Hormonal Birth Control Can Intensify Genital Injury During Sex, Increasing HIV Risk

Women using some hormonal birth control methods are at an increased risk for HIV infection, with one study estimating that injectable hormonal contraceptives come with a two-fold increase in HIV risk. Recent research published in JAIDS suggests a reason why -- by showing that women taking hormonal birth control are more likely to get vaginal and anal injuries after consensual sex than women not on hormonal birth control.

Vaginal and anal sex can damage the epithelial lining of the vagina/anus and cause tears, abrasions, bruising, redness and swelling. These types of injuries, which may be microscopic and without pain, can increase risk for HIV infection if a person is exposed to HIV by a sex partner. (The body's inflammatory response -- triggered by injury -- leads to recruitment of immune cells to the site of injury, which are vulnerable to HIV infection.)

Bridgette Brawner, Ph.D., and colleagues set out to determine if hormonal birth control and menstrual cycle phase impacts the extent of genital/anal injury during sex by conducting genitoanal assessment after consensual sex in a sample of almost 500 women.

This excerpt was cross-posted with the permission of BETAblog.org. Read the full article.