The effect of suppressive oral acyclovir on the psychological morbidity associated with recurrent genital herpes

Genitourin Med. 1993 Dec;69(6):457-9. doi: 10.1136/sti.69.6.457.


Objectives: To assess the psychological impact of recurrent genital herpes and to determine if longterm acyclovir has any impact on this morbidity.

Setting and subjects: Patients with frequently recurring genital herpes attending a department of genitourinary medicine who were considered suitable for longterm acyclovir.

Methods: Patients completed an 80 item, self-administered psychological questionnaire before starting acyclovir and every three months for one year. Treatment was then stopped and three months later a further questionnaire was completed. The questionnaire consisted of the General Health Questionnaire (GHQ); the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Questionnaire (HADQ); Illness Attitude Scales and Illness Concern. Data were analysed by McNemar's test for changes in proportions and by Wilcoxon's test for changes in scores.

Results: 102 patients were recruited: 55 men, and 47 women. Eighty two (80%) patients completed three months treatment, 75 (74%) six months, 64 (63%) nine months and 61 (60%) a year. Fifty (49%) of the original 102 patients completed the three months post treatment follow up. At first visit 63% (64/102) were designated as GHQ "cases". Within three months this decreased to 26% (21/82). McNemar's test showed that 67% (34/51) of the patients who were initially classified as GHQ "cases" became "noncases" after three months (p < 0.0001). There was a significant decrease in the proportion of HAD anxiety cases from visit one to visit two (p < 0.0001) and a decrease in illness concern scores from visit one to visit two (p < 0.0001). All these decreases were maintained throughout the years treatment with acyclovir.

Conclusions: There is a substantial morbidity associated with frequently recurring genital herpes. However, acyclovir suppression significantly reduces illness concern and anxiety and is a useful addition to the treatment of this infection.

MeSH terms

  • Acyclovir / administration & dosage*
  • Adult
  • Anxiety / therapy
  • Depression / therapy
  • Drug Administration Schedule
  • Female
  • Herpes Genitalis / drug therapy
  • Herpes Genitalis / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Morbidity
  • Recurrence
  • Time Factors


  • Acyclovir