Herpes simplex virus type 2 (HSV-2), one the most common causes of genital ulcers, appears to increase both the risk of HIV acquisition and HIV transmission. HSV-2/HIV co-infection among pregnant women may increase the risk of perinatal transmission of HIV. This study describes rates of HSV-2 among pregnant women in Haiti and HSV-2 test performance in this population.
Unlinked residual serum specimens from the 2012 National HIV and Syphilis Sentinel Surveillance Survey among pregnant women in Haiti were tested using two commercial kits (Focus HerpeSelect, Kalon) for HSV-2 antibodies. We evaluated rates of HSV-2 seropositivity and HSV-2/HIV co-infection, associations between HSV-2 and demographic characteristics using multivariable Cox proportional hazards modeling, and HSV-2 test performance in this population.
Serum samples from 1000 pregnant women (all 164 HIV positive and 836 random HIV negative) were selected. The overall weighted prevalence of HSV-2 was 31.4% (95% CI: 27.7-35.4) and the prevalence of HIV-positivity among HSV-2 positive pregnant women was five times higher than the prevalence among HSV-2 negative women (4.8% [95% CI: 3.9-6.0] vs. 0.9% [95% CI: 0.6-1.3], respectively). Factors significantly associated with HSV-2 positivity were HIV-positivity (PR: 2.27 [95% CI: 1.94-2.65]) and older age (PRs: 1.41 [95% CI: 1.05-1.91] for 20-24 years, 1.71 [95% CI:1.13-2.60] for 30-34 years, and 1.55 [95% CI: 1.10-2.19] for 35 years or greater]), while rural residence was negatively associated with HSV-2 positivity (PR 0.83 [95% CI: 0.69-1.00]), after controlling for other covariables. For this study a conservative Focus index cutoff of 3.5 was used, but among samples with a Focus index value ≥2.5, 98.4% had positive Kalon tests.
The prevalence of HSV-2 is relatively high among pregnant women in Haiti. Public health interventions to increase access to HSV-2 screening in antenatal services are warranted.