A company conducting research into genital herpes is to set up a lonely hearts website for sufferers of the disease.

The service will try to remove the stigma from the illness and help people overcome their embarrassment.

Andrew Knight, chairman of Henderson Morley, a firm based in Birmingham that has been conducting research into herpes for four years, described the disease, for which there is no cure, as "particularly distressing". He added that it was often a barrier between people when they first met.

"It is very hard for people to discuss it, particularly if one person has it and the other doesn't. It is a very emotive subject and the disease is a monster."

He said the site would be a cross betweeen a magazine, a reference library and a herpes-focused shop. "We are working on treatments and looking for a vaccine and the site will pull everything together. The lonely hearts, while part of it, is not the be all and end all."