Last week, at the International AIDS Conference, researchers from the University of Washington, Seattle reported that the long-term acyclovir treatment for genital herpes did not reduce the rate of new HIV infections as previously thought.

These findings came as a surprise to them especially because it was previously determined that infection with herpes simplex virus type 2 (HSV-2), the virus that causes genital herpes, increases the risk of HIV many fold.

In a randomized multicultural trial, the researchers evaluated the effects of acyclovir in 1,814 gay men who were having sex with men from the United States and Peru, and in 1,358 women from Zimbabwe, Zambia and South Africa. All the trial participants were infected with HSV-2 but not with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. They were separated into two groups, those taking acyclovir and the control group who were receiving placebo pills.
They were followed monthly for up to 18 months.
The study results showed that the incidence of genital ulcers was significantly lower in the acyclovir group while the incidence of HIV infection was the same in both groups.

They believe that the genital herpes virus may be a risk marker, and not a risk factor for HIV infection as previously thought.