February 24, 2011
Data culled from 13 studies of 14,874 sub-Saharan African women, 791 of whom ended up HIV-positive, found that those cleaning, tightening or drying their vaginas using soap, cloth or paper were more at risk for contracting the virus, according to a new study.
When controlled for factors such as age, marital status, and number of sexual partners within the last three months, the study authors discovered women using cloth or paper for intravaginal cleaning were approximately 1.5 times more susceptible to HIV, and 1.25 times more susceptible if they used soap. In addition, those using soap were vulnerable to bacterial vaginosis or a disruption in the ordinarily healthful balance of vaginal microbes that stave off sickness.
Although study authors were unsuccessful delineating an express causal connection between the hygiene habits and the virus, they theorized that the women's vulnerability to HIV increased when they compromised their vaginas' safeguarding mucus, triggered inflammation or other harm, or altered the vagina's acid levels, which all increase its vulnerability to detrimental microorganisms.
The study, "Intravaginal Practices, Bacterial Vaginosis, and HIV Infection in Women: Individual Participant Data Meta-Analysis," was published in PLoS Medicine (2011;doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1000416).
Los Angeles Times
02.16.2011; Amina Khan
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