Herpes simplex virus type 2 (HSV-2) infection is the most common cause of genital ulcer disease (GUD) worldwide. Mother to child transmission causes high morbidity and mortality among infants. Russia is on the brink of a generalized HIV-epidemic, but Arkhangelsk is still a low-prevalence area. HSV-2 infection is associated with a three-fold increased risk of HIV-infection. The evidence on the seroprevalence of HSV-2 in Russia is limited. The aim of this study was to assess HSV-2 seroprevalence and correlates among young adults in the city of Arkhangelsk.
1243 adults aged 18-39 years participated in a cross-sectional population-based study, recruited by a public opinion agency applying a quota sampling method to achieve a data set with similar age- and sex-distribution as the population in Arkhangelsk. All participants completed a standardized, self-administrated questionnaire and were tested for HSV-2. Associations between HSV-2 seropositivity and selected sociodemographic and behavioral factors, and self-reported history of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) were studied by multivariable logistic regression.
HSV-2 seroprevalence was 18.8 %: 12.2 % (95 % confidence interval, CI 9.7-15.2) among men and 24.0 % (95 % CI 20.1-27.3) among women. Among men, HSV-2 positivity was associated with being divorced/widowed (OR = 2.85, 95 % CI 1.06-7.70), cohabitation (OR = 2.45, 95 % CI 1.07-5.62), and a history of STIs (OR = 2.11, 95 % CI 1.14-3.91). In women, HSV-2 positivity was associated with high income (OR = 3.11, 95 % CI 1.45-6.71) and having a lifetime number of sexual partners between 2 and 5 (OR = 2.72, 95 % CI 1.14-6.51), whereas sexual debut at age 18 years or older was inversely associated with the outcome (OR = 0.47, 95 % CI 0.31-0.72). In both sexes, increasing age was the strongest correlate of HSV-2 seropositivity in multivariable analyses.
The HSV-2 seroprevalence was twice as high in women than in men and increased with age in both sexes, and similar to that reported from high-prevalence countries in Europe and the USA. The high prevalence of HSV-2 among women in childbearing age reveals the potential for HSV-2 transmission from mothers to infants and increased risk of acquisition HIV-infection; it also contributes to the burden GUD among both sexes. This emphasizes the public health implications of the HSV-2 epidemic in an urban population in North-West Russia.