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Prevalence and correlates of Herpes Simplex Virus-2 and syphilis infections in the general population in India
  1. S K Sgaier1,2,
  2. P Mony1,3,
  3. S Jayakumar3,
  4. C McLaughlin1,
  5. P Arora1,
  6. R Kumar4,
  7. P Bhatia5,
  8. P Jha1
  1. 1Centre for Global Health Research, Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute, St Michael's Hospital, Dalla Lana School of Public Health, University of Toronto, Toronto, Canada
  2. 2Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, New Delhi, India
  3. 3St John's Research Institute, St John's National Academy of Health Sciences, Bangalore, India
  4. 4School of Public Health, Post Graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research, Chandigarh, India
  5. 5Indian Institute of Health & Family Welfare, Hyderabad, India
  1. Correspondence to Dr Prabhat Jha, Centre for Global Health Research, St Michael's Hospital, University of Toronto, 70 Richmond Street East, Suite 202A, Toronto, ON M5C 1N8, Canada; prabhat.jha{at}


Objectives To determine the prevalence and correlates of Herpes Simplex Virus-2 (HSV-2) and syphilis infections in the general population in India.

Methods 2456 adults were surveyed in Hyderabad, Bangalore and Chandigarh in India. Socio-demographic and lifestyle characteristics were obtained through a questionnaire, and a dried blood spot (DBS) was collected from all individuals aged 18 years and over; sexual behaviour was collected from those aged 18–49 years. DBS samples were tested for HSV-2 and syphilis serology. The association between HSV-2 and syphilis infections with socio-demographic and behavioural variables was analysed using multivariable logistic regression.

Results The prevalence of HSV-2 and syphilis was 10.1% and 1.7%, respectively. Geographic differences in HSV-2 prevalence were significant, while for syphilis it was comparable. Urban–rural differences in prevalence were only seen for syphilis. For both infections, the prevalence between males and females was not significantly different. In males and females, HSV-2 prevalence increased significantly with increasing age; for syphilis, a slight trend was seen only in females. In a multivariable analysis, HSV-2 infection in males and females was associated with site, religion and testing positive for syphilis, in addition to reporting ≥2 lifetime partners in the previous year among males and being ever married or having had sex with a non-regular partner in the last year among females.

Conclusions The burden and geographic heterogeneity of HSV-2 and syphilis infections in India are significant. A national household and DBS-based sexually transmitted infection (STI) surveillance system would enable monitoring, especially in relation to the HIV epidemic, and planning of evidence-based prevention and treatment programmes.

  • Herpes Simplex Virus-2 (HSV-2)
  • syphilis
  • prevalence
  • risk factors
  • STD

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  • Disclaimer The views expressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

  • Competing interests None.

  • Ethics approval Ethics approval was provided by the Health Ministry Screening Committee of the Indian Council of Medical Research and the Institutional Review Boards of the participating institutions (Nizam's Institute of Medical Science, St John's National Academy of Health Sciences, IERB/177/05, and Post Graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research).

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.