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The psychosocial impact of serological herpes simplex type 2 testing in an urban HIV clinic
  1. J L Meyer1,
  2. R A Crosby2,
  3. W L H Whittington3,
  4. D Carrell4,6,
  5. R Ashley-Morrow4,
  6. A S Meier4,
  7. R D Harrington3,
  8. R DiClemente5,
  9. A Wald1,3,4
  1. 1University of Washington, Department of Epidemiology, USA
  2. 2University of Kentucky, College of Public Health, Department of Health Behavior, USA
  3. 3University of Washington, Department of Medicine, USA
  4. 4University of Washington, Department of Laboratory Medicine, USA
  5. 5Emory University, School of Public Health, USA
  6. 6Group Health Cooperative, Seattle, WA, USA
  1. Correspondence to:
 Anna Wald
 MD, MPH, University of Washington Virology Research Clinic, 600 Broadway, suite 400, Seattle, WA 98122, USA;


Background/objectives: Herpes simplex virus type 2 (HSV-2) is a common infection among HIV infected people. HSV type specific serologies permit the diagnosis of previously unrecognised HSV-2 infection. While substantial psychosocial morbidity has been associated with a clinical diagnosis of genital herpes, the burden associated with a serological diagnosis of HSV-2 is unclear. This study prospectively measured the psychosocial response to a new serological HSV-2 diagnosis in patients receiving care at an urban HIV clinic.

Methods: At entry, sera were tested for HSV-1 and HSV-2 antibodies by western blot. Participants completed a 90 item psychosocial and life quality questionnaire at enrolment, and at 2 weeks, 3 months, and 6 months after receiving test results.

Results: Of 248 HIV infected participants, 172 (69.4%) were HSV-2 seropositive and 116 (67.4%) seropositive people did not have a previous history of genital herpes. After correction for multiple comparisons, no statistically significant differences were detected on the psychosocial and life quality scales between those who received a new HSV-2 serological diagnosis compared with those who were HSV-2 seropositive with a history of genital herpes, or those who tested HSV-2 seronegative. Additionally, no significant changes in scores were observed during follow up.

Conclusions: HSV-2 was a common but often unrecognised infection in this urban HIV clinic and participants coped well with a positive HSV-2 result. Concerns about psychosocial burden should not deter serological testing for HSV-2. Given the epidemiological and clinical interaction between HSV-2 and HIV, these data support routine HSV-2 testing of HIV infected people.

  • GEE, generalised estimating equations
  • HBM, Health Belief Model
  • HRQoL, Herpes Related Quality of Life
  • HSV-2, herpes simplex type 2
  • MSSCQ, Multidimensional Sexual Self Concept Questionnaire
  • POMS, Profile of Mood States
  • HIV
  • herpes simplex virus

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  • Competing interests: none declared.

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