Background: Herpes simplex virus type 2 (HSV-2) infection increases acquisition and transmission of HIV, but the results of trials measuring the impact of HSV-2 therapy on HIV genital shedding and HIV acquisition are mixed, and the potential impact of HSV-2 therapy on the incidence of HIV at the population level is unknown. Methods: The effects of episodic and suppressive HSV-2 therapy were simulated using the individual-level model STDSIM fitted to data from Cotonou, Benin (relatively low HIV prevalence) and Kisumu, Kenya (high HIV prevalence). Clinician- and patient-initiated episodic therapy, started when symptomatic, were assumed to reduce ulcer duration. Suppressive therapy, given regardless of symptoms, was also assumed to reduce ulcer frequency and HSV-2 infectiousness. Results: Clinician-initiated episodic therapy in the general population had almost no effect on the incidence of HIV. The impact of patient-initiated therapy was higher because of earlier treatment initiation, but still low (20% in the long term. Impact was increased in both cities by also treating a proportion of their clients. Long-term suppressive therapy with high coverage in the general population could reduce HIV incidence by more than 30%. Conclusions: These results show that HSV-2 therapy could potentially have a population-level impact on the incidence of HIV, especially in more concentrated epidemics. However, a substantial impact requires high coverage and long duration therapy, or very high symptom recognition and treatment-seeking behaviour.
Sexually Transmitted Infections (2008) 84 (supplement 2) ii12-ii18 [doi:10.1136/sti.2008.029918]