Objective: To examine the prevalence and correlates of infection with herpes simplex virus type 2 (HSV-2) among sexually transmitted disease (STD) clinic attenders, we studied the prevalence of antibodies to HSV-2 and their association with risk behaviour.
Methods: Data were collected in a cross-sectional study among STD clinic attenders in Amsterdam. Seropositivity for HSV-2 was determined in 1798 serum samples by means of a monoclonal antibody-blocking enzyme-linked immunoassay.
Results: The prevalence of HSV-2 antibodies was higher than expected: 32.3% in a population in which 3% had current genital herpes and 8% gave a history of genital herpes. Of those with HSV-2 antibodies, only 18% had a history of genital herpes. A strong independent association with the presence of HSV-2 antibodies was found for sexual behaviour, more specifically: homosexual orientation, increasing number of years of sexual activity, increasing number of lifetime partners, number of past gonococcal infections, having receptive anal and (or) vaginal contact.
Conclusion: The presence of HSV-2 antibodies had a strong association with past sexual behaviour and, for both sexes, with receptive anal intercourse. HSV-2 antibodies may be used as a surrogate marker of sexual risk behaviour in comparing different populations over time.