Intravaginal practices are associated with acquiring HIV infection

Feb 15, 2011

Although there is no evidence to suggest a direct causal pathway, some intravaginal practices used by women in sub-Saharan Africa (such as washing the vagina with soap) may increase the acquisition of HIV infection and so should be avoided. Encouraging women to use less harmful intravaginal practices (for example, washing with water alone) should therefore be included in female-initiated HIV prevention research strategies in sub-Saharan Africa. These are the key findings from a study by Nicola Low, from the University of Bern, Bern, Switzerland, and colleagues and published in this week's PLoS Medicine.

The authors pooled individual participant data from 13 prospective cohort studies in sub-Saharan Africa involving nearly 15,000 women, 791 of whom acquired HIV, and found that within two years of enrolment in the studies was associated with self-reported intravaginal practices. After controlling for age, , and the number of recent sex partners, women who used cloth or paper to clean their vagina were nearly one and half times more likely to have acquired HIV infection as women who did not use this practice. Furthermore, the insertion of products to dry or tighten the vagina and intravaginal cleaning with soap also increased women's chances of acquiring HIV. Intravaginal cleaning with soap was associated with the development of , and disrupted vaginal flora—two conditions associated with an increased risk of HIV acquisition.

These findings add to the results of a recent systematic review, published in PLoS ONE, which suggested that a pathway linking intravaginal cleaning practices with vaginal infections that increase susceptibility to HIV infection is plausible, but conclusive evidence is lacking.

The authors of the study say: "New female-initiated interventions also need to be developed despite the challenges involved in measuring the impact on preventing acquisition. Behavioural interventions that have been successful in helping young US women to stop vaginal douching might be adapted for women in sub-Saharan Africa to encourage less harmful practices."

Explore further: Mathematical model seeks functional cure for HIV

More information: Low N, Chersich MF, Schmidlin K, Egger M, Francis SC, et al. (2011) Intravaginal Practices, Bacterial Vaginosis, and HIV Infection in Women: Individual Participant Data Meta-analysis. PLoS Med 8(2): e1000416. doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1000416

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Mathematical model seeks functional cure for HIV

1 hour ago

(Medical Xpress)—Individuals with the natural ability to control HIV infection in the absence of treatment are referred to as elite controllers (ECs). Such individuals maintain undetectable viral loads ...

Indiana HIV outbreak, hepatitis C epidemic sparks US alert

Apr 24, 2015

Federal health officials helping to contain an HIV outbreak in Indiana state issued an alert to health departments across the U.S. on Friday, urging them to take steps to identify and track HIV and hepatitis C cases in an ...

Why are HIV survival rates lower in the Deep South than the rest of the US?

Apr 22, 2015

The Deep South region has become the epicenter of the US HIV epidemic. Despite having only 28% of the total US population, nine states in the Deep South account for nearly 40% of national HIV diagnoses. This region has the highest HIV diagnosis rates and the highest number of people living with HIV of any ...

A bad buzz: Men with HIV need fewer drinks to feel effects

Apr 20, 2015

Researchers at Yale and the VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System compared the number of drinks that men with HIV infection, versus those without it, needed to get a buzz. They found that HIV-infected men were more sensitive to ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.