they are asymptomatic. The focal point for both doctors and patients is to determine whether or not someone has the virus, then protect his/her sexual partners from infection.
“The key,” says Professor Tony Cunningham, Director, Westmead Millennium Institute and Research Centre, Westmead Hospital and Professor of Research Medicine and Sub-Dean (research) Western Clinical School, the University of Sydney, “is determining whether or not a patient is infected, then managing the disease once that’s confirmed. Often, the patient is carrying the virus and is unaware of it. He or she may have some symptoms, but none that would indicate to him or her that the problem is the herpes virus. The first, most important step is testing – for the physician to do a swab and confirm that the patient does or doesn’t have the virus. If the test is positive, the next step is infection management – education, antiviral therapy and a commitment to the use of condoms.”
The AHMF, Australian Herpes Management Forum, is Australia’s leading independent organisation to provide evidence-based clinical information and resources for clinicians regarding herpes viruses. Based at the Sexually Transmitted Infections Research Centre at Sydney’s Westmead Hospital, the AHMF provides information to health professionals about all herpes viruses, as well as to consumers. The AHMF operates solely by financial contributions, sponsorship and support. The Principal Sponsor for 2004 is GlaxoSmithKline, with Supporting Sponsorship by Novartis, and the National General Practice Working Party for Herpesvirus being sponsored by the Gribbles Group. All proceeds to the AHMF are a direct investment in the health and well being of the Australian community.
For accurate, up-to-date information, education and support, contact the AHMF on 02 8230 3843 or via their website at www.ahmf.com.au