HSV-2 Infection as a Cause of Female/Male and Racial/Ethnic Disparities in HIV Infection

Don C. Des Jarlais, Kamyar Arasteh, Courtney McKnight, David C. Perlman, Hannah L.F. Cooper, Holly Hagan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objectives:To examine the potential contribution of herpes simplex virus 2 (HSV-2) infection to female/male and racial/ethnic disparities in HIV among non-injecting heroin and cocaine drug users. HSV-2 infection increases susceptibility to HIV infection by a factor of two to three.Methods:Subjects were recruited from entrants to the Beth Israel drug detoxification program in New York City 2005-11. All subjects reported current use of heroin and/or cocaine and no lifetime injection drug use. A structured questionnaire was administered and serum samples collected for HIV and HSV-2 testing. Population-attributable risk percentages (PAR%s) were calculated for associations between HSV-2 infection and increased susceptibility to HIV.Results:1745 subjects were recruited from 2005-11. Overall HIV prevalence was 14%. Females had higher prevalence than males (22% vs. 12%) (p<0.001), African-Americans had the highest prevalence (15%), Hispanics an intermediate prevalence (12%), and Whites the lowest prevalence (3%) (p<.001). There were parallel variations in HSV-2 prevalence (females 86%, males 51%, African-Americans 66%, Hispanics 47%, Whites 36%), HSV-2 prevalence was strongly associated with HIV prevalence (OR = 3.12 95% CI 2.24 to 4.32). PAR%s for HSV-2 as a cause of HIV ranged from 21% for Whites to 50% for females. Adjusting for the effect of increased susceptibility to HIV due to HSV-2 infection greatly reduced all disparities (adjusted prevalence = males 8%, females 11%; Whites 3%, African-Americans 10%, Hispanics 9%).Conclusions:Female/male and racial/ethnic variations in HSV-2 infection provide a biological mechanism that may generate female/male and racial/ethnic disparities in HIV infection among non-injecting heroin and cocaine users in New York City. HSV-2 infection should be assessed as a potential contributing factor to disparities in sexually transmitted HIV throughout the US.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere66874
JournalPloS one
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 18 2013

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences
  • General


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