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Historical correlates of genital herpes simplex virus type 2 infection in men attending an STD clinic
  1. J M Sizemore, Jr1,
  2. F Lakeman2,
  3. R Whitley2,
  4. A Hughes1,
  5. E W Hook III1,3
  1. 1Division of Infectious Diseases, University of Alabama at Birmingham, Birmingham, AL, USA
  2. 2Division of Pediatric Infectious Diseases, University of Alabama at Birmingham, Birmingham, AL, USA
  3. 3Jefferson County Department of Health, Birmingham, AL, USA
  1. Correspondence to:
 James M Sizemore Jr
 The University of Alabama at Birmingham 703 19th Street South, 242 Zeigler Research Building Birmingham, AL 35294–0007, USA;


Background/objectives: While nearly one in four Americans has antibodies to HSV-2, only one of 40 reports a history of genital herpes (GH). The goal of this study was to correlate questions designed to elicit a GH history with serological evidence of HSV-2 in male STD clinic attendees.

Methods: Consecutive males were enrolled in a study of the epidemiology of GH. Consenting men answered questionnaires regarding their histories of possible GH and underwent serological testing for HSV-1 and HSV-2. Association statistics between response to each question and HSV-2 serological status were calculated.

Results: Of 328 men enrolled, 148 (46%) had HSV-2 antibodies. 14 (4.3%) reported a history of GH when queried as part of a list of other STD (sensitivity (S) 0.08). 17 (5.2%) reported a history of GH when asked directly “Do you have genital herpes?” (S 0.09). 75 (21.1%) participants reported a history of a recurring genital sore, ulcer, or zipper cut (S 0.32). Overall, 64.2% of HSV-2 seropositive men answered “no” to all three questions. A “yes” response to any of the questions was only 36% sensitive for predicting HSV-2 infection.

Conclusion: Few HSV-2 infected men report either a history of GH or are aware that they are infected. Asking about a history of recurrent genital sores was a more sensitive historical marker of HSV-2 infection than asking about a history of “genital herpes.”

  • GH, genital herpes
  • HSV, herpes simplex virus
  • herpes simplex virus
  • genital herpes
  • men

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  • Grant support: Supported by the UAB Sexually Transmitted Diseases Cooperative Research Center Grant 5 U19 AI38514-07, the UAB GCRC, RR00032.

  • No conflict of interest for any of the authors.

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