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JAMA. 1992 Oct 7;268(13):1702-8.

Prevalence and correlates of herpes simplex infections. The population-based AIDS in Multiethnic Neighborhoods Study.

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Center for AIDS Prevention Studies, University of California, San Francisco.



To examine the extent and correlates of infection with herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1) and type 2 (HSV-2) in an inner-city community, we studied the prevalence of antibodies to these viruses and their association with risk behaviors in a representative sample of unmarried white, black, and Hispanic adults living in San Francisco, Calif.


Cross-sectional, community-based, random household survey.


In 1988 and 1989, we surveyed 1770 unmarried men and women aged 20 to 44 years from three San Francisco neighborhoods of varying geographic and cultural characteristics.


HSV-1 and HSV-2 antibodies based on an immunodot assay using type-specific glycoproteins gG-1 and gG-2.


Of blood samples from 1212 participants available for testing, 750 (62%) had HSV-1 antibodies and 400 (33%) had HSV-2 antibodies. After controlling for other variables, HSV-1 antibody was significantly correlated (P less than .05) with older age (in heterosexual men, women, and homosexually active men), less education (in heterosexual men and women), and Hispanic (especially those not born in the United States) or black race. HSV-2 antibody was significantly correlated (P less than .05) with female gender, number of lifetime sexual partners and older age (in heterosexual men and women), and low levels of education and black or Hispanic race (in women). Among those with antibody to HSV-2, only 28 (19%) of 149 men and 32 (13%) of 251 women reported a history of genital herpes. However, most men (62%) and women (84%) who reported a history of genital herpes had HSV-2 antibodies. We observed a similar pattern (low sensitivity and moderate specificity) for a history of facial herpes and the presence of HSV-1 antibodies. After controlling for other variables, HSV-2 antibodies were associated with a lower frequency of HSV-1 antibodies among homosexual men infected with the human immunodeficiency virus.


HSV-1 antibodies were found in nearly two thirds of single urban adults and were most common among Hispanics not born in the United States. HSV-2 antibodies were found in one third of this population and were associated with risk behaviors for sexually transmitted diseases. For both facial and genital herpes infections, self-reporting of infection was very insensitive and moderately specific.

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