OBJECTIVES: To measure the prevalence of HSV-2 antibodies in a birth cohort of 21 year old New Zealanders from whom detailed sexual histories had been obtained, and to assess the potential for HSV-2 serology in characterising a young adult population's risk for sexually transmitted diseases (STD). METHODS: Sera from 784 cohort members were tested using an indirect IgG enzyme linked immunoassay specific to the HSV-2 glycoprotein G. Positive results were confirmed by western blot. RESULTS: In all, 27 subjects were seropositive for HSV-2 (3.4%), only seven of whom gave a history of genital herpes (26%). Risk among females increased with lifetime number of partners, while risk for males increased with having a first partner who was aged 16 years or under. CONCLUSIONS: The seroprevalence of HSV-2 infection in this cohort was low, but similar to that seen in several other populations in this age group. HSV-2 seropositivity did not appear to be a sensitive marker for high risk sexual activity in this young population. This may be because a critical mass of HSV-2 carriers has not accumulated among potential partners by age 21 years.
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