HSV-2 prevalence and association with inflammatory cytokines among sexual and gender minorities (SGM) living with and without HIV-1 from Lagos, Nigeria

Meropi Aravantinou, Population Council
Marlena Gehret Plagianos, Population Council
Afoke Kokogho
Sylvia Adebajo
Rebecca G. Nowak
Elizabeth Shoyemi, Population Council
Charles Ekeh, Population Council
Kara Lombardi
Sheila Peel
Stefan D. Baral
Trevor Crowell
Nina Derby, Population Council
Natalia Teleshova, Population Council
Elena Martinelli, Population Council


Herpes simplex virus type 2 (HSV-2) is common globally and contributes significantly to the risk of acquiring HIV-1, yet these two sexually transmitted infections (STIs) have not been sufficiently characterized for sexual and gender minorities (SGM) across sub-Saharan Africa. To help fill this gap, we performed a retrospective study using plasma and serum samples from 183 SGM enrolled at the Lagos site of the TRUST/RV368 cohort in Nigeria, assayed them for HSV-2 antibodies with the Kalon ELISA and plasma cytokines and chemokines with Luminex, and correlated the findings with HIV-1 viral loads and CD4 counts. We found an overall HSV-2 prevalence of 36.6% (49.5% and 23.9% among SGM with and without HIV-1, respectively, p < 0.001). Moreover, HSV-2 positive status was associated with high circulating concentrations of CCL11 among antiretroviral therapy (ART) treated (p = 0.031) and untreated (p = 0.015) participants, and with high concentrations of CCL2 in the untreated group (p = 0.004), independent of VL. Principal component analysis revealed a strong association of cytokines with HIV-1 viral load independent of HSV-2 status. In conclusion, our study finds that HSV-2 prevalence among SGM with HIV-1 is twice as high than HSV-2 prevalence among SGM without HIV-1 in Lagos and suggests that this is associated with higher levels of certain systemic cytokines. Additional work is needed to further characterize the relationship between HSV-2 and HIV-1 in SGM and help develop targeted therapies for co-infected individuals.