Of the studies in the review, eight either presented a relative risk for incident HSV-2 as a risk factor for HIV seroconversion, or presented data allowing for its calculation. These RR values are presented in Table 3. However, with few exceptions, the majority of HSV-2 and HIV seroconversions were recorded during the same follow-up intervals, so it was impossible to determine which infection occurred first, or whether both infections occurred simultaneously. Also, in contrast to our meta-analyses, very few studies adjusted for confounders such as markers of sexual behaviour. In most [19,24,25,27,32], but not all [30,33] studies, recent HSV-2 seroconverters had a higher risk of HIV acquisition than those who had seroconverted to HSV-2 before the study began (comparing Table 3 with Table 1), but these estimates should be interpreted with caution.
We attempted to minimize confounding by requesting that authors adjust their estimates of relative risk by a-priori confounders of age and sexual behaviour. Only studies adjusting for at least these confounders were included in the meta-analysis of the effect of prevalent HSV-2. However, residual confounding, especially by sexual behaviour, which was controlled for in a wide variety of ways by included studies, is a major concern in a meta-analysis of observational studies. Obtaining accurate information on sexual behaviour is extremely difficult. However, in most studies the RR changed little upon adjustment for a wide range of confounders.
Publication bias is unlikely to have played an important role in our study since only 5 of the 23 RR values used were published in the form in which they appear in this analysis. Many RR values were extracted from papers or requested from authors whose papers had been published with a different purpose. In these cases, publication was probably not determined by the strength of the RR of interest to this meta-analysis. The funnel plots of ‘inclusion’ bias showed little evidence of any bias.
We would like to thank the authors of studies included in the review, and especially researchers contributing information and further data analyses to this review (listed alphabetically by study group/institution): Scott Holmberg (Centers for Disease Control); Nicolas Nagot (Centre Muraz, Burkina Faso); Eduard Sanders, Nicole Dukers (Ethio-Netherlands AIDS Research Project); Ron Gray (Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health); Steven Reynolds, Mary Shepherd, Sanjay Mehendale (Johns Hopkins University–National AIDS Research Institute India Collaboration); Jim Todd (London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine); Gabriele Riedner, Michael Hoelscher (Mbeya Medical Research Programme); Gita Ramjee, Eleanor Gouws, Brian Williams (Medical Research Council, South Africa/UNAIDS/WHO); Willi McFarland, Tim Kellogg (San Francisco Department of Public Health); Peter Kilmarx, Sara Whitehead, Philip Mock, Khanchit Limpakarniarnarat (Thailand MOPH–US CDC Collaboration); Lawrence Kingsley (University of Pittsburgh); Rupert Kaul (University of Toronto); Ludo Lavreys, Jared Baeten, Joel Rakwar (University of Washington/University of Nairobi).
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