Introduction Herpes simplex virus (HSV) is the leading cause of genital lesions worldwide. The transmission of sexually transmitted infections (STI’s) and human behaviour are intrinsically linked. A clear understanding of the characteristics that increase the risk of acquiring these infections is vital for STI control. European evidence lists large intracountry and intercountry differences in the epidemiology of genital herpes across Europe
Methods Retrospective chart review, examining demographic, behavioural and diagnostic data of patients who attended a Cork STI clinic from 2011 to 2015 inclusive. Multivariate logistic regression models were used to study the epidemiological features of patients with a genital HSV infection (n=296) in comparison to a control group of patients with negative screen (n=307).
Results Females (OR 3.942, P<0.001) and those aged between 25 to 30 years (OR: 8.397, P<0.001) had increased odds of acquiring genital HSV. Subjects of non-Irish ethnicity (P=0.032) and females who engaged in sexual intercourse younger than 17 years of age were more likely to present with the infection (OR: 7.427, P<0.01). Alcohol and drug use were not significant predicting factors of HSV infection. High number of sexual partners was not associated with increased risk of the infection. Consistent condom use was very low in all subjects.
Discussion Public health campaigns directed at young people, especially those engaging in sexual activity at a young age and non-Irish ethnic groups, may be beneficial. Increased distribution of condoms to at risk age groups should be considered. It is relevant to public policy design that classic risk taking behaviours were not associated with increased risk of genital HSV infection.