Genital Herpes Simplex Virus Type 2 Shedding Among Adults With and Without HIV Infection in Uganda

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Background. Despite the high prevalence of herpes simplex virus type 2 (HSV-2) in sub-Saharan Africa, the natural history of infection among Africans is not well characterized. We evaluated the frequency of genital HSV shedding in HIV-seropositive and HIV-seronegative men and women in Uganda.

Methods. Ninety-three HSV-2–seropositive Ugandan adults collected anogenital swab specimens for HSV DNA quantification by polymerase chain reaction 3 times daily for 6 weeks.

Results. HSV-2 was detected from 2484 of 11 283 swab specimens collected (22%), with a median quantity of 4.3 log10 HSV copies/mL (range, 2.2–8.9 log10 HSV copies/mL). Genital lesions were reported on 749 of 3875 days (19%), and subclinical HSV shedding was detected from 1480 of 9113 swab specimens (16%) collected on days without lesions. Men had higher rates of total HSV shedding (relative risk [RR], 2.0 [95% confidence interval {CI}, 1.3–2.9]; P < .001); subclinical shedding (RR, 1.7 [95% CI, 1.1–2.7]; P = .01), and genital lesions (RR, 2.1 [95% CI, 1.2–3.4]; P = .005), compared with women. No differences in shedding rates or lesion frequency were observed based on HIV serostatus.

Conclusions. HSV-2 shedding frequency and quantity are high among HSV-2–seropositive adults in sub-Saharan Africa, including persons with and those without HIV infection. Shedding rates were particularly high among men, which may contribute to the high prevalence of HSV-2 and early acquisition among African women.

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