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Sexual behaviour and human herpesvirus 8 infection in homosexual men in Australia

Andrew E. Grulich A F , Philip Cunningham E , Mee-Ling Munier B , Garrett Prestage A , Janaki Amin A , Clare Ringland A , Denise Whitby D , Susan Kippax E , John M. Kaldor A and William Rawlinson C
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A National Centre in HIV Epidemiology and Clinical Research, University of New South Wales, Level 2, 376 Victoria Street, Sydney, NSW 2010 Australia.

B Centre for Immunology, St Vincent’s Hospital.

C South-Eastern Area Laboratory Service, School of Biomedical Science, University of New South Wales.

D Viral Epidemiology Section, AIDS Vaccine Program, National Cancer Institute, USA.

E National Centre in HIV Social Research, University of New South Wales

F Author for correspondence. Email:

Sexual Health 2(1) 13-18
Submitted: 27 July 2004  Accepted: 9 February 2005   Published: 22 March 2005


Background: Human herpesvirus 8 (HHV-8) is a common sexually transmitted agent among homosexual men, but there are few Australian data. We aimed to describe the prevalence and risk factors for seropositivity to HHV-8 in Australian homosexual men. Methods: We conducted a prospective cohort study of 179 homosexual men in Sydney Australia in 1992–1998. Detailed data on sexual behaviour was collected annually, and HHV-8 status was determined at the end of the study by an algorithm based on results of an immunofluorescence assay and an enzyme-linked immunoassay to the K8.1 protein of HHV-8. HHV-8 DNA was detected in buffy coats using a nested qualitative PCR. Results: Data on sexual behaviour in at least three interviews and HHV-8 status were available in 174 (97%) of 179 men who agreed to participate. Of these, 31 (18%) were HHV-8 seropositive, and HHV-8 DNA was detected in 5 (16%) of these. The prevalence of HHV-8 infection was much higher in HIV positive (52%) than HIV negative (11%) men (OR 8.60, 95% CI 3.55–20.86). HHV-8 infection was related to more frequent reporting of unprotected receptive anal sex (OR for most frequent versus least frequent category 3.03, 95% CI 1.01–9.03, P trend 0.02), insertive oro–anal sex (OR for most frequent v. least frequent category 3.02, 95% CI 1.15–7.93, P trend 0.02) and receptive oro–anal sex (OR for most frequent v. least frequent category 3.09, 95% CI 1.11–8.60, P trend 0.05) with casual partners. Conclusions: These data are consistent with sexual transmission of HHV-8, but the precise mode of HHV-8 transmission remains unclear. Studies to elucidate the precise mode of sexual transmission of HHV-8 need to focus on potential salivary transmission, and should collect data on the HHV-8 infection and excretion status of the sexual partner.

Additional keywords: transmission, HHV-8.


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