Prevalence and correlates of herpes simplex virus type 2 infection: evaluation of behavioural risk factors

Int J Epidemiol. 1998 Feb;27(1):127-34. doi: 10.1093/ije/27.1.127.


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.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age Distribution
  • Antibodies, Viral / analysis*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Herpes Genitalis / diagnosis
  • Herpes Genitalis / epidemiology*
  • Herpes Genitalis / immunology
  • Herpesvirus 2, Human* / immunology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Netherlands / epidemiology
  • Prevalence
  • Risk Factors
  • Risk-Taking*
  • Serologic Tests
  • Sex Distribution
  • Sexual Behavior*


  • Antibodies, Viral