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Herpes virus drives HIV infection

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The threat from HIV remains serious. In New York researchers have found herpes virus infection drives HIV infection among non-injecting drug users reports New York University on June 27, 2014. This finding raises public health concerns about the widening scope of vulnerability to HIV.

For a long time HIV and its transmission was primarily associated with injecting drug use wherein hypodermic syringes are used to administer illicit drugs. A new study by researchers affiliated with New York University’s Center for Drug Use and HIV Research has shown that HIV infection among heterosexual non-injecting drug users in New York City has now surpassed HIV infection seen among people who inject drugs. The researchers observed that HIV infection seen among non-injecting drug users doubled over the last two decades, from 7 percent who were infected in the late 1990s 14 percent at this time. During this same period of time HIV infection seen among persons who inject drugs fell to 10 percent.

The researchers found that the increased efficiency for transmitting HIV is seen even when people with herpes simplex virus 2 (HSV-2) are between outbreaks. Herpes has been found to increase both susceptibility to and transmissibility of HIV. Greater than half of the non-injecting drug users in the study were found to be infected with HSV-2. The study's lead author Don Des Jarlais, PhD said that heterosexual intercourse is generally not very efficient for transmitting HIV. However, Dr Jarlais goes on to point out the efficiency of heterosexual transmission nearly triples when herpes simplex virus type 2 is present.

This study has been published in the journal PLOS One. The researchers had an objective of examining herpes simplex virus 2 (HSV-2)/HIV co-infection as a contributing factor associated with the increase in HIV infection among non-injecting heroin and cocaine users in New York City. From their data the researchers concluded the increase which has been seen in HIV infection among non-injecting drug users is more appropriately considered as an increase in HSV-2/HIV co-infection rather than simply an increase in prevalence of HIV. Additional interventions have been suggested which include treatment as a form of prevention and suppressing the effects of HSV-2 on HIV transmission. The findings in this research are alarming and the suggestions are therefore clearly significant.

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