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JAMA. 2002 Jan 9;287(2):221-5.

Prevalence of Kaposi sarcoma-associated herpesvirus infection in homosexual men at beginning of and during the HIV epidemic.

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  • 1Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, University of California, San Francisco, CA 94143, USA. dosmond@psg.ucsf.edu



Some studies have inferred that an epidemic of Kaposi sarcoma-associated herpesvirus (KSHV) infection in homosexual men in the United States occurred concurrently with that of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), but there have been no direct measurements of KSHV prevalence at the beginning of the HIV epidemic.


To determine the prevalence of KSHV infection in homosexual men in San Francisco, Calif, at the beginning of the HIV epidemic in 1978 and 1979 and to examine changes in prevalence of KSHV at time points from 1978 through 1996 in light of changes in sexual behavior.


Analysis of a clinic-based sample (n = 398) derived from the San Francisco City Clinic Cohort (ages 18-66 years) (n = 2666 for analyses herein) and from population-based samples from the San Francisco Men's Health Study (MHS) (ages 25-54 years) (n = 825 and 252) and the San Francisco Young Men's Health Study (YMHS) (ages 18-29 years) (n = 428-976, and 557); behavioral studies were longitudinal and KSHV prevalence studies were cross-sectional.


Antibodies against KSHV and HIV; sexual behaviors.


The prevalence of KSHV infection in 1978 and 1979 was 26.5% of 235 (a random sample) overall (weighted for HIV infection) vs 6.9% (128/1842) for HIV in the San Francisco City Clinic Cohort sample. The prevalence of KSHV infection remained essentially unchanged between an MHS sample of 252 in 1984 and 1985 (29.6%) and a YMHS sample of 557 in 1995 and 1996 (26.4%), while HIV prevalence dropped from 49.5% of 825 in 1984 and 1985 (MHS) to 17.6% of 428 in 1992 and 1993 (YMHS). The proportion of men practicing unprotected receptive anal intercourse with 1 or more partners declined from 54% to 11% during the 1984 through 1993 period (MHS) with similar though slightly higher values in the YMHS in 1992 and 1993; whereas for unprotected oral intercourse it ranged between 60% and 90% in the 1984 through 1996 period (MHS and YMHS).


Infection with KSHV was already highly prevalent in homosexual men when the HIV epidemic began in San Francisco, and its prevalence has been maintained at a nearly constant level. Any declines in the incidence of Kaposi sarcoma do not appear to be caused by a decline in KSHV transmission.

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