Background: Genital ulcer disease (GUD) is common in many developing countries. Several reports indicate that there is an association with HIV infection. Analysis by polymerase chain reaction (PCR) has demonstrated that the ulcers are frequently caused by herpes simplex type 2 (HSV-2), although HSV-1 is becoming increasingly important in many parts of the world. Comparable studies have not been performed in Tanzania.
Objectives: To determine the prevalence of HSV-2 and HSV-1 in genital ulcers in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania and determine their possible association with HIV infection.
Study design: Samples were collected from 70 consecutive patients with GUD attending a clinic for sexually transmitted diseases. Specimens from ulcers were analysed by PCR for the presence of HSV-2 and HSV-1, and sera were examined for antibodies against HSV-2 and HIV.
Results and discussion: HSV-2 DNA was detected in 64% of the specimens from ulcers while HSV-1 DNA was not found in any of them. Antibodies to HSV-2 and HIV were detected in 79.7 and 42% of the patients' sera, respectively. Although there was a significant positive association between HIV and HSV-2 seropositivity, HSV-2 DNA in genital ulcers was not more prevalent among HIV seropositive than among HIV seronegative individuals.
Conclusion: The prevalence of HSV-2 antibodies among Tanzanian patients with genital ulcers is very high, and HSV-2 is detected in most of the ulcers. There is an association between infections with HIV and HSV-2, but the relationship is not clear.