Authors: Nelly R Mugo, Randy M Stalter, Renee Heffron, Helen Rees, Caitlin W Scoville, Charles Morrison, Athena P Kourtis, Elizabeth Bukusi, Mags Beksinka, Neena M Philip, Ivana Beesham, Jen Deese, Vinodh Edward, Deborah Donnell, Jared M Baeten, Evidence for Contraceptive Options and HIV Outcomes (ECHO) Trial Consortium.
Globally, women have higher herpes simplex type 2 (HSV-2) prevalence than men; data from observational studies suggest a possible association of HSV-2 acquisition with use of intramuscular depot medroxyprogesterone acetate (DMPA-IM).
Within a randomized trial of the effect of three contraceptive methods – DMPA-IM, a copper intrauterine device (IUD), and a levonorgestrel (LNG) implant – on HIV acquisition, we assessed HSV-2 acquisition. HSV-2 and HIV seronegative women, aged 16-35 years, and seeking effective contraception were followed for 12-18 months at 12 sites in Eswatini, Kenya, South Africa, and Zambia from 2015-2018. HSV-2 serologic testing was done at enrollment and final study visits. Intention–to-treat analysis using Poisson regression with robust standard errors compared HSV-2 incidence by contraceptive method.
At baseline, 4062 randomized women were HSV-2 seronegative, of whom 3898 (96.0%) had a conclusive HSV-2 result at their final study visit. Of these, 614 (15.8%) acquired HSV-2, at an incidence of 12.4/100 person-years (p-y): 10.9/100 p-y among women assigned DMPA-IM, 13.7/100 p-y the copper IUD, and 12.7/100 p-y the LNG implant. Incidence rate ratios (IRR) for HSV-2 acquisition were 0.80 (95% confidence interval [CI] 0.65-0.97) for DMPA-IM compared with copper IUD, 0.86 (95% CI 0.71-1.05) for DMPA-IM compared with LNG implant, and 1.08 (95% CI 0.89-1.30) for copper IUD compared with LNG implant. HSV-2 acquisition risk was significantly increased among women who also acquired HIV during follow-up (IRR 3.55, 95% CI 2.78-4.48).
In a randomized trial, we found no association between HSV-2 acquisition and use of three contraceptive methods.