Background: Globally, herpes simplex virus type 2 (HSV-2) infection is the most common cause of genital ulcer disease. Effective prevention strategies for HSV-2 infection are needed to achieve the goals of the World Health Organization global strategy for the prevention and control of sexually transmitted infections.
Methods: We assessed the effectiveness of pericoital tenofovir gel, an antiviral microbicide, in preventing HSV-2 acquisition in a subgroup of 422 HSV-2-negative women enrolled in the Centre for the AIDS Programme of Research in South Africa (CAPRISA) 004 study, a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial. Incident HSV-2 cases were identified by evidence of seroconversion on an HSV-2 IgG enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay between study enrollment and exit. A confirmatory analysis was performed by Western blot testing.
Results: The HSV-2 incidence rate was 10.2 cases per 100 person-years (95% confidence interval [CI], 6.8 to 14.7) among 202 women assigned to tenofovir gel, as compared with 21.0 cases per 100 person-years (95% CI, 16.0 to 27.2) among 222 women assigned to placebo gel (incidence rate ratio, 0.49; 95% CI, 0.30 to 0.77; P=0.003). The HSV-2 incidence rate among the 25 women with vaginal tenofovir concentrations of 10,000 ng per milliliter or more was 5.7 cases per 100 person-years, as compared with 15.5 cases per 100 person-years among the 103 women with no detectable vaginal tenofovir (incidence rate ratio, 0.37; 95% CI, 0.04 to 1.51; P=0.14). As confirmed by Western blot testing, there were 16 HSV-2 seroconversions among women assigned to tenofovir gel as compared with 36 among those assigned to the placebo gel (incidence rate ratio, 0.45; 95% CI, 0.23 to 0.82; P=0.005).
Conclusions: In this study in South Africa, pericoital application of tenofovir gel reduced HSV-2 acquisition in women. (Funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development and others; ClinicalTrials.gov number, NCT00441298.).