AIDS. 1995 Mar; 9(3): 293-7.
Traditional vaginal agents: use and association with HIV infection in Malawian women.
Department of Epidemiology, Johns Hopkins University School of Hygiene and Public Health, Baltimore, Maryland, USA.
OBJECTIVES: To assess the prevalence of traditional vaginal agent use in Malawian women and its association with HIV infection. METHODS: Consenting, consecutive antenatal women were administered a questionnaire and screened for sexually transmitted diseases (STD) including HIV. RESULTS: Of the 6603 consenting women, 886 (13%) reported using intravaginal agents for tightening and 2222 (34%) for self-treatment of vaginal discharge and itching. A higher proportion of HIV-infected than uninfected women (17% versus 14%) reported use of intravaginal agents for treatment (odds ratio, 1.29; 95% confidence interval, 1.05-1.57), but no difference in HIV status was found when these agents were used for tightening. In multivariate analysis, vaginal agent use for treatment was independently associated with HIV seropositivity. CONCLUSIONS: The association of HIV infection with vaginal agents for self-treatment, but not for tightening, suggests that STD may play a role or that vaginal agents are used differently for the two purposes. In addition to a small increased risk of HIV infection associated with vaginal agent use, these agents may interfere with condom effectiveness or acceptability of vaginal microbicides.