STIEF News August 2020

In this issue:


Sex and Consequences: A New Zealand Update 

Canterbury District Health Board and the New Zealand AIDS Foundation are hosting ‘Sex and Consequences: A New Zealand Update’ as follows:

  • Date: Wednesday, 26 August 2020, 1pm – 5pm
  • Venue: Burwood Hospital, Christchurch & Zoom option also available 

The Update will include the following sessions:

  • Syphilis: an ongoing epidemic (Dr Edward Coughlan)
  • A Cook’s tour of STI management: practical bits and pieces (Dr Heather Young)
  • Shame – the supreme silencer. Our role in improving health outcomes for men who have sex with men (MSM) and people at risk of HIV (Victoria Riddiford)
  • Chemsex and sexualised drug use among MSM in NZ: responding within sexual health settings (Samuel Andrews)
  • MSM sex on site venues: the men and the myths (Stuart Yeatman)

RSVP by Friday 21 August to: Diane Shannon by email: [email protected] or phone: (03) 378 6755

View the flyer here.


Sexual Health 101: Online Testing

Dr Rose Forster (sexual health doctor) and Dr Gary McAuliffe (clinical microbiologist and virologist), in conjunction with Labtests/Healthscope, have launched Sexual Health 101. This is an affordable, online STI testing service to make testing for chlamydia, gonorrhoea, HIV and syphilis accessible to everyone who needs it.  The process is simple and is described below as four easy steps:

At this stage testing is available for people located in Auckland and Northland only. Shortly, testing will be offered across New Zealand.

For more information visit

Herpes Helpline Q & A

The Herpes Helpline regularly receives enquiries from people struggling with the shock and shame resulting from a new genital herpes diagnosis. This is an opportunity for the Helpline nurse counsellors to educate patients that herpes simplex (either facial or genital) is, in most situations, a medically insignificant infection. It is simply a skin condition (more commonly known as cold sores) that many of us have and if it is problematic there is effective treatment available. In the vast majority of cases it causes far greater psychological morbidity than physical symptoms. The most important aspect of medical management is to ensure the patient has access to accurate up to date information that can address their fears and provide them with tools to aid their understanding and to help them move on.


I’m a newly diagnosed patient with genital herpes. I’m devastated and sick. Please help.


I am so sorry to hear that you are unwell, a primary outbreak of herpes can be very painful, exhausting and emotionally draining. I hope you have been to see a health professional and are currently on some oral antiviral medication to help manage your symptoms. If you are still unwell, despite the antiviral medication, and are unable to pass urine or are in severe pain, I would recommend that you see your GP or attend an emergency department as soon as possible. It would also be great if you could ring the Helpline (0508 11 12 13 toll free from a landline or 09 433 6526 from a mobile) as we have the time and expertise  to provide  facts and counselling to help you understand and live with this diagnosis. 

The herpes diagnosis can be very upsetting so it is really important to get accurate information. When one gets a herpes diagnosis (usually never believing this could happen to you!) often the existing understanding is based on a lifetime of negative societal conditioning about herpes and what it means to have it. Unfortunately, this conditioning is based on misinformation and the stigma perceived with contracting anything sexually, particularly herpes, which is  seen as a lifelong infection.

The reality is herpes simplex is a medically insignificant infection and seldom is life threatening. The primary or first ever outbreak can be more prolonged and painful but it heals up completely and you may or may not have recurrences which will never be as severe. Usually a small "lesion" or break in the skin will appear that lasts a few days and heals up and disappears on its own. Approximately 80% of the population have the  herpes simplex virus. 

Most people view facial cold sores as a minor, sometimes recurring, irritating skin infection. The significant difference regarding genital herpes arises from the stigma that tends to accompany an infection that is sexually transmitted. The facts are:

  • most of us will eventually acquire herpes simplex - either one or both strains  
  • most people who have it (80%) will never have symptoms or symptoms so mild and atypical that they never are diagnosed as herpes simplex

As humans we cannot necessarily avoid getting herpes or passing it on as most of us don't even know we have it. Herpes or cold sores on the mouth and genital herpes are medically the same condition.  

Having knowledge allays the fear and most people find that their partners are both supportive and understanding. It is a common assumption to initially think that a person may base their judgement of you on the fact you have genital herpes. People fear the possibility of rejection but the reality is that this rarely happens. 

You might find more information on our website helpful. I strongly advise against surfing the web about herpes as there is an awful lot of misinformation out there about it that is simply not helpful. 

I hope this helps you process this in a way that alleviates the stress it has caused you. It can be really helpful to pick up the phone and have a chat 

Kind regards
Nurse Counsellor

Disclaimer: The advice provided is based on best practice for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for attending a consultation with a health professional for medical diagnosis or treatment. 

HPV Vaccine Promotion Video Campaign 

STIEF and the Head and Neck Cancer Foundation Aotearoa are collaborating to produce an HPV vaccine awareness video campaign. The campaign is targeting young people who may have missed out on receiving the vaccine as part of the school vaccination programme completely or may only be partially vaccinated. 

Watch this space!

HPV-related Head and Neck Cancer - Stuff Article

How HPV spread through oral sex can cause cancer in men
Stuff article – 4 August 2020