Sexual transmission of bacterial and viral sexually transmitted disease has been reported between women. No data are available on seroprevalence of herpes simplex virus type-1 (HSV-1) and type-2 (HSV-2) among lesbians.
The goal was to define prevalence of infection with HSV-1 and HSV-2 among lesbians, and associated risk factors.
Women who reported sex with another woman in the preceding year were eligible. Medical and sexual histories were obtained. Serum was tested for HSV-1 and HSV-2 antibodies using Western Blot assay.
Among 392 subjects, antibodies to HSV-1 were detected in 46% and to HSV-2 in 8%. Increasing age predicted higher seroprevalence to both HSV types, and HSV-2 seropositivity was associated with a history of male partner with genital herpes. Of 78 women reporting no prior sex with men, 3% were HSV-2-seropositive. Most HSV-2-seropositive subjects (71%) reported no history of genital herpes. HSV-1 seroprevalence increased significantly with an increasing number of female sex partners.
HSV-2 infection occurs in nearly 1 in 10 lesbians and is not predicted by report of sex with men or sexual identity. Most lesbians infected with HSV-2 are not aware of their infection. Sexual transmission of HSV-1 may occur more frequently among lesbians than among heterosexual women.
A study of lesbians found that herpes simplex virus-2 seroprevalence was 8.2%, with most infected subjects unaware of it. Seroprevalence of herpes simplex virus-1 (46%) increased with increasing number of female partners, suggesting a role for sexual acquisition.
Departments of *Medicine, †Epidemiology, and ‡Laboratory Medicine, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington
Supported by NIH grants R29-AI41153-04 (JM) and AI-30731 (AW).
Correspondence: Jeanne M. Marrazzo, MD, MPH, Harborview Medical Center, Division of Infectious Diseases, 325 9th Avenue, Mailbox #359931, Seattle, WA 98104. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Received for publication March 24, 2003,
revised July 15, 2003, and accepted July 21, 2003.