Objective: To compare the prevalence of genital herpes simplex virus type 2 (HSV-2) shedding in human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)-seropositive women and HIV-seronegative women.
Design: Cross-sectional study.
Setting: A major inner-city medical center.
Patients: 106 women who were HIV-seropositive and HSV-2-seropositive and 70 women who were HIV-seronegative and HSV-2-seropositive were enrolled from various primary care settings.
Measurements: Herpes simplex virus type 2 antibody determinations were done for all patients. Regardless of symptoms, vulvar and cervical HSV cultures were obtained from all HIV-seropositive women and from a randomly selected subgroup of HIV-seronegative women.
Results: The prevalence of HSV-2 shedding was nearly four times greater in HIV-seropositive than in HIV-seronegative women (13.2% compared with 3.6%; P = 0.04; odds ratio, 4.1 [95% CI, 1.0 to 27.4]) when the serum antibody for HSV-2 was present. Seventy-nine percent of viral shedding among HIV-seropositive women was asymptomatic. Overall viral shedding increased significantly as the CD4 cell count decreased.
Conclusions: Women with HIV infection, particularly those with low CD4 cell counts, shed HSV-2 from the vulva and cervix more commonly than women not infected with HIV. Most of this shedding is asymptomatic.