- ~91% sensitivity and 92% specificity for HSV-1
- ~96% sensitivity and 97% specificity for HSV-2
- ~99% sensitivity and 95% specificity for HSV-1
- ~97% sensitivity and 98% specificity for HSV-2
- HSV-1: Approximately 92% of positive tests give the correct result.
- HSV-2: Approximately 92% of positive tests are correct, and 98% of negative tests are correct.
- HSV1: Approximately 95% of positive and 99% of negative tests are correct.
- HSV-2: Approximately 94% of positive and 99% of negative tests are correct.
The possibility of false positive tests in low prevalence populations is one of the reasons that screening for herpes is not widely recommended, since the stress of a false positive test may outweigh the benefits of early detection of the virus in someone who is asymptomatic. Still, since herpes can be transmitted in the absence of symptoms and suppressive therapy can help prevent transmission, I personally believe that screening is worth considering if you know you may be at risk, particularly if you are in a situation where you could be exposing new sexual partners to the virus. It is, however, important to first understand both that false positive tests can happen and that, even if you are infected with a herpes virus, living with herpes is not the end of the world.
Geretti AM. Genital herpes. In: Ross J, Ison C, Carder C, Lewis D, Mercey D, Young H. Sexually transmitted infections: UK national screening and testing guidelines. London (UK): British Association for Sexual Health and HIV (BASHH); 2006 Aug. p. 76-84.(Accessed online 12/28/08)
Xu, F. et al. (2006) "Trends in Herpes Simplex Virus Type 1 and Type 2 Seroprevalence in the United States" JAMA, 296:964-973