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