Introduction Anogenital herpes (AH), associated with significant physical and psychological morbidity, is the second most commonly diagnosed viral sexually transmitted infection (STI) in England and is caused by infection with Herpes Simplex Virus (HSV) Type-1 or Type-2. We investigated the epidemiological and serotype characteristics of AH diagnoses in England and changes over time.
Methods We performed a descriptive analysis of socio-demographic and clinical characteristics of AH using data from the national surveillance system for STIs (GUMCADv2), and calculated the proportion of new episodes by serotype using data from the national laboratory surveillance system in England from 2006–2015.
Results There were 31,312 first and 25,356 recurrent AH episodes in 2015, and diagnosis rates of first episode AH increased 55% from 38 to 59 per 100,000 population since 2006. In 2015, diagnosis rates were highest among women (73.5), people aged 20-24 (243.1), those of Black Caribbean ethnicity (176.3), and London residents (93.8). Although MSM only accounted for 4.6% (n=1430) of diagnoses in 2015, there was an 18% increase in diagnoses since 2011; overall 28% of MSM diagnosed with AH were HIV-positive. The distribution of HSV-1/HSV-2 has remained stable since 2006: in 2015, 48% of women and 36% of men with AH were diagnosed with HSV-1 infection.
Discussion Increased diagnoses of AH may be due to changes in sexual practices or improved test sensitivity. Differences by socio-demographic characteristics can be used to inform prevention strategies, while those by serotype are essential for guiding vaccine development.