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HSV type specific serology in sexual health clinics: use, benefits, and who gets tested


Objectives: To determine which sexual health clinic clients were tested for herpes simplex virus (HSV) type specific antibodies and whether this test was useful for patient management.

Methods: Demographic, sexual and reproductive history, reasons for performing type specific serology, results, and benefits were derived from patient records from Parramatta Sexual Health Clinic for all patients who were tested between 13 September1993 and 31 December 2001. The value of serology was defined under five categories—diagnostic, counselling, initiating suppressive antiviral therapy, pregnancy counselling, and not useful. To establish whether patients tested for HSV were representative of clinic attendees, a sex matched “control” group was randomly selected.

Results: 382/886 (43.1%) were HSV-2 antibody positive and 774/884 (80.8%) were HSV-1 positive. The commonest reasons for requesting serology were having a partner with genital herpes (30%), undiagnosed recurrent genital ulceration (26%), and first episode of genital ulceration (22%). The test was of value in confirming the diagnosis in 57% of men and 60% of women with recurrent genital ulceration and in 28% of men and 40% of women with first episode genital herpes. In patients with a partner with genital herpes the test was of value in making a diagnosis in 27% men and 50% of women and in counselling 50% of women and 73% of men. Patients offered serology were older and more likely to have had genital herpes in the past than controls.

Conclusion: Type specific serology should be recommended for the management of couples where one has genital herpes and the other apparently does not and in individuals with genital complaints suggestive of herpes.

  • herpes simplex virus
  • type specific serology
  • sexual health clinics

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