Background: Data comparing type-specific herpes simplex virus type 2 (HSV-2) seroprevalence and risk factors between comparable populations are largely unavailable, particularly from less-developed countries.
Goal: To examine the seroprevalence of HSV-2 infection and the risk factors for this infection among women in São Paulo, Brazil, and Manila, the Philippines.
Study design: Altogether, 552 middle-aged women participating as control subjects in two cervical cancer studies were screened for type-specific HSV-2 antibodies.
Results: Herpes simplex virus type 2 seroprevalence was higher in Brazil (42%) than in the Philippines (9.2%). The mean ages of Brazilian (n = 181) and Filipino (n = 371) women were 52.4 and 46.6 years, respectively. Brazilian participants had more lifetime sexual partners, less education, and more often a husband with other sexual partners than Filipino women. Herpes simplex virus type 2 was independently associated with younger age at first intercourse in both countries. More than one lifetime sexual partner, a husband with other sexual partners, urban/semi-urban residence, and no history of condom use were HSV-2 risk factors in Brazil, but not in the Philippines, where long-term hormonal contraceptive use was associated with increased risk.
Conclusions: The higher HSV-2 seroprevalence in Brazil than in the Philippines may be explained largely by differences in the sexual behavior of women and their husbands. Herpes simplex virus type 2 seroprevalence data may be used as a marker of past sexual behavior for the direct comparison of different population groups.