Condoms Prevent Herpes Simplex Virus Type 2

Jeffrey P. Callen, MD

Journal Watch 

Consistent users had a significantly reduced risk for genital herpes infection compared with never users.

Herpes simplex virus type 2 (HSV-2), the usual cause of genital herpes, is acquired through direct contact with secretions from a person with active or latent infection. The use of condoms may effectively prevent the acquisition of this infection.

Investigators pooled data from six prospective studies in 5384 people without HSV-2 infection at baseline, 415 of whom later developed HSV-2 infection. Three studies assessed vaccine effectiveness, one evaluated drug therapy for HSV-2, and two studies focused on transmission of sexually transmitted infections. The investigators were able to obtain individual-level "raw" data, making this evaluation a new study, rather than a meta-analysis.

In multivariate analysis, the investigators found a 30% lower risk for HSV-2 acquisition in those who used condoms 100% of the time compared with those who never used them (hazard ratio, 0.70; P=0.01). Risk for HSV-2 acquisition increased consistently and significantly with each additional unprotected sex act (HR, 1.16; P<0.001).


Consistent use of condoms appears to lessen the chance of acquiring HSV-2 infection.

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