Objective: To evaluate the knowledge and attitudes of women regarding genital herpes and specifically serum screening for prevention of vertical transmission.
Setting: Antenatal clinic at the Chelsea and Westminster Hospital, London.
Population: Randomly selected women at their first antenatal visit.
Methods: A questionnaire focussing on the women's knowledge of, and their attitudes about, genital herpes was completed. The results were analysed using the Statistical Package for Social Sciences (SPSS).
Results: One hundred women were surveyed over six weeks. The majority (80%) were aware that genital herpes was a sexually transmitted disease and 60% were aware that it can be transmitted to the baby in pregnancy. Only 34% thought that genital herpes is always symptomatic and 56% believed that they would know for certain if they had herpes. Sixty percent thought they would know whether their partners had ever been infected. Eighty percent of our sample population were prepared to be screened, and 76% would also encourage their sexual partner to have a blood test.
Conclusion: This study shows that the study population had a good knowledge about genital herpes and that there would be acceptance of antenatal testing. Whether serum screening is cost-effective must still be evaluated. The impact of such a screening on a couple's relationship is potentially deleterious and needs to be assessed carefully before a screening programme for genital herpes is actually introduced. The next phase of our study will address this issue.