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Medical News

People With HSV-2 Are Probably Two to Three Times More Lkely to Contract HIV

October 12, 2007

Doctors are warning that genital herpes (HSV-2) -- which is believed to infect an estimated one in eight Australians -- can facilitate HIV infection.

Dr. Darren Russell, director of Cairns Sexual Health, said people with HSV-2 are probably two to three times more likely to contract HIV. "For the first two years after you get herpes, you get a number of outbreaks which reduce over time. If you've just contracted herpes, you're around seven to nine times more likely to contract HIV" through sex with an HIV-positive person, he said.

"HIV can't get through intact skin generally," Russell said. "But as soon as you have inflamed skin with tiny splits or tears in it, it's much easier for HIV to get through." In addition, he said, some evidence suggests that having HSV-2 antibodies somehow stimulates the production of HIV.

"We found that gay men with HIV are much more likely to have HSV-2 than HIV-negative gay men," said Professor Andrew Grulich of the National Center for HIV Epidemiology and Clinical Research. Grulich is analyzing data from a six-year study of STDs in gay men.

The study also indicated that patients with HSV-1, which causes oral cold sores, are at an increased risk of HIV. About one-third of new genital herpes cases are attributed to HSV-1, having been transmitted from the face to the genitals during oral sex.

While persons with HSV-1 genital herpes are at an increased risk of HIV through genital sex, experts say that risk is much lower with oral sex. "Oral sex is a pretty inefficient way of transmitting HIV," Grulich said. "Oral sex with someone with cold sores would increase the risk, but it's generally also pretty obvious when someone has cold sores on their mouth, and most people would not go ahead with oral sex in that situation."

Back to other news for October 2007

Adapted from:
Sydney Morning Herald
10.11.2007; Anne Fawcett

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This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.
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