Association of genital shedding of herpes simplex virus type 2 and HIV-1 among sex workers in rural Zimbabwe

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Introduction:Herpes simplex virus type 2 (HSV-2) facilitates sexual acquisition of HIV-1 but data on transmission are less clear. In this study the interaction between genital shedding of HIV-1 and HSV-2 was explored among Zimbabwean sex workers.Methods:Women (n = 214) were interviewed about genital symptoms. Blood samples were analysed for HIV-1 and HSV-2 antibodies, HIV-1 plasma viral load (PVL) and CD4 lymphocyte count and genital swabs for detection of HIV-1 and HSV-2 genital shedding, Chlamydia trachomatis, Neisseria gonorroheae and Trichomonas vaginalis, and a cervico-vaginal lavage (CVL) for quantitative measurement of HIV-1 shedding. Shedding analyses were undertaken on women co-infected with HSV-2 and HIV-1.Results:A total of 124 women were co-infected with HIV-1 and HSV-2; 58 were infected with HSV-2 alone. Most HIV-1-infected women were co-infected with HSV-2 (95.4%). Genital HIV-1 shedding was detected in 84.3% of co-infected women and was associated with low CD4 cell count and high PVL but not with reported symptoms of genital herpes or genital shedding of HSV-2. There was no difference in HIV-1 shedding among women shedding HSV-2 (79.3%) and women not shedding HSV-2 (83.2%) (P = 0.64). The adjusted odds ratio for HIV-1 shedding between HSV-2 shedders and non-shedders was 0.8 [95% confidence interval (CI), 0.2–3.3]. HIV-1 PVL(log10) and CVL viral load(log10) were correlated (r = 0.38; 95%CI, 0.2–0.5). After adjusting for PVL, genital symptoms and age, HSV-2 shedding had no effect on CVL viral load (P = 0.13).Conclusion:Rate and quantity of HIV-1 genital shedding do not appear to be altered by presence of HSV-2 genital shedding.

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