Background: Herpes Simplex Virus Type 2 (HSV-2) is highly prevalent in regions disproportionately affected by the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV-1) epidemic. The objective of our study was to identify the risk factors of HSV-2 and HIV-1 infections and to examine the association between the two infections.
Methods: The study participants were recruited through a community based cross-sectional study that was conducted from November 2002 to March 2003 in the Moshi urban district of Northern Tanzania. A two-stage sampling design was used in recruiting the study participants. Information on socio-demographics, alcohol use, sexual behaviors, and STIs symptoms were obtained. Blood and urine samples were drawn for testing of HIV-1, HSV-2 and other STIs.
Results: The prevalence of HSV-2 infection among all study participants was 43%. The prevalence rate of HSV-2 among the HIV-negative and HIV-positive women was 40% and 65%, respectively. We found 2.72 times odds of having HIV-1 in an HSV-2 positive woman than in an HSV-2 negative woman. Furthermore, HIV-1 and HSV-2 shared common high-risk sexual behavior factors such as early onset of sexual debut, and testing positive for other STIs.
Conclusions: Our findings suggest that HSV-2 may be both a biological and risk-associated cofactor for HIV-1 acquisition. In resource-limited countries, where both infections are prevalent efforts at symptomatic and diagnostic screening and treatment of HSV-2 should be part of HIV-1 prevention programs.