Virtual Herpes Support Group in Philadelphia PA and Ocean City NJ

Virtual HSV Weekly Support Group on Tuesdays at 7pm in PA & NJ

Virtual via video chat

Registration/Screening Fee: $25

Group Fee: $20 per session

Open to any and all individuals over the age of 18 who have been diagnosed with HSV.

Our HSV Support Group is open to any and all individuals over the age of 18 who have been diagnosed with HSV. THe HSV support group provides a safe environment in which you can discuss how herpes is impacting your life, meet people who know just what you’re going through, learn tips and techniques about managing herpes, and get support and guidance as you adjust to living with herpes.

Receiving and living with the HSV diagnosis can be very difficult. For many people, the emotional impact of herpes can be more distressing than the physical symptoms and health impacts. Initially, HSV can impact how people see themselves and cause worry about how others will see them. It’s common to feel anxious, depressed, isolated, fearful of rejection, and a diminished sex drive. The social stigma can cause misinformation and a fear of discussing emotional and physical symptoms with others. However, with time and support, these feelings can significantly diminish. The HSV support group can help. You’re not alone.

Most of the time, the stigma of HSV is much worse than any physical or health symptoms. The only physical health impacts of HSV are sores from outbreaks. No research has found that it has long term or other effects on your body. However, the stigma around HSV is much worse than other viruses. A large reason for this is also because of the lack of information available and shared not only with those diagnosed with HSV but also in the general public. The lack of information or conflicting information can also exist in health care settings and can cause frustration. Every meeting of the HSV group, we make space for sharing information and answering questions.

If you are interested in joining the HSV group, please reach out to schedule a screening. Once you do the screening, you will be able to join the group right away. The screening is $25 and the cost of each group session is $20 for those who do not see a therapist for individual or couples counseling at The Center for Growth and $10 for existing TCFG clients who are attending sessions twice a month with their individual or couples therapist.

About HSV

HSV, or herpes, is a virus that enters the body through a break in the skin or through moist membranes, oftentimes around the genitals or mouth. Infection usually causes blisters, ulcers, or swelling, but sometimes it may also not show any of these. The virus can be spread from mouth to mouth, body contact, or mouth to genital or vice versa during oral sex.

HSV Facts

  • Herpes is caused by the herpes simplex virus, which is why it is also known as HSV.

  • While HSV-1 (or HSV Type 1) is commonly referred to as “oral herpes” and HSV-2 (or HSV Type 2) is commonly referred to as “genital herpes,” it is possible to get either type on any part of your body. However, it is most common for HSV-1 to be transmitted through mouth to mouth contact and for HSV-2 to be transmitted through genital contact. Oral sex is a common way for HSV-1 and HSV-2 to be spread from mouth to genital or vice versa. About one third of herpes on genitals are actually Type 1. Having HSV-1 or HSV-2 does not prevent you from also contracting the other type. This is why it is important to get checked and find out which type you have.

  • There are at least 6 different herpes viruses, including the one that causes chickenpox and shingles.

  • HSV Type 1 and Type 2 usually cause outbreaks around the mouth and genitals - these are sometimes called “cold sores” or “fever blisters.”

  • Approximately 17% of U.S. adults, or between 40 and 50 million adults, have genital herpes, and between 50-80% of American adults have HSV-1. About 90% of adults will have been exposed to HSV-1 by age 50.

  • Globally, an estimated 3.7 billion people, or 67% of people under age 50 have HSV-1 and 491 million, or 13% of people aged 15-49 have HSV-2.

  • One million new cases of genital herpes occur each year.

  • More than half of people with genital herpes don’t know they have it, since symptoms are often mild, mistaken for another condition, or nonexistent.

  • Genital herpes is transmitted sexually and can be spread even when there is no visible outbreak.

  • If you touch sores or fluids from the sores, you may transfer the virus to another part of your body, so avoid touching sores or fluid from them and if you do, wash your hands quickly and thoroughly.

  • Though there is no cure, there are treatment options available that can reduce the severity, frequency, and duration of outbreaks, as well as minimize the risk of infecting sexual partners.

  • You can not get HSV from toilet seats, bedding, or swimming pools or from touching silverware, dishware, soap, or towels.

Initial Outbreak

Classic symptoms of an initial HSV infection are painful sores, blisters, or ulcers. These lesions will heal in about 2-3 weeks. Flu-like symptoms may also occur during the first outbreak. Some infections, however, produce few symptoms, and these may be mistaken for another problem. Therefore, if you’ve recently been infected with HSV you may not know. Outbreaks can appear in places other than the mouth or genitals, including thighs. The initial outbreak is often the most severe.

Recurrence

Subsequent episodes, if they occur, are often milder and shorter in duration than first episodes, due to your body’s production of virus-fighting antibodies. Outbreaks can occur rarely or several times per year, and can be caused by stress, menstruation, prolonged or intense exposure to sunlight, or a variety of contexts. The number of outbreaks a year depends on the type of HSV you have and whether you take a suppressant or episodic medication (medication for just when an outbreak occurs). On average, people with HSV-1 experience one outbreak a year and people with HSV-2 experience 4-6 outbreaks a year. Over time, it will become easier to tell what may make outbreaks more likely to arise.

Some experience signs before an outbreak. For people with HSV-2, there can be a tingling, burning, or itching sensation where they have outbreaks. For those with HSV-1, they may notice redness, swelling, heat, pain, or itching in the area where the outbreak will appear.

Preventing Transmission

There will always be some level of transmission rate with penetrative sex. Genital infection is more easily transmitted from men to women than from women to men via penetrative sex. While there is no cure and some risk is always there, there are some ways to minimize that risk. The first is to avoid penetrative sex completely during an outbreak, if you feel one coming on, and within 7 days after sores heal or scabs fall off. Other important steps to take to prevent transmission are to take daily antiviral medication and to use a condom. It is also important to note that HSV can be transmitted in ways other than penetrative sex. Although condom use can help prevent transmission, HSV sores can occur in areas that condoms do not cover and skin can release the virus from areas that do not have visible sores. Any direct contact with a sore or fluid from sores can transmit the virus. This includes oral sex and even transmission from one part of your body to another if you touch a sore and then touch something like your eye. This is why it is especially important to wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water should you touch a sore or fluid from it.

Facts about transmission:

  • In studies with couples where one partner had genital herpes, the other partner became infected within one year in 5 to 10% of the couples.
    • The people in these studies only rarely used condoms, though – and if they did, it was mostly during an outbreak.

  • One study showed that infection occurred in an est 1 out of 1,000 sexual acts.

  • 3 factors shown to influence transmission rate:

  • Consistent condom use
    • Condoms can reduce transmission by 96% men > women

    • and 65% women > men.

  • Daily suppressant medication
    • People with symptomatic herpes who take suppressant medication are almost 50% less likely to transmit the virus to others than non-medicated people.

  • Talking to your sexual partner about herpes
    • Communicate about safe sex

    • Communicate about expansive sex
      • (lesbians transmit less than bisexual women - could be discounting arousal level with condoms leading to less consistent condom-use – could be because of alt sex like digital penetration and sex toys)

Treatment

Prescription medications can shorten the length or an outbreak or, if taken early enough, can even prevent outbreaks from occurring. Some people choose to take antiviral medication daily. This can reduce the number of outbreaks or even prevent them completely. Discuss your options with your healthcare provider.

Having HSV does NOT mean you are defective, tainted, unlovable, damaged goods, or reduced to a life without sex. Having HSV DOES mean you have a very common, chronic, yet manageable skin condition.

HSV Testing

Many healthcare providers don’t include HSV testing in regular STI or STD testing. They can diagnose HSV by looking at or taking a sample from the sore(s) and testing it. If there are no sores present, HSV can be detected using a blood test. A blood test cannot tell when you got the infection.

Steps to Join the HSV Group

  1. Reach out to schedule a screening.

  2. Fill out paperwork that will be sent to you upon scheduling the screening.

  3. The screening/registration will cost $25 and take approximately 25-30 minutes.

  4. Join the group and start to heal.