Background: The transmission of Kaposi's sarcoma herpes virus (KSHV) in men who have sex with men is clearly associated with sexual risk factors, but evidence of heterosexual transmission of KSHV is conflicting.
Methods: Sera were obtained from 2103 South African individuals (862 miners, 95 sex workers, 731 female and 415 male township residents; mean age 33.2 years; ± 10.1). All sera were tested for antibodies to KSHV lytic K8.1 and latent Orf73, HIV, gonococcus, herpes simplex virus type 2 (HSV-2), syphilis and chlamydia. Information on social, demographic and high-risk sexual behavior was linked to laboratory data, to evaluate risk factors, expressed as odds ratios (95% confidence interval) for KSHV.
Results: Overall KSHV and HIV prevalences were 47.5 and 40%, respectively (P = 0.43). The risk of HIV infection was highest in sex workers then female residents and miners, compared with male residents (P < 0.001). HSV-2 infection was highly prevalent (66%) and lower, but still substantial, prevalences (6–8%) were observed for other sexually transmitted infections (STI). No significant difference in KSHV infection was observed among the residential groups (P > 0.05). KSHV was not associated with any of the STI or any measures of sexual behavior (P > 0.05).
Conclusion: The pattern of HIV and STI in sex workers suggests high rates of high-risk sexual behavior in this population. The lack of association with high-risk sexual behavior, particularly in sex workers, and with any markers of STI strongly suggest that the sexual mode does not play a significant role in KSHV transmission in this South African population.