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J Womens Health (Larchmt). 2016 Aug;25(8):840-5. doi: 10.1089/jwh.2015.5579. Epub 2016 May 31.

High Rates of Herpes Simplex Virus Type 2 Infection in Homeless Women: Informing Public Health Strategies.

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1 Department of Medicine, University of California , San Francisco, San Francisco, California.
2 Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, University of California , San Francisco, San Francisco, California.
3 San Francisco Department of Public Health, University of California , San Francisco, San Francisco, California.



Homeless and unstably housed women living in an urban setting are at risk for sexually transmitted diseases, yet the seroprevalence and correlates of herpes simplex virus type 2 (HSV-2) specific to impoverished women are poorly understood.


Between April and October 2010, we conducted a cross-sectional analysis of sociodemographic, structural, and behavioral factors associated with prevalent HSV-2 infection (recent and historical infections) within a community-recruited cohort of homeless and unstably housed women. Logistic regression modeling was used to identify independent sociobehavioral correlates of HSV-2 infection.


Among 213 women (114 HIV positive and 99 HIV negative), the median age was 49, 48% were African American, and 63% had completed high school. HSV-2 seroprevalence was 88%, and only 17% of infected women were aware of their infection. In adjusted analysis, odds of HSV-2 infection were significantly higher for those reporting at-risk drinking (adjusted odds ratio [AOR] = 7.04; 95% confidence interval [CI] = 1.59, 67.91), heterosexual orientation (AOR = 4.56; 95% CI = 1.81, 11.69), and for those who were HIV positive (AOR = 3.64; 95% CI = 1.43, 10.30). Odds of HSV-2 infection decreased as current income increased (AOR for each $500 monthly increase = 0.90; 95% CI = 0.78, 0.997).


There is an extremely high seroprevalence of HSV-2 infection among homeless and unstably housed women, and most are unaware of their HSV-2 status. Screening all unstably housed women for HSV-2 infection, with additional counseling for sexual risk and alcohol use, may lead to the identification of more infections and be a first step in reducing additional disease transmission.

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