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J Psychosom Res. 2003 Mar;54(3):237-44.

Stress as a predictor of symptomatic genital herpes virus recurrence in women with human immunodeficiency virus.

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  • 1University of Miami, Department of Psychology, Coral Gables, FL 33124, USA.



Genital herpes (Herpes Simplex Virus Type 2, HSV-2) is a significant public health problem for HIV+ women, who have high rates of HSV-2 seropositivity and elevated risk for HSV-2 associated morbidity and mortality. Life stress has been identified as a co-factor in genital herpes recurrence. However, no research has evaluated the relationship between stress and genital herpes recurrences in HIV+ women. The purpose of this study was to determine whether stress was associated with symptomatic genital herpes recurrences in women seropositive for HIV and HSV-2.


Thirty-four HIV-infected African-American and Caribbean-American women underwent a psychosocial interview, blood draw and gynecologic examination to assess gynecologic symptoms (including genital herpes) at study entry. Life stress was measured using a 10-item modified version of the Life Experiences Survey (LES). Genital herpes recurrence over 1-year follow-up was abstracted using medical chart review.


Using hierarchical linear regression analysis, life stress at study entry was significantly associated with number of genital herpes recurrences during 1-year follow-up (beta=.38, P=.03) after controlling for HIV disease variables and relevant behavioral factors. Recent life stress, in particular, was highly predictive of genital herpes recurrence during follow-up (beta=.57, P=.002). The relationship between life stress and genital herpes recurrence persisted after controlling for HSV-2 viral reactivation (i.e., HSV-2 IgG titers) at study entry.


These findings suggest that stress may be a significant predictor of genital herpes recurrence in women with HIV and HSV-2. Stress management interventions may buffer HSV-related morbidity and mortality in women with HIV.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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