Human immunodeficiency virus infection and genital ulcer disease in South Africa: the herpetic connection

Sex Transm Dis. 2000 Jan;27(1):21-9. doi: 10.1097/00007435-200001000-00005.


Background and objectives: While genital ulcers are a risk factor in HIV infection, the association of specific agents of genital ulcer disease (GUD) with HIV infection may vary.

Goal: To determine the etiology of GUD in HIV-infected and HIV-uninfected men attending sexually transmitted disease (STD) clinics in Durban, Johannesburg, and Cape Town, South Africa, and the association of previous and current sexually transmitted infections with HIV infection in men with ulcerative and nonulcerative STDs.

Study design: A cross-sectional study of 558 men with genital ulcers and 602 men with urethritis.

Results: Patients with GUD were more likely to be infected with HIV than patients with urethritis (39.4% versus 21.4%, P< or =0.001). Herpes simplex virus 2 (HSV-2) was the most common agent identified in ulcer specimens (35.9%), and was detected in a significantly higher proportion of ulcer specimens from HIV-infected patients than in specimens from HIV-uninfected patients (47.4% versus 28.2%, P< or =0.001). Patients infected with HIV-1 were significantly more likely to have HSV-2 infection, as measured by the presence of the antibody to glycoprotein G-2, than patients not infected with HIV (63.1% versus 38.5%, P< or =0.001). Patients infected with HIV-1 were also significantly more likely to have initial HSV-2 infection than HIV-uninfected patients with GUD (50.0% versus 31.6%, P = 0.007). Haemophilus ducreyi was detected in 31.7% of ulcer specimens; prevalence did not vary by HIV-infection status. Treponema pallidum DNA was detected significantly less frequently in ulcer specimens from patients infected with HIV than in specimens from patients not infected with HIV (10.2% versus 26%, P< or =0.001); no association was found between HIV-infection status and fluorescent treponemal antibody absorption test seroreactivity, even when men with M-PCR-positive syphilis lesions were excluded from the analyses.

Conclusion: The authors found that HSV-2 is a more common etiology of GUD than has been suggested by previous studies conducted in South Africa; serologic evidence of HSV-2 infection and current cases of genital herpes are strongly associated with HIV infection among men who present to STD clinics with GUD or urethritis.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Distribution
  • Aged
  • Antibodies, Viral / blood
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Genital Diseases, Male / virology*
  • HIV Infections / complications
  • HIV Infections / epidemiology*
  • HIV-1 / isolation & purification*
  • Herpes Genitalis / epidemiology
  • Herpes Genitalis / virology*
  • Herpesvirus 2, Human / genetics
  • Herpesvirus 2, Human / immunology
  • Herpesvirus 2, Human / isolation & purification*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Seroepidemiologic Studies
  • South Africa / epidemiology
  • Ulcer / virology*
  • Urethritis / virology*


  • Antibodies, Viral