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1.  Lipoprotein levels and cardiovascular risk in HIV-infected and uninfected Rwandan women 
Lipoprotein profiles in HIV-infected African women have not been well described. We assessed associations of lipoprotein levels and cardiovascular risk with HIV-infection and CD4 count in Rwandan women.
Cross-sectional study of 824 (218 HIV-negative, 606 HIV+) Rwandan women. Body composition by body impedance analysis, CD4 count, and fasting serum total cholesterol (total-C), triglycerides (TG) and high-density lipoprotein (HDL) levels were measured. Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) was calculated from Friedewald equation if TG < 400 and measured directly if TG ≥ 400 mg/dl.
BMI was similar in HIV+ and -negative women, < 1% were diabetic, and HIV+ women were younger. In multivariate models LDL was not associated with HIV-serostatus. HDL was lower in HIV+ women (44 vs. 54 mg/dL, p < 0.0001) with no significant difference by CD4 count (p = 0.13). HIV serostatus (p = 0.005) and among HIV+ women lower CD4 count (p = 0.04) were associated with higher TG. BMI was independently associated with higher LDL (p = 0.01), and higher total body fat was strongly associated with higher total-C and LDL. Framingham risk scores were < 2% in both groups.
In this cohort of non-obese African women HDL and TG, but not LDL, were adversely associated with HIV infection. As HDL is a strong predictor of cardiovascular (CV) events in women, this HIV-associated difference may confer increased risk for CV disease in HIV-infected women.
PMCID: PMC2940781  PMID: 20796311
2.  Food Insufficiency Is Associated with High-Risk Sexual Behavior among Women in Botswana and Swaziland 
PLoS Medicine  2007;4(10):e260.
Both food insufficiency and HIV infection are major public health problems in sub-Saharan Africa, yet the impact of food insufficiency on HIV risk behavior has not been systematically investigated. We tested the hypothesis that food insufficiency is associated with HIV transmission behavior.
Methods and Findings
We studied the association between food insufficiency (not having enough food to eat over the previous 12 months) and inconsistent condom use, sex exchange, and other measures of risky sex in a cross-sectional population-based study of 1,255 adults in Botswana and 796 adults in Swaziland using a stratified two-stage probability design. Associations were examined using multivariable logistic regression analyses, clustered by country and stratified by gender. Food insufficiency was reported by 32% of women and 22% of men over the previous 12 months. Among 1,050 women in both countries, after controlling for respondent characteristics including income and education, HIV knowledge, and alcohol use, food insufficiency was associated with inconsistent condom use with a nonprimary partner (adjusted odds ratio [AOR] 1.73, 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.27–2.36), sex exchange (AOR 1.84, 95% CI 1.74–1.93), intergenerational sexual relationships (AOR 1.46, 95% CI 1.03–2.08), and lack of control in sexual relationships (AOR 1.68, 95% CI 1.24–2.28). Associations between food insufficiency and risky sex were much attenuated among men.
Food insufficiency is an important risk factor for increased sexual risk-taking among women in Botswana and Swaziland. Targeted food assistance and income generation programs in conjunction with efforts to enhance women's legal and social rights may play an important role in decreasing HIV transmission risk for women.
In a cross-sectional study, Sheri Weiser and colleagues found that food insufficiency was an important risk factor for increased sexual risk-taking in women in Botswana and Swaziland.
Editors' Summary
For people in sub-Saharan Africa, insufficient food for their daily needs and infection with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV; the cause of acquired immunodeficiency syndrome or AIDS) are inextricably linked and major causes of illness and death. By reducing the number of healthy adults in the region, HIV/AIDS has decreased food production so fewer people have secure access to sufficient food for a healthy life—many are subject to “food insecurity.” Because good nutrition is essential for a strong immune system, food insecurity increases the likelihood that people exposed to HIV become infected with the virus and reduces their ability to remain healthy after infection. Consequently, more people succumb to HIV/AIDS and food insecurity increases. To break this vicious cycle, UNAIDS (the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS) and other international bodies have suggested a move towards integrated food security programs and HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment programs wherever possible.
Why Was This Study Done?
Integrated food and HIV/AIDS programs might also be beneficial for another reason. HIV is usually spread through unprotected sex with an infected partner and it is thought that a lack of food increases sexual risk taking, particularly among poor women. These women have little control over food supplies but are expected to feed their children and other members of the household (such as elders). To do this, they may sell sex or become sexually involved with men of a different generation, both of which put them at risk of HIV. In addition, they are rarely able to demand that their partners use condoms or to control when they have sex. In this study, the researchers have examined how food insufficiency affects sexual risk taking among men and women in Swaziland and Botswana. These two countries have the highest HIV infection rates in the world—one in three adults in Swaziland and one in four in Botswana are infected—and in both countries many people are extremely poor.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers interviewed more than 2,000 randomly selected adults from Botswana and Swaziland using a standard questionnaire. This included general questions about the participants (for example, age and marital status) and questions about food insufficiency (defined as not having had enough food to eat over the previous 12 months) and risky sexual behaviors—for example, sex exchange (selling or paying for sex) and inconsistent condom use—over the same period. Nearly one in three women and one in four men reported food insufficiency. After allowing for variables such as education and income, women in both countries who reported food insufficiency were nearly twice as likely to have used condoms inconsistently with a non-regular partner or to have sold sex as women who had had sufficient food. They were also more likely to have had intergenerational sexual relationships and to report a lack of control in sexual relationships. Among men, food insufficiency was weakly associated with inconsistent condom use but not with other risky sexual behaviors.
What Do These Findings Mean?
Food insufficiency is associated with multiple (often interdependent) risky sexual practices among women in Botswana and Swaziland. These results may not hold for other countries and may be limited by the definition of food insufficiency used in the study and by participants failing to remember or report all instances of risky behavior or food insufficiency that occurred during the previous year. Nevertheless, the findings strongly suggest that protecting and promoting access to food may decrease vulnerability of women in sub-Saharan Africa to HIV infection. Improved food security might be achieved through targeted food assistance and by supporting women's subsistence farming and other means of food production. Such programs would also need to enhance women's legal and social rights so that they have more control over food supplies as well as their sexual lives.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations Special Programme for Food Security (in several languages)
HIV InSite, comprehensive and up-to-date information on all aspects of HIV/AIDS from the University of California San Francisco
UNAIDS (Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS) fact sheet on nutrition, food security, and HIV/AIDS
HIV and AIDS in Swaziland and Botswana, information provided by Avert, an international AIDS charity
The IMAGE Study, an example of a research initiative that is investigating the potential role of poverty alleviation and women's empowerment in reducing HIV incidence in South Africa
PMCID: PMC2039764  PMID: 17958460
3.  Assessment of haematological parameters in HIV-infected and uninfected Rwandan women: a cross-sectional study 
BMJ Open  2012;2(6):e001600.
Although haematological abnormalities are common manifestations of HIV infection, few studies on haematological parameters in HIV-infected persons have been undertaken in sub-Saharan Africa. The authors assessed factors associated with haematological parameters in HIV-infected antiretroviral-naïve and HIV-uninfected Rwandan women.
Study design
Cross-sectional analysis of a longitudinal cohort.
Community-based women's associations.
710 HIV-infected (HIV+) antiretroviral-naïve and 226 HIV-uninfected (HIV−) women from the Rwanda Women's Interassociation Study Assessment. Haematological parameters categorised as (abnormal vs normal) were compared by HIV status and among HIV+ women by CD4 count category using proportions. Multivariate logistic regression models using forward selection were fit.
Prevalence of anaemia (haemoglobin (Hb) <12.0 g/dl) was higher in the HIV+ group (20.5% vs 6.3%; p<0.001), and increased with lower CD4 counts: ≥350 (7.6%), 200–349 (16%) and <200 cells/mm3 (32.2%). Marked anaemia (Hb <10.0 g/dl) was found in 4.2% of HIV+ and none of the HIV− women (p<0.001), and was highest in HIV+ women with CD4 <200 cells/mm3 (8.4%). The HIV+ were more likely than HIV− women (4.2 vs 0.5%, respectively, p=0.002) to have moderate neutropenia with white blood cells <2.0×103 cells/mm3 and 8.4% of HIV+ women with CD4 <200 cells/mm3 had moderate neutropenia. In multivariate logistic regression analysis, BMI (OR 0.87/kg/m2, 95% CI 0.82 to 0.93; p<0.001), CD4 200–350 vs HIV− (OR 3.59, 95% CI 1.89 to 6.83; p<0.001) and CD4 <200 cells/mm3 vs HIV− (OR 8.09, 95% CI 4.37 to 14.97; <0.001) had large independent associations with anaemia. There were large independent associations of CD4 <200 cells/mm3 vs HIV− (OR 7.18, 95% CI 0.78 to 65.82; p=0.081) and co-trimoxazole and/or dapsone use (OR 5.69, 95% CI 0.63 to 51.45; p=0.122) with moderate neutropenia.
Anaemia was more common than neutropenia or thrombocytopenia in the HIV-infected Rwandan women. Future comparisons of haematological parameters in HIV-infected patients before and after antiretroviral therapy initiation are warranted.
PMCID: PMC3533001  PMID: 23169875
4.  Associations of HIV infection with insulin and glucose levels in antiretroviral-naïve Rwandan women: a cross-sectional analysis 
BMJ Open  2013;3(12):e003879.
The purpose of these analyses was to determine the associations of HIV infection and related immune dysfunction with a glucose homeostasis in the population of antiretroviral-naïve HIV-infected and uninfected Rwandan women. We hypothesise that insulin resistance and its consequences in the developing countries may be further elevated with HIV infection itself regardless of antiretroviral therapy.
Study design
Cross-sectional analysis of a longitudinal cohort.
Community-based women's associations.
In 2005, 710 HIV-infected (HIV positive) antiretroviral naïve and 226 HIV-uninfected (HIV negative) women were enrolled in the Rwanda Women's Interassociation Study and Assessment (RWISA). Clinical and demographic parameters, CD4 count, fasting insulin and glucose levels, anthropometric measurements and Bioelectrical Impedance Analysis (BIA) were obtained. Linear models were fit to log-transformed Homeostasis Model Assessment (HOMA) with results exponentiated back to a multiplicative effect on the original scale.
Primary outcome measures
The outcome, insulin resistance, was measured by the HOMA, calculated as fasting insulin (μU/mL)×fasting glucose (mmol/L)⁄22.5.
In adjusted models, HIV-positive women were less insulin resistant than HIV-negative; an HIV-positive woman tended to have 0.728 times as much (95% CI 0.681 to 0.861) HOMA than a comparable HIV-negative woman. Among the HIV-positive women, those with CD4 <200 cells/µL tended to have 0.741 times as much HOMA (95% CI 0.601 to 0.912) as did comparable women with CD4 >350 cells/µL. The older age was independently associated with a lower HOMA insulin resistance. After adjusting for body mass index, fat and fat-free mass were not independently associated with HOMA.
This study found that HIV infection and more advanced HIV infection (CD4 counts <200 cells/µL) were associated with greater insulin sensitivity in antiretroviral naïve African women. These findings provide baseline information for the interpretation of future studies on the effect of antiretroviral therapy on metabolic insulin sensitivity derangements in African population.
PMCID: PMC3855496  PMID: 24319275
Diabetes & Endocrinology; Epidemiology
5.  Association of Pre-Treatment Nutritional Status with Change in CD4 Count after Antiretroviral Therapy at 6, 12, and 24 Months in Rwandan Women 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(12):e29625.
Body mass index (BMI) independently predicts mortality in studies of HIV infected patients initiating antiretroviral therapy (ART). We hypothesized that poorer nutritional status would be associated with smaller gains in CD4 count in Rwandan women initiating ART.
Methods and Findings
The Rwandan Women's Interassociation Study and Assessment, enrolled 710 ART-naïve HIV-positive and 226 HIV-negative women in 2005 with follow-up every 6 months. The outcome assessed in this study was change in CD4 count at 6, 12, and 24 months after ART initiation. Nutritional status measures taken prior to ART initiation were BMI; height adjusted fat free mass (FFMI); height adjusted fat mass (FMI), and sum of skinfold measurements. 475 women initiated ART. Mean (within 6 months) pre-ART CD4 count was 216 cells/µL. Prior to ART initiation, the mean (±SD) BMI was 21.6 (±3.78) kg/m2 (18.3% malnourished with BMI<18.5); and among women for whom the following were measured, mean FFMI was 17.10 (±1.76) kg/m2; FMI 4.7 (±3.5) kg/m2 and sum of skinfold measurements 4.9 (±2.7) cm. FFMI was significantly associated with a smaller change in CD4 count at 6 months in univariate analysis (−6.7 cells/uL per kg/m2, p  = 0.03) only. In multivariate analysis after adjustment for covariates, no nutritional variable was associated with change in CD4 count at any follow up visit.
In this cohort of African women initiating ART, no measure of malnutrition prior to ART was consistently associated with change in CD4 count at 6, 12, and 24 months of follow up, suggesting that poorer pre-treatment nutritional status does not prevent an excellent response to ART.
PMCID: PMC3247268  PMID: 22216334
6.  Association between nutritional status and the immune response in HIV + patients under HAART: protocol for a systematic review 
Systematic Reviews  2014;3:9.
Over 850 million people worldwide and 200 million adults in Sub-Saharan Africa suffer from malnutrition. Countries most affected by HIV are also stricken by elevated rates of food insecurity and malnutrition. HIV infection and insufficient nutritional intake are part of a vicious cycle that contributes to immunodeficiency and negative health outcomes. However, the effect of the overlap between HIV infection and undernutrition on the immune response following antiretroviral initiation remains unclear. A possible explanation could be the lack of consensus concerning the definition and assessment of nutritional status. Our objectives are to investigate the existence of an association between undernutrition and immune response at antiretroviral treatment initiation and the following year in low- and middle-income countries where malnutrition is most prevalent.
Our systematic review will identify studies originating from low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) published from 1996 onwards, through searches in MEDLINE (PubMed interface), EMBASE (OVID interface), Cochrane Central (OVID interface) and grey literature. No language restrictions will be applied. We will seek out studies of any design investigating the association between the nutritional status (for example, undernourished versus well nourished) and the immune response, either in terms of CD4 count or immune failure, in seropositive patients initiating antiretroviral therapy or in their first year of treatment. Two reviewers will independently screen articles, extract data and assess scientific quality using standardized forms and published quality assessment tools tailored for each study design. Where feasible, pooled measures of association will be obtained through meta-analyses. Results will be reported according to the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses (PRISMA) Statement. This protocol has been registered in the PROSPERO database (registration number: CRD42014005961).
Undernutrition and weight loss are prevalent amongst highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART)-treated patients in LMICs and contribute to excess early mortality. A possible intermediate pathway could be poor immune reconstitution secondary to deficient nutritional status. In the face of limited access to second line treatments, raising HIV resistance and cut backs to HIV programs, it is crucial to identify the factors associated with suboptimal response and therapeutic failure in order to better customize the care strategies employed in LMICs.
PMCID: PMC3922999  PMID: 24513015
Malnutrition; CD4; HIV; Highly active antiretroviral therapy; Low- and middle-income countries; Systematic review; Protocol
7.  Prevalence and Predictors of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder and Depression in HIV-Infected and At-Risk Rwandan Women 
Journal of Women's Health  2009;18(11):1783-1791.
During the 1994 Rwandan genocide, rape was used as a weapon of war to transmit HIV. This study measures trauma experiences of Rwandan women and identifies predictors associated with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depressive symptoms.
The Rwandan Women's Interassociation Study and Assessment (RWISA) is a prospective observational cohort study designed to assess effectiveness and toxicity of antiretroviral therapy in HIV-infected Rwandan women. In 2005, a Rwandan-adapted Harvard Trauma Questionnaire (HTQ) and the Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale (CES-D) were used to assess genocide trauma events and prevalence of PTSD (HTQ mean >2) and depressive symptoms (CES-D ≥ 16) for 850 women (658 HIV-positive and 192 HIV-negative).
PTSD was common in HIV-positive (58%) and HIV-negative women (66%) (p = 0.05). Women with HIV had a higher prevalence of depressive symptoms than HIV-negative women (81% vs. 65%, p < 0.0001). Independent predictors for increased PTSD were experiencing more genocide-related trauma events and having more depressive symptoms. Independent predictors for increased depressive symptoms were making <$18 a month, HIV infection (and, among HIV-positive women, having lower CD4 cell counts), a history of genocidal rape, and having more PTSD symptoms.
The prevalence of PTSD and depressive symptoms is high in women in the RWISA cohort. Four of five HIV-infected women had depressive symptoms, with highest rates among women with CD4 cell counts <200. In addition to treatment with antiretroviral therapy, economic empowerment and identification and treatment of depression and PTSD may reduce morbidity and mortality among women in postconflict countries.
PMCID: PMC2828188  PMID: 19951212
8.  Macronutrient Supplementation for Malnourished HIV-infected Adults: A Review of the Evidence in Resource-Adequate and Resource-Constrained Settings 
Access to antiretroviral therapy (ART) for HIV infection has expanded rapidly throughout sub-Saharan Africa, but malnutrition and food insecurity have emerged as major barriers to program success. Protein-calorie malnutrition (a common form in the region) hastens HIV disease progression, and food insecurity is a barrier to medication adherence. Analyses of patient outcomes have identified a low body mass index (BMI) at ART initiation as an independent predictor of early mortality, but the causes of low BMI are multi-factorial may represent normal anthropometric variation, chronic inadequate food intake, or wasting associated with HIV and other infections. While there is much experience population-level humanitarian food assistance, few data exist to measure the effectiveness of macronutrient supplementation or to identify individuals most likely to benefit. In this report, we review the current evidence supporting macronutrient supplementation for HIV-infected adults; clinical trials in resource-adequate and resource-constrained settings; and highlight priority areas for future research.
PMCID: PMC3092426  PMID: 19624276
AIDS; HIV; nutrition; supplementation; sub-Saharan Africa
9.  Food Insecurity Is Associated with Increased Risk of Non-Adherence to Antiretroviral Therapy among HIV-Infected Adults in the Democratic Republic of Congo: A Cross-Sectional Study 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(1):e85327.
Food insecurity is increasingly reported as an important barrier of patient adherence to antiretroviral therapy (ART) in both resource-poor and rich settings. However, unlike in resource rich-settings, very few quantitative studies to date have investigated the association of food insecurity with patient adherence to ART in Sub-Saharan Africa. The current study examines the association between food insecurity and adherence to ART among HIV-infected adults in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
Methods and Findings
This is a cross-sectional quantitative study of patients receiving ART at three private and one public health facilities in Kinshasa, DRC. Participants were consecutively recruited into the study between April and November 2012. Adherence was measured using a combined method coupling pharmacy refill and self-reported adherence. Food insecurity was the primary predictor, and was assessed using the Household Food Insecurity Access Scale (HFIAS). Of the 898 participants recruited into the study, 512 (57%) were food insecure, and 188 (20.9%) were not adherent to ART. Food insecurity was significantly associated with non-adherence to ART (AOR, 2.06; CI, 1.38–3.09). We also found that perceived harmfulness of ART and psychological distress were associated respectively with increased (AOR, 1.95; CI, 1.15–3.32) and decreased (AOR, 0.31; CI, 0.11–0.83) odds of non-adherence to ART.
Food insecurity is prevalent and a significant risk factor for non-adherence to ART among HIV-infected individuals in the DRC. Our findings highlight the urgent need for strategies to improve food access among HIV-infected on ART in order to ensure patient adherence to ART and ultimately the long-term success of HIV treatment in Sub-Saharan Africa.
PMCID: PMC3893174  PMID: 24454841
10.  Self-reported Dietary Intake and Appetite Predict Early Treatment Outcome among Low Body Mass Index Adults Initiating HIV Treatment in sub-Saharan Africa 
Public health nutrition  2012;16(3):549-558.
Low body mass index (BMI) is a major risk factor for early mortality among HIV infected persons starting antiretrovial therapy (ART) in sub-Saharan Africa, and the common patient belief that antiretroviral medications produce distressing levels of hunger is a barrier to treatment adherence. We assessed relationships between appetite, dietary intake, and treatment outcome 12 weeks after ART initiation among HIV infected adults with advanced malnutrition and immunosuppression.
A prospective, observational cohort study. Dietary intake was assessed using a 24-hour recall survey. The relationships of appetite, intake, and treatment outcome were analyzed using time-varying Cox models.
A public-sector HIV clinic in Lusaka, Zambia.
142 HIV-infected adults starting ART with BMI <16 kg/m2 and/or CD4+ lymphocyte count <50 cells/µl.
Median age, BMI, and CD4+ lymphocyte count were 32 years, 16 kg/m2, and 34 cells/µL, respectively. Twenty-five participants (18%) died before 12 weeks, and another 33 (23%) were lost to care. A 500 kJ/day higher energy intake at any time after ART initiation was associated with an approximate 16% reduction in the hazard of death (AHR 0.84; p=0.01), but the relative contribution of carbohydrate, protein, and fat to total energy was not a significant predictor of outcome. Appetite normalized gradually among survivors, and hunger was rarely reported.
Poor early ART outcomes were strikingly high in a cohort of HIV-infected adults with advanced malnutrition, and mortality was predicted by lower dietary intake. Intervention trials to promote post-ART intake in this population may benefit survival and are warranted.
PMCID: PMC3772135  PMID: 22691872
HIV; malnutrition; antiretroviral therapy; Africa
11.  Helminthic Infections Rates and Malaria in HIV-Infected Pregnant Women on Anti-Retroviral Therapy in Rwanda 
Within sub-Saharan Africa, helminth and malaria infections cause considerable morbidity in HIV-positive pregnant women and their offspring. Helminth infections are also associated with a higher risk of mother-to-child HIV transmission. The aim of this study was to determine the prevalence of, and the protective and risk factors for helminth and malaria infections in pregnant HIV-positive Rwandan women receiving anti-retroviral therapy (ART).
Methodology and principle findings
Pregnant females (n = 980) were recruited from health centres in rural and peri-urban locations in the central and eastern provinces of Rwanda. Helminth infection was diagnosed using the Kato Katz method whilst the presence of Plasmodium falciparum was identified from blood smears. The prevalence of helminth infections was 34.3%; of malaria 13.3%, and of co-infections 6.6%. Helminth infections were more common in rural (43.1%) than peri-urban (18.0%; p<0.0005) sites. A CD4 count ≤350 cells/mm3 was associated with a higher risk of helminth infections (odds ratio, 3.39; 95% CIs, 2.16–5.33; p<0.0005) and malaria (3.37 [2.11–5.38]; p<0.0005) whilst helminth infection was a risk factor for malaria infection and vice versa. Education and employment reduced the risk of all types of infection whilst hand washing protected against helminth infection (0.29 [0.19–0.46]; p<0.0005);). The TDF-3TC-NVP (3.47 [2.21–5.45]; p<0.0005), D4T-3TC-NVP (2.47 [1.27–4.80]; p<0.05) and AZT-NVP (2.60 [1.33–5.08]; p<0.05) regimens each yielded higher helminth infection rates than the AZT-3TC-NVP regimen. Anti-retroviral therapy had no effect on the risk of malaria.
HIV-positive pregnant women would benefit from the scaling up of de-worming programs alongside health education and hygiene interventions. The differential effect of certain ART combinations (as observed here most strongly with AZT-3TC-NVP) possibly protecting against helminth infection warrants further investigation.
Author Summary
There is an overlap in the worldwide distribution of intestinal worms (helminths), malaria and HIV. Co-infections with helminth and malaria parasites cause a significant problem in the host, particularly in the presence of HIV infection. The aim of this study was to assess the prevalence of intestinal worm and malaria infection and co-infections and the associated risk factors among HIV-positive pregnant women that attended rural and peri-urban health centers in Rwanda. Our findings indicate that intestinal worms were more common among HIV-infected pregnant women in the rural than peri-urban settings. HIV-positive pregnant women who had lower CD4 cell counts were more at risk of being infected by intestinal worms and malaria. Malaria also increased the risk of being infected by intestinal worms and vice versa. Socio-economic factors such as lack of education and unemployment were among the risk factors for intestinal worm infections and malaria. Hand washing was found to reduce the risk for worm infections; whilst one particular ART combination (AZT-3TC-NVP) led to a reduced rate of helminth infections when compared to others.
PMCID: PMC3744439  PMID: 23967365
12.  Food assistance is associated with improved body mass index, food security and attendance at clinic in an HIV program in central Haiti: a prospective observational cohort study 
Few data are available to guide programmatic solutions to the overlapping problems of undernutrition and HIV infection. We evaluated the impact of food assistance on patient outcomes in a comprehensive HIV program in central Haiti in a prospective observational cohort study.
Adults with HIV infection were eligible for monthly food rations if they had any one of: tuberculosis, body mass index (BMI) <18.5kg/m2, CD4 cell count <350/mm3 (in the prior 3 months) or severe socio-economic conditions. A total of 600 individuals (300 eligible and 300 ineligible for food assistance) were interviewed before rations were distributed, at 6 months and at 12 months. Data collected included demographics, BMI and food insecurity score (range 0 - 20).
At 6- and 12-month time-points, 488 and 340 subjects were eligible for analysis. Multivariable analysis demonstrated that at 6 months, food security significantly improved in those who received food assistance versus who did not (-3.55 vs -0.16; P < 0.0001); BMI decreased significantly less in the food assistance group than in the non-food group (-0.20 vs -0.66; P = 0.020). At 12 months, food assistance was associated with improved food security (-3.49 vs -1.89, P = 0.011) and BMI (0.22 vs -0.67, P = 0.036). Food assistance was associated with improved adherence to monthly clinic visits at both 6 (P < 0.001) and 12 months (P = 0.033).
Food assistance was associated with improved food security, increased BMI, and improved adherence to clinic visits at 6 and 12 months among people living with HIV in Haiti and should be part of routine care where HIV and food insecurity overlap.
PMCID: PMC2940780  PMID: 20796284
13.  The social context of food insecurity among persons living with HIV/AIDS in rural Uganda 
Social science & medicine (1982)  2011;73(12):1717-1724.
HIV/AIDS and food insecurity are two of the leading causes of morbidity and mortality in sub-Saharan Africa, with each heightening the vulnerability to, and worsening the severity of, the other. Less research has focused on the social determinants of food insecurity in resource-limited settings, including social support and HIV-related stigma. In this study, we analyzed data from a cohort of 456 persons from the Uganda AIDS Rural Treatment Outcomes study, an ongoing prospective cohort of persons living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHA) initiating HIV antiretroviral therapy in Mbarara, Uganda. Quarterly data were collected by structured interviews. The primary outcome, food insecurity, was measured with the Household Food Insecurity Access Scale. Key covariates of interest included social support, internalized HIV-related stigma, HIV-related enacted stigma, and disclosure of HIV serostatus. Severe food insecurity was highly prevalent overall (38%) and more prevalent among women than among men. Social support, HIV disclosure, and internalized HIV-related stigma were associated with food insecurity; these associations persisted after adjusting for household wealth, employment status, and other previously identified correlates of food insecurity. The adverse effects of internalized stigma persisted in a lagged specification, and the beneficial effect of social support further persisted after the inclusion of fixed effects. International organizations have increasingly advocated for addressing food insecurity as part of HIV/AIDS programming to improve morbidity and mortality. This study provides quantitative evidence on social determinants of food insecurity among PLWHA in resource-limited settings and suggests points of intervention. These findings also indicate that structural interventions to improve social support and/or decrease HIV-related stigma may also improve the food security of PLWHA.
PMCID: PMC3221802  PMID: 22019367
Uganda; HIV/AIDS; international health; social support; stigma; food security
14.  Food Access and Diet Quality Are Associated with Quality of Life Outcomes among HIV-Infected Individuals in Uganda 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(4):e62353.
Food insecurity is associated with poor nutritional and clinical outcomes among people living with HIV/AIDS. Few studies investigate the link between food insecurity, dietary diversity and health-related quality of life among people living with HIV/AIDS.
We investigated whether household food access and individual dietary diversity are associated with health-related quality of life among people living with HIV/AIDS in Uganda.
We surveyed 902 people living with HIV/AIDS and their households from two clinics in Northern Uganda. Health-related quality of life outcomes were assessed using the Medical Outcomes Study (MOS)-HIV Survey. We performed multivariate regressions to investigate the relationship between health-related quality of life, household food insecurity and individual dietary diversity.
People living with HIV/AIDS from severe food insecurity households have mean mental health status scores that are 1.7 points lower (p<.001) and physical health status scores that are 1.5 points lower (p<.01). Individuals with high dietary diversity have mean mental health status scores that were 3.6 points higher (p<.001) and physical health status scores that were 2.8 points higher (p<.05).
Food access and diet quality are associated with health-related quality of life and may be considered as part of comprehensive interventions designed to mitigate psychosocial consequences of HIV.
PMCID: PMC3630150  PMID: 23638049
15.  Human Papillomavirus Infection and Cervical Cytology in HIV-Infected and HIV-Uninfected Rwandan Women 
Data on human papillomavirus (HPV) prevalence are essential for developing cost-effective cervical cancer prevention programs.
In 2005, 710 human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)–positive and 226 HIV-negative Rwandan women enrolled in an observational prospective cohort study. Sociodemographic data, CD4+ cell counts, and cervical specimens were obtained. Cervicovaginal lavage specimens were collected from each woman and tested for >40 HPV types by a polymerase chain reaction assay; HPV types 16, 18, 31, 33, 35, 39, 45, 51, 52, 56, 58, 59, 66, and 68 were considered primary carcinogenic HPV types.
The prevalence of HPV was higher in HIV-positive women than in HIV-negative women in all age groups. Among HIV-infected women, 69% were positive for ≥1 HPV type, 46% for a carcinogenic HPV type, and 10% for HPV-16. HPV prevalence peaked at 75% in the HIV-positive women aged 25–34 years and then declined with age to 37.5% in those ≥55 years old (Ptrend < .001). A significant trend of higher prevalence of HPV and carcinogenic HPV with lower CD4+ cell counts and increasing cytologic severity was seen among HIV-positive women.
We found a higher prevalence of HPV infection in HIV-positive than in HIV-negative Rwandan women, and the prevalence of HPV and carcinogenic HPV infection decreased with age.
PMCID: PMC2814215  PMID: 19435429
16.  Improvement in Posttraumatic Stress Disorder in Postconflict Rwandan Women 
Journal of Women's Health  2011;20(9):1325-1332.
Depression and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are common in developing and postconflict countries. The purpose of this study is to examine longitudinal changes in PTSD in HIV-infected and uninfected Rwandan women who experienced the 1994 genocide.
Five hundred thirty-five HIV-positive and 163 HIV-negative Rwandan women in an observational cohort study were followed for 18 months. Data on PTSD symptoms were collected longitudinally by the Harvard Trauma Questionnaire (HTQ) and analyzed in relationship to demographics, HIV status, antiretroviral treatment (ART), and depression. PTSD was defined as a score on the HTQ of ≥2.
There was a continuing reduction in HTQ scores at each follow-up visit. The prevalence of PTSD symptoms changed significantly, with 61% of the cohort having PTSD at baseline vs. 24% after 18 months. Women with higher HTQ score were most likely to have improvement in PTSD symptoms (p<0.0001). Higher rate of baseline depressive symptoms (p<0.0001) was associated with less improvement in PTSD symptoms. HIV infection and ART were not found to be consistently related to PTSD improvement.
HIV care settings can become an important venue for the identification and treatment of psychiatric problems affecting women with HIV in postconflict and developing countries. Providing opportunities for women with PTSD symptoms to share their history of trauma to trained counselors and addressing depression, poverty, and ongoing violence may contribute to reducing symptoms.
PMCID: PMC3168969  PMID: 21732802
17.  Assessment of utilization of provider-initiated HIV testing and counseling as an intervention for prevention of mother to child transmission of HIV and associated factors among pregnant women in Gondar town, North West Ethiopia 
BMC Public Health  2012;12:226.
Detection of maternal HIV infection early in pregnancy is critical for prevention of mother to child transmission of HIV/AIDS. Most efforts have focused on VCT as the primary means of encouraging people to become aware of their HIV status. However, its uptake is low in many parts of sub-Saharan Africa including Ethiopia. Provider-initiated HIV testing and counseling provides a critical opportunity to diagnose HIV infection, to begin chronic care, and to prevent mother to child transmission. However, little is known about its acceptance and associated factors among pregnant women in the country and particularly in the present study area.
Health institution based cross-sectional quantitative study was conducted in Gondar town from July 22-August 18, 2010. A total of 400 pregnant women were involved in the study using stratified sampling technique and multiple logistic regression analysis was employed using SPSS version 16.
A total of 400 pregnant women actively participated in this study and 330 (82.5%) of them accepted provider-initiated HIV testing and counseling to be tested for HIV and 70(17.5%) of them refused. Acceptance of provider-initiated HIV testing and counseling was positively associated with greater number of antenatal care visits [Adj. OR (95%CI)=2.64(1.17, 5.95)], residing in the urban areas[Adj. OR (95%CI)=2.85(1.10, 7.41)], having comprehensive knowledge on HIV [Adj. OR (95%CI)=4.30(1.72, 10.73)], positive partners reaction for HIV positive result [Adj. OR (95%CI)=8.19(3.57, 18.80)] and having knowledge on prevention of mother to child transmission of HIV[Adj. OR (95%CI)=3.27(1.34, 7.94)], but negatively associated with increased maternal age and education level.
Utilization of provider-initiated HIV testing and counseling during antenatal care was relatively high among pregnant women in Gondar town. Couple counseling and HIV testing should be strengthened to promote provider-initiated HIV testing and counseling among male partners and to reduce HIV related violence of women from their partner and access to and consistent use of antenatal care should be improved to increase the uptake of provider-initiated HIV testing and counseling service.
PMCID: PMC3350437  PMID: 22440018
18.  HIV Infection Is Associated with Decreased Dietary Diversity in South African Children1,2 
The Journal of nutrition  2008;138(9):1705-1711.
Little is known about dietary diversity of children residing in areas of high HIV prevalence. This study examined dietary diversity in 381 children ages 6−24 mo in rural South Africa. Twenty-eight (7.3%) children and 170 mothers (44.6%) were HIV infected. Home visits were conducted weekly and a detailed history of dietary intake obtained. A dietary diversity score was computed based on the weekly consumption of 8 food classes. Low dietary diversity was defined as falling within the lowest quartile of the diversity scale. There were 22,772 child weeks of observation: 1369 for HIV-infected children, 8876 for HIV-uninfected children born to HIV-infected mothers, and 12,527 for HIV-uninfected children born to HIV-uninfected mothers. Low dietary diversity was more common in HIV-infected children [crude odds ratio (OR), 2.59; 95% CI, 1.52 to 4.41) compared with children born to HIV-uninfected mothers. In a multiple logistic regression analysis adjusting for socioeconomic and health status, HIV-infected children had lower dietary diversity (conditional OR, 1.76; 95% CI, 1.06 to 2.94) than HIV-uninfected children. HIV-infected children consumed less in 6 of 8 food classes compared with HIV-uninfected children, with the 2 exceptions being breast milk and formula milk. In rural South Africa, HIV-infected children's diets are significantly less diverse than those of HIV-uninfected children. This may be a factor contributing to increased morbidity and poorer survival in these children.
PMCID: PMC2587082  PMID: 18716173
19.  Food Insecurity is Associated with Incomplete HIV RNA Suppression Among Homeless and Marginally Housed HIV-infected Individuals in San Francisco 
Background and Objectives
There is growing international concern that food insecurity may negatively impact antiretroviral (ARV) treatment outcomes, but no studies have directly evaluated the effect of food insecurity on viral load suppression and antiretroviral adherence. We hypothesized that food insecurity would be associated with poor virologic response among homeless and marginally housed HIV-positive ARV-treated patients.
This is a cross-sectional study.
Participants and Setting
Participants were ARV-treated homeless and marginally housed persons receiving adherence monitoring with unannounced pill counts in the Research on Access to Care in the Homeless (REACH) Cohort.
Food insecurity was measured by the Household Food Insecurity Access Scale (HFIAS). The primary outcome was suppression of HIV viral RNA to <50 copies/ml. We used multivariate logistic regression to assess whether food insecurity was associated with viral suppression.
Among 104 participants, 51% were food secure, 24% were mildly or moderately food insecure and 25% were severely food insecure. Severely food insecure participants were less likely to have adherence >=80%. In adjusted analyses, severe food insecurity was associated with a 77% lower odds of viral suppression (95% CI = 0.06–0.82) when controlling for all covariates. In analyses stratified by adherence level, severe food insecurity was associated with an 85% lower odds of viral suppression (95% CI = 0.02–0.99) among those with <=80% adherence and a 66% lower odds among those with >80% adherence (95% CI = 0.06–1.81).
Food insecurity is present in half of the HIV-positive urban poor in San Francisco, one of the best resourced settings for HIV-positive individuals in the United States, and is associated with incomplete viral suppression. These findings suggest that ensuring access to food should be an integral component of public health HIV programs serving impoverished populations.
PMCID: PMC2607506  PMID: 18953617
HIV/AIDS; food insecurity; homeless; HIV viral load suppression; adherence; San Francisco
20.  Polyparasite Helminth Infections and Their Association to Anaemia and Undernutrition in Northern Rwanda 
Intestinal schistosomiasis and soil-transmitted helminth (STH) infections constitute major public health problems in many parts of sub-Saharan Africa. In this study we examined the functional significance of such polyparasite infections in anemia and undernutrition in Rwandan individuals.
Three polyparasite infection profiles were defined, in addition to a reference profile that consisted of either no infections or low-intensity infection with only one of the focal parasite species. Logistic regression models were applied to data of 1,605 individuals from 6 schools in 2 districts of the Northern Province before chemotherapeutic treatment in order to correctly identify individuals who were at higher odds of being anaemic and/or undernourished.
Stunted relative to nonstunted, and males compared to females, were found to be at higher odds of being anaemic independently of polyparasite infection profile. The odds of being wasted were 2-fold greater for children with concurrent infection of at least 2 parasites at M+ intensity compared to those children with the reference profile. Males compared to females and anaemic compared to nonanaemic children were significantly more likely to be stunted. None of the three polyparasite infection profiles were found to have significant effects on stunting.
The present data suggest that the levels of polyparasitism, and infection intensities in the Rwandan individuals examined here may be lower as compared to other recent similar epidemiological studies in different regions across sub-Saharan Africa. Neither the odds of anaemia nor the odds of stunting were found to be significantly different in the three-polyparasite infection profiles. However, the odds of wasting were higher in those children with at least two parasites at M+ intensity compared to those children with the reference profile. Nevertheless, despite the low morbidity levels indicated in the population under study here, we recommend sustainable efforts for the deworming of affected populations to be continued in order to support the economic development of the country.
Author Summary
The helminth infections—schistosomiasis, hookworm, ascariasis and trichuriasis—are the main neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) to thrive in sub-Saharan Africa. Here we assess the distribution and the intensities of such polyparasite infections in two districts of the Northern Province in Rwanda and determine whether these are associated with anaemia, lowered haemoglobin levels and recent and/or chronic undernutrition. Rwanda is a small landlocked country in Central Africa where no research or control efforts on NTDs has been conducted since before the genocide in 1994. The current study aimed to elucidate, for the first time post-genocide, the burden of NTDs on the health of the Rwandan people and potential associated morbidity. Despite the fact that we observed low morbidity levels and intensities of polyparasite helminth infections, we recommend sustainable efforts for the deworming of the Rwandan people to be continued in order to offer a worm-free physical and cognitive development to the children of Rwanda and hence support the economic development of the country.
PMCID: PMC2737105  PMID: 19753110
21.  Chlamydia and Gonorrhea Infections in HIV-positive Women in Urban Lusaka, Zambia 
Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) remain an important public health issue in sub-Saharan Africa. STIs in HIV-positive women are associated not only with gynecological complications but with increased risk of HIV transmission to HIV-negative partners and newborns.
The aims of this study are to determine the prevalence of chlamydia (CT) and gonorrhea (GC) and examine the demographic characteristics and risk behaviors associated with these STIs in a group of HIV-positive women in Lusaka, Zambia.
Settings and Design:
Cross-sectional study of a sample of HIV-infected women enrolled in two large studies conducted in urban Lusaka, Zambia.
Materials and Methods:
HIV-seropositive women (n = 292) were assessed for demographic and behavioral risk factors and tested for CT and GC. Univariate analysis was used to determine the demographic characteristics and risk behaviors associated with having CT or GC.
The identified prevalence of CT was 1% and of GC was 1.4%. There was an association of CT/GC with the use of alcohol before sex (OR = 9.I, CI = 0.59-0.15, P = 0.03).
Rates of CT and GC are described in this sample of HIV-positive women. While being in HIV care may serve to increase medical care and condom use, alcohol use should be addressed in this population.
PMCID: PMC3459430  PMID: 23055644
Africa; Chlamydia; Gonorrhea; Human immunodeficiency virus; Women
22.  Differences in the Nonuse of any Contraception and Use of Specific Contraceptive Methods in HIV Positive and HIV Negative Rwandan Women 
AIDS Research and Treatment  2012;2012:367604.
Contraception can reduce the dual burden of high fertility and high HIV prevalence in sub-Sahara Africa, but significant barriers remain regarding access and use. We describe factors associated with nonuse of contraception and with use of specific contraceptive methods in HIV positive and HIV negative Rwandan women. Data from 395 HIV-positive and 76 HIV-negative women who desired no pregnancy in the previous 6 months were analyzed using univariate and multivariate logistic regression models to identify clinical and demographic characteristics that predict contraceptive use. Differences in contraceptive methods used were dependent on marital/partner status, partner's knowledge of a woman's HIV status, and age. Overall, condoms, abstinence, and hormonal methods were the most used, though differences existed by HIV status. Less than 10% of women both HIV+ and HIV− used no contraception. Important differences exist between HIV-positive and HIV-negative women with regard to contraceptive method use that should be addressed by interventions seeking to improve contraceptive prevalence.
PMCID: PMC3533450  PMID: 23304468
23.  HIV incidence and prevalence among cohorts of women with higher risk behaviour in Bloemfontein and Rustenburg, South Africa: a prospective study 
BMJ Open  2012;2(1):e000626.
The primary objective was to measure HIV incidence in two prospective cohorts of HIV-negative women. Secondary objectives included measuring pregnancy rates and participant retention rates.
Cross-sectional HIV screening of women selected for higher risk behaviours, with a subsequent prospective study of uninfected women, followed monthly for up to 6 months.
Clinics established for research purposes in Bloemfontein and Rustenburg, South Africa.
The authors enrolled women 18–35 years old and presumed at higher risk of sexual acquisition of HIV as indicated by self-reported sexual behaviour or recent sexually transmitted infection symptoms. In Bloemfontein, 1364 women were screened, 1154 were eligible for HIV testing and 1145 agreed to be tested. The prospective study enrolled 401 HIV-negative women. In Rustenburg, 946 women were screened, 540 were eligible and underwent HIV testing and 223 HIV-negative women entered the prospective study.
Primary and secondary outcomes
Baseline prevalences of HIV infection and HIV incidence rates in the prospective cohorts, according to a double rapid test algorithm with a third rapid test for discrepant or indeterminate results. Pregnancy prevalences and pregnancy incidence rate in Bloemfontein. Participant retention rates in the prospective cohort until the study end.
In Bloemfontein, 1145 women were tested, 391 entered follow-up and 92.3% of participants completed six study visits. In Rustenburg, 540 women were tested, 194 entered follow-up and retention up to the point of early study termination was 88.6%. Overall HIV prevalence was 21.2% (95% CI 18.9% to 23.6%) in Bloemfontein and 23.5% (95% CI 19.9% to 27.1%) in Rustenburg. Overall HIV incidence was 5.5/100 person-years (95% CI 2.5 to 10.4) in Bloemfontein and 3.0/100 person-years (95% CI 0.4 to 10.8) in Rustenburg. Cross-sectional pregnancy prevalences were 6.5% in Bloemfontein and 8.6% in Rustenburg.
The authors observed substantial HIV incidence rates in both cohorts. Vigorous prevention efforts are needed in these smaller cities.
Article summary
Article focus
Primary objective: measure HIV incidence and prevalence among women in two prospective cohorts selected for higher risk behaviours.
Secondary objective 1: measure pregnancy rates.
Secondary objective 2: measure retention rates.
Key messages
We measured the HIV burden among women selected to be at higher risk in two smaller South African cities, while training new clinical research groups there.
HIV seroprevalence was 21.2% in Bloemfontein and 23.5% in Rustenburg.
HIV incidence rates were 5.5/100 person-years in Bloemfontein and 3.0/100 person-years in Rustenburg.
Study strengths
Longitudinal design with high retention rates.
Highly accurate classification of the HIV outcome, using multiple rapid tests monthly, confirmed by later PCR testing.
Testing of stored baseline specimens to pinpoint seroconversion and rule out acute prestudy infections.
Direct prospective measurement of HIV infection circumvented the lingering issues with the accuracy of cross-sectional incidence estimation.
Study limitations
Unknown validity of self-reported sexual behaviours.
Relatively small study size precluded multivariable Cox regression analysis.
Selective recruitment means that the prevalence and incidence figures are not representative of women in these two cities.
The lack of sexually transmitted infection diagnostic testing precluded evaluating associations between HIV and other infections.
PMCID: PMC3282294  PMID: 22331388
24.  Prevalence and predictors of Cervical Intraepithelial Neoplasia among HIV infected women at Bugando Medical Centre, Mwanza-Tanzania 
Cancer of the cervix rank the second most common cause of cancer related deaths among women in Sub-Saharan Africa. It is estimated that 529, 409 new cases are diagnosed annually with a mortality rate approaching 274,883 per year. Cervical Intraepithelial Neoplasia (CIN) precedes almost all cervical cancers. The incidence rate of CIN among HIV infected women is five times higher as compared to the rate in HIV negative women. The screening for cervical dysplasia and an appropriate management in women with CIN are effective methods for preventing cervical cancer. This study was done to determine the prevalence and predictors of CIN among a HIV infected women attending Care and Treatment centre (CTC) at Bugando Medical Centre (BMC).
A cross sectional survey was undertaken among HIV infected women aged 18 years and above attending at BMC CTC clinic between February and March 2013. Visual Inspection with Acetic acid (VIA) was used as the screening method for detection of CIN. Socio-demographic, reproductive and clinical information was obtained from participants and the blood was collected for CD4 lymphocyte count. Cervical punch biopsy for histological examination was performed for those who had VIA positive test. Data were entered and analyzed using STATA Version 12.0 soft ware.
A total number of 95 (26.8%) participants had positive VIA test among three hundred and fifty-five (355) HIV infected women. Histology results showed; 4(4.2%) were normal, 26 (27.4%) had an inflammatory lesion, 58(61.1%) had CIN and 7(7.3%) had invasive cervical cancer. CIN was found to be associated with a history of multiple sexual partners (P<0.001), a history of genital warts (P<0.001), and a history of STI (P = 0.010).
The Cervical Intraepithelial Neoplasia is a problem among HIV infected women. A history of multiple sexual partners, a history of genital warts, a history STI and a low baseline CD4 T lymphocyte were significant predictors for CIN. Screening for Cervical Intraepithelial Neoplasia is recommended for all women with HIV.
PMCID: PMC3833176  PMID: 24228805
Cervical intraepithelial Neoplasia; HIV; Mwanza
25.  Intravaginal Practices, Bacterial Vaginosis, and HIV Infection in Women: Individual Participant Data Meta-analysis 
PLoS Medicine  2011;8(2):e1000416.
Pooling of data from 14,874 women in an individual participant data meta-analysis by Nicola Low and colleagues reveals that some intravaginal practices increase the risk of HIV acquisition.
Identifying modifiable factors that increase women's vulnerability to HIV is a critical step in developing effective female-initiated prevention interventions. The primary objective of this study was to pool individual participant data from prospective longitudinal studies to investigate the association between intravaginal practices and acquisition of HIV infection among women in sub-Saharan Africa. Secondary objectives were to investigate associations between intravaginal practices and disrupted vaginal flora; and between disrupted vaginal flora and HIV acquisition.
Methods and Findings
We conducted a meta-analysis of individual participant data from 13 prospective cohort studies involving 14,874 women, of whom 791 acquired HIV infection during 21,218 woman years of follow-up. Data were pooled using random-effects meta-analysis. The level of between-study heterogeneity was low in all analyses (I2 values 0.0%–16.1%). Intravaginal use of cloth or paper (pooled adjusted hazard ratio [aHR] 1.47, 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.18–1.83), insertion of products to dry or tighten the vagina (aHR 1.31, 95% CI 1.00–1.71), and intravaginal cleaning with soap (aHR 1.24, 95% CI 1.01–1.53) remained associated with HIV acquisition after controlling for age, marital status, and number of sex partners in the past 3 months. Intravaginal cleaning with soap was also associated with the development of intermediate vaginal flora and bacterial vaginosis in women with normal vaginal flora at baseline (pooled adjusted odds ratio [OR] 1.24, 95% CI 1.04–1.47). Use of cloth or paper was not associated with the development of disrupted vaginal flora. Intermediate vaginal flora and bacterial vaginosis were each associated with HIV acquisition in multivariable models when measured at baseline (aHR 1.54 and 1.69, p<0.001) or at the visit before the estimated date of HIV infection (aHR 1.41 and 1.53, p<0.001), respectively.
This study provides evidence to suggest that some intravaginal practices increase the risk of HIV acquisition but a direct causal pathway linking intravaginal cleaning with soap, disruption of vaginal flora, and HIV acquisition has not yet been demonstrated. More consistency in the definition and measurement of specific intravaginal practices is warranted so that the effects of specific intravaginal practices and products can be further elucidated.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Since the first reported case of acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) in 1981, the number of people infected with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), which causes AIDS, has risen steadily. By the end of 2009, an estimated 33.3 million people were living with HIV/AIDS. At the beginning of the epidemic, more men than women were infected with HIV but now, globally, more than half of all adults living with HIV/AIDS are women, and HIV/AIDS is the leading cause of death among women of child-bearing age. In sub-Saharan Africa, where more than two-thirds of HIV-positive people live, the situation for women is particularly bad. About 12 million women live with HIV/AIDS in this region compared with about 8 million men; among 15–24 year-olds, women are eight times more likely than men to be HIV-positive. This pattern of infection has developed because in sub-Saharan Africa most people contract HIV through heterosexual sex.
Why Was This Study Done?
If modifiable factors that increase women's vulnerability to HIV infection could be identified, it might be possible to develop effective female-initiated prevention interventions. Some experts think that intravaginal practices such as cleaning the vagina with soap or a cloth increase the risk of HIV infection by damaging the vagina's lining or by increasing bacterial vaginosis (a condition in which harmful bacteria disrupt the healthy vaginal flora) but the evidence for such an association is inconclusive. In this meta-analysis, the researchers pool individual participant data from several prospective longitudinal cohort studies to assess the association between intravaginal practices and HIV acquisition among women in sub-Saharan Africa. Meta-analysis is a statistical method that combines data from several studies to get a clearer view of the factors associated with of a disease than is possible from individual studies. In a prospective longitudinal cohort study, groups of participants with different baseline characteristics (here, women who did or did not use intravaginal practices), who do not have the outcome of interest at the start of the study (here, HIV infection) are followed to see whether these characteristics affect disease development.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers pooled individual participant data from 13 prospective cohort studies in sub-Saharan Africa involving nearly 15,000 women, 791 of whom acquired HIV, and asked whether HIV infection within 2 years of study enrollment was associated with self-reported intravaginal practices. That is, were women who used specific intravaginal practices more likely to become infected with HIV than women who did not use these practices? After controlling for age, marital status, 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 (a pooled adjusted hazard ratio [aHR] of 1.47). The insertion of products to dry or tighten the vagina and intravaginal cleaning with soap also increased women's chances of acquiring HIV (aHRs of 1.31 and 1.24, respectively). Moreover, intravaginal cleaning with soap was associated with the development of bacterial vaginosis, and disrupted vaginal flora and bacterial vaginosis were both associated with an increased risk of HIV acquisition.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings suggest that some intravaginal practices increase the risk of HIV acquisition but they do not prove that there is a causal link between any intravaginal practice, disruption of vaginal flora, and HIV acquisition. It could be that the women who use intravaginal practices share other unknown characteristics that affect their vulnerability to HIV infection. The accuracy of these findings is also likely to be affected by the use of self-reported data and inconsistent definitions of intravaginal practices. Nevertheless, given the widespread use of intravaginal practices in some sub-Saharan countries (95% of female sex workers in Kenya use such practices, for example), these findings suggest that encouraging women to use less harmful intravaginal practices (for example, washing with water alone) should be included in female-initiated HIV prevention research strategies in sub-Saharan Africa and other regions where intravaginal practices are common.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at
The US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases provides information on HIV infection and AIDS and on bacterial vaginosis
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has information on all aspects of HIV/AIDS, including specific information about HIV/AIDS and women; it also has information on bacterial vaginosis (in English and Spanish)
HIV InSite has information on all aspects of HIV/AIDS
Information is available from Avert, an international AIDS nonprofit on all aspects of HIV/AIDS, including HIV/AIDS and women and HIV/AIDS in Africa (in English and Spanish)
A full description of the researchers' study protocol is available
Several Web sites provide information on microbicides Global Campaign for Microbicides, Microbicides Development Programme, Microbicides Trials Network, and International Partnership for Microbicides
PMCID: PMC3039685  PMID: 21358808

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