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1.  Priority interventions to reduce HIV transmission in sex work settings in sub-Saharan Africa and delivery of these services 
Introduction
Virtually no African country provides HIV prevention services in sex work settings with an adequate scale and intensity. Uncertainty remains about the optimal set of interventions and mode of delivery.
Methods
We systematically reviewed studies reporting interventions for reducing HIV transmission among female sex workers in sub-Saharan Africa between January 2000 and July 2011. Medline (PubMed) and non-indexed journals were searched for studies with quantitative study outcomes.
Results
We located 26 studies, including seven randomized trials. Evidence supports implementation of the following interventions to reduce unprotected sex among female sex workers: peer-mediated condom promotion, risk-reduction counselling and skills-building for safer sex. One study found that interventions to counter hazardous alcohol-use lowered unprotected sex. Data also show effectiveness of screening for sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and syndromic STI treatment, but experience with periodic presumptive treatment is limited. HIV testing and counselling is essential for facilitating sex workers’ access to care and antiretroviral treatment (ART), but testing models for sex workers and indeed for ART access are little studied, as are structural interventions, which create conditions conducive for risk reduction. With the exception of Senegal, persistent criminalization of sex work across Africa reduces sex workers’ control over working conditions and impedes their access to health services. It also obstructs health-service provision and legal protection.
Conclusions
There is sufficient evidence of effectiveness of targeted interventions with female sex workers in Africa to inform delivery of services for this population. With improved planning and political will, services – including peer interventions, condom promotion and STI screening – would act at multiple levels to reduce HIV exposure and transmission efficiency among sex workers. Initiatives are required to enhance access to HIV testing and ART for sex workers, using current CD4 thresholds, or possibly earlier for prevention. Services implemented at sufficient scale and intensity also serve as a platform for subsequent community mobilization and sex worker empowerment, and alleviate a major source of incident infection sustaining even generalized HIV epidemics. Ultimately, structural and legal changes that align public health and human rights are needed to ensure that sex workers on the continent are adequately protected from HIV.
doi:10.7448/IAS.16.1.17980
PMCID: PMC3589546  PMID: 23462140
sex work; prostitution; HIV; sub-Saharan Africa; HIV prevention; systematic review; condoms
2.  Community empowerment and involvement of female sex workers in targeted sexual and reproductive health interventions in Africa: a systematic review 
Background
Female sex workers (FSWs) experience high levels of sexual and reproductive health (SRH) morbidity, violence and discrimination. Successful SRH interventions for FSWs in India and elsewhere have long prioritised community mobilisation and structural interventions, yet little is known about similar approaches in African settings. We systematically reviewed community empowerment processes within FSW SRH projects in Africa, and assessed them using a framework developed by Ashodaya, an Indian sex worker organisation.
Methods
In November 2012 we searched Medline and Web of Science for studies of FSW health services in Africa, and consulted experts and websites of international organisations. Titles and abstracts were screened to identify studies describing relevant services, using a broad definition of empowerment. Data were extracted on service-delivery models and degree of FSW involvement, and analysed with reference to a four-stage framework developed by Ashodaya. This conceptualises community empowerment as progressing from (1) initial engagement with the sex worker community, to (2) community involvement in targeted activities, to (3) ownership, and finally, (4) sustainability of action beyond the community.
Results
Of 5413 articles screened, 129 were included, describing 42 projects. Targeted services in FSW ‘hotspots’ were generally isolated and limited in coverage and scope, mostly offering only free condoms and STI treatment. Many services were provided as part of research activities and offered via a clinic with associated community outreach. Empowerment processes were usually limited to peer-education (stage 2 of framework). Community mobilisation as an activity in its own right was rarely documented and while most projects successfully engaged communities, few progressed to involvement, community ownership or sustainability. Only a few interventions had evolved to facilitate collective action through formal democratic structures (stage 3). These reported improved sexual negotiating power and community solidarity, and positive behavioural and clinical outcomes. Sustainability of many projects was weakened by disunity within transient communities, variable commitment of programmers, low human resource capacity and general resource limitations.
Conclusions
Most FSW SRH projects in Africa implemented participatory processes consistent with only the earliest stages of community empowerment, although isolated projects demonstrate proof of concept for successful empowerment interventions in African settings.
doi:10.1186/1744-8603-10-47
PMCID: PMC4074148  PMID: 24916108
Female sex workers; Community mobilisation; Structural interventions; Africa
3.  ‘There are a lot of new people in town: but they are here for soccer, not for business’ a qualitative inquiry into the impact of the 2010 soccer world cup on sex work in South Africa 
Background
Sports mega-events have expanded in size, popularity and cost. Fuelled by media speculation and moral panics, myths proliferate about the increase in trafficking into forced prostitution as well as sex work in the run-up to such events. This qualitative enquiry explores the perceptions of male, female and transgender sex workers of the 2010 Soccer World Cup held in South Africa, and the impact it had on their work and private lives.
Methods
A multi-method study design was employed. Data consisted of 14 Focus Group Discussions, 53 sex worker diaries, and responses to two questions in surveys with 1059 male, female and transgender sex workers in three cities.
Results
Overall, a minority of participants noted changes to the sex sector due to the World Cup and nothing emerged on the feared increases in trafficking into forced prostitution. Participants who observed changes in their work mainly described differences, both positive and negative, in working conditions, income and client relations, as well as police harassment. The accounts of changes were heterogeneous - often conflicting in the same research site and across sites.
Conclusions
No major shifts occurred in sex work during the World Cup, and only a few inconsequential changes were noted. Sports mega-events provide strategic opportunities to expand health and human rights programmes to sex workers. The 2010 World Cup missed that opportunity.
doi:10.1186/1744-8603-10-45
PMCID: PMC4099394  PMID: 24915943
Sex work; Prostitution; Sports mega-events; Trafficking; 2010 Soccer World Cup
4.  Effects of hazardous and harmful alcohol use on HIV incidence and sexual behaviour: a cohort study of Kenyan female sex workers 
Aims
To investigate putative links between alcohol use, and unsafe sex and incident HIV infection in sub-Saharan Africa.
Methods
A cohort of 400 HIV-negative female sex workers was established in Mombasa, Kenya. Associations between categories of the Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test (AUDIT) and the incidence at one year of unsafe sex, HIV and pregnancy were assessed using Cox proportional hazards models. Violence or STIs other than HIV measured at one year was compared across AUDIT categories using multivariate logistic regression.
Results
Participants had high levels of hazardous (17.3%, 69/399) and harmful drinking (9.5%, 38/399), while 36.1% abstained from alcohol. Hazardous and harmful drinkers had more unprotected sex and higher partner numbers than abstainers. Sex while feeling drunk was frequent and associated with lower condom use. Occurrence of condom accidents rose step-wise with each increase in AUDIT category. Compared with non-drinkers, women with harmful drinking had 4.1-fold higher sexual violence (95% CI adjusted odds ratio [AOR] = 1.9-8.9) and 8.4 higher odds of physical violence (95% CI AOR = 3.9-18.0), while hazardous drinkers had 3.1-fold higher physical violence (95% CI AOR = 1.7-5.6). No association was detected between AUDIT category and pregnancy, or infection with Syphilis or Trichomonas vaginalis. The adjusted hazard ratio of HIV incidence was 9.6 comparing women with hazardous drinking to non-drinkers (95% CI = 1.1-87.9).
Conclusions
Unsafe sex, partner violence and HIV incidence were higher in women with alcohol use disorders. This prospective study, using validated alcohol measures, indicates that harmful or hazardous alcohol can influence sexual behaviour. Possible mechanisms include increased unprotected sex, condom accidents and exposure to sexual violence. Experimental evidence is required demonstrating that interventions to reduce alcohol use can avert unsafe sex.
doi:10.1186/1744-8603-10-22
PMCID: PMC3985581  PMID: 24708844
Alcohol; Sub-Saharan Africa; HIV prevention; Cohort study; Kenya; AUDIT test
5.  Maternal anaemia and duration of zidovudine in antiretroviral regimens for preventing mother-to-child transmission: a randomized trial in three African countries 
BMC Infectious Diseases  2013;13:522.
Background
Although substantiated by little evidence, concerns about zidovudine-related anaemia in pregnancy have influenced antiretroviral (ARV) regimen choice for preventing mother-to-child transmission of HIV-1, especially in settings where anaemia is common.
Methods
Eligible HIV-infected pregnant women in Burkina Faso, Kenya and South Africa were followed from 28 weeks of pregnancy until 12–24 months after delivery (n = 1070). Women with a CD4 count of 200-500cells/mm3 and gestational age 28–36 weeks were randomly assigned to zidovudine-containing triple-ARV prophylaxis continued during breastfeeding up to 6-months, or to zidovudine during pregnancy plus single-dose nevirapine (sd-NVP) at labour. Additionally, two cohorts were established, women with CD4 counts: <200 cells/mm3 initiated antiretroviral therapy, and >500 cells/mm3 received zidovudine during pregnancy plus sd-NVP at labour. Mild (haemoglobin 8.0-10.9 g/dl) and severe anaemia (haemoglobin < 8.0 g/dl) occurrence were assessed across study arms, using Kaplan-Meier and multivariable Cox proportional hazards models.
Results
At enrolment (corresponded to a median 32 weeks gestation), median haemoglobin was 10.3 g/dl (IQR = 9.2-11.1). Severe anaemia occurred subsequently in 194 (18.1%) women, mostly in those with low baseline haemoglobin, lowest socio-economic category, advanced HIV disease, prolonged breastfeeding (≥6 months) and shorter ARV exposure. Severe anaemia incidence was similar in the randomized arms (equivalence P-value = 0.32). After 1–2 months of ARV’s, severe anaemia was significantly reduced in all groups, though remained highest in the low CD4 cohort.
Conclusions
Severe anaemia occurs at a similar rate in women receiving longer triple zidovudine-containing regimens or shorter prophylaxis. Pregnant women with pre-existing anaemia and advanced HIV disease require close monitoring.
Trial registration number
ISRCTN71468401
doi:10.1186/1471-2334-13-522
PMCID: PMC3829097  PMID: 24192332
Zidovudine; Pregnancy; HIV; Sub-Saharan Africa; Anaemia; Drug toxicity
6.  The Contribution of Emotional Partners to Sexual Risk Taking and Violence among Female Sex Workers in Mombasa, Kenya: A Cohort Study 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(8):e68855.
Objectives
To assess sexual risk-taking of female sex workers (FSWs) with emotional partners (boyfriends and husbands), compared to regular and casual clients. Experiences of violence and the degree of relationship control that FSWs have with emotional partners are also described.
Design
Cohort study with quarterly follow-up visit over 12-months.
Methods
Four hundred HIV-uninfected FSWs older than 16 years were recruited from their homes and guesthouses in Mombasa, Kenya. A structured questionnaire assessed participant characteristics and study outcomes at each visit, and women received risk-reduction counselling, male and female condoms, and HIV testing.
Results
Four or more unprotected sex acts in the past week were reported by 21.3% of women during sex with emotional partners, compared to 5.8% with regular and 4.8% with casual clients (P<0.001). Total number of unprotected sex acts per week was 5–6-fold higher with emotional partners (603 acts with 259 partners) than with regular or casual clients (125 acts with 456, and 98 acts with 632 clients, respectively; P<0.001). Mostly, perceptions of “trust” underscored unprotected sex with emotional partners. Low control over these relationships, common to many women (36.9%), was linked with higher partner numbers, inconsistent condom use, and being physically forced to have sex by their emotional partners. Half experienced sexual or physical violence in the past year, similarly associated with partner numbers and inconsistent condom use.
Conclusions
High-risk sexual behaviour, low control and frequent violence in relationships with emotional partners heighten FSWs' vulnerability and high HIV risk, requiring targeted interventions that also encompass emotional partners.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0068855
PMCID: PMC3737234  PMID: 23950879
7.  Human rights abuses and collective resilience among sex workers in four African countries: a qualitative study 
Background
Sex work is a criminal offence, virtually throughout Africa. This criminalisation and the intense stigma attached to the profession shapes interactions between sex workers and their clients, family, fellow community members, and societal structures such as the police and social services.
Methods
We explore the impact of violence and related human rights abuses on the lives of sex workers, and how they have responded to these conditions, as individuals and within small collectives. These analyses are based on data from 55 in-depth interviews and 12 focus group discussions with female, male and transgender sex workers in Kenya, South Africa, Uganda and Zimbabwe. Data were collected by sex worker outreach workers trained to conduct qualitative research among their peers.
Results
In describing their experiences of unlawful arrests and detention, violence, extortion, vilification and exclusions, participants present a picture of profound exploitation and repeated human rights violations. This situation has had an extreme impact on the physical, mental and social wellbeing of this population. Overall, the article details the multiple effects of sex work criminalisation on the everyday lives of sex workers and on their social interactions and relationships. Underlying their stories, however, are narratives of resilience and resistance. Sex workers in our study draw on their own individual survival strategies and informal forms of support and very occasionally opt to seek recourse through formal channels. They generally recognize the benefits of unified actions in assisting them to counter risks in their environment and mobilise against human rights violations, but note how the fluctuant and stigmatised nature of their profession often undermines collective action.
Conclusions
While criminal laws urgently need reform, supporting sex work self-organisation and community-building are key interim strategies for safeguarding sex workers’ human rights and improving health outcomes in these communities. If developed at sufficient scale and intensity, sex work organisations could play a critical role in reducing the present harms caused by criminalisation and stigma.
doi:10.1186/1744-8603-9-33
PMCID: PMC3750273  PMID: 23889941
Sex work; Prostitution; Violence; Human rights; Resilience; Kenya; South Africa; Uganda; Zimbabwe
8.  Moving towards universal coverage in South Africa? Lessons from a voluntary government insurance scheme 
Global Health Action  2013;6:10.3402/gha.v6i0.19253.
Background
In 2005, the South African government introduced a voluntary, subsidised health insurance scheme for civil servants. In light of the global emphasis on universal coverage, empirical evidence is needed to understand the relationship between new health financing strategies and health care access thereby improving global understanding of these issues.
Objectives
This study analysed coverage of the South African government health insurance scheme, the population groups with low uptake, and the individual-level factors, as well as characteristics of the scheme, that influenced enrolment.
Methods
Multi-stage random sampling was used to select 1,329 civil servants from the health and education sectors in four of South Africa's nine provinces. They were interviewed to determine factors associated with enrolment in the scheme. The analysis included both descriptive statistics and multivariate logistic regression.
Results
Notwithstanding the availability of a non-contributory option within the insurance scheme and access to privately-provided primary care, a considerable portion of socio-economically vulnerable groups remained uninsured (57.7% of the lowest salary category). Non-insurance was highest among men, black African or coloured ethnic groups, less educated and lower-income employees, and those living in informal-housing. The relatively poor uptake of the contributory and non-contributory insurance options was mostly attributed to insufficient information, perceived administrative challenges of taking up membership, and payment costs.
Conclusion
Barriers to enrolment include insufficient information, unaffordability of payments and perceived administrative complexity. Achieving universal coverage requires good physical access to service providers and appropriate benefit options within pre-payment health financing mechanisms.
doi:10.3402/gha.v6i0.19253
PMCID: PMC3556708  PMID: 23364093
health insurance; civil servants; health-finance reforms; universal coverage; South Africa
9.  Migration Status, Work Conditions and Health Utilization of Female Sex Workers in Three South African Cities 
Intersections between migration and sex work are underexplored in southern Africa, a region with high internal and cross-border population mobility, and HIV prevalence. Sex work often constitutes an important livelihood activity for migrant women. In 2010, sex workers trained as interviewers conducted cross-sectional surveys with 1,653 female sex workers in Johannesburg (Hillbrow and Sandton), Rustenburg and Cape Town. Most (85.3 %) sex workers were migrants (1396/1636): 39.0 % (638/1636) internal and 46.3 % (758/1636) cross-border. Cross-border migrants had higher education levels, predominately worked part-time, mainly at indoor venues, and earned more per client than other groups. They, however, had 41 % lower health service contact (adjusted odds ratio = 0.59; 95 % confidence interval = 0.40–0.86) and less frequent condom use than non-migrants. Police interaction was similar. Cross-border migrants appear more tenacious in certain aspects of sex work, but require increased health service contact. Migrant-sensitive, sex work-specific health care and health education are needed.
doi:10.1007/s10903-012-9758-4
PMCID: PMC3895178  PMID: 23238581
Sex work; Condoms; Health care utilization; Migration status; South Africa
10.  Use of AUDIT, and measures of drinking frequency and patterns to detect associations between alcohol and sexual behaviour in male sex workers in Kenya 
BMC Public Health  2011;11:384.
Background
Previous research has linked alcohol use with an increased number of sexual partners, inconsistent condom use and a raised incidence of sexually transmitted infections (STIs). However, alcohol measures have been poorly standardised, with many ill-suited to eliciting, with adequate precision, the relationship between alcohol use and sexual risk behaviour. This study investigates which alcohol indicator - single-item measures of frequency and patterns of drinking ( > = 6 drinks on 1 occasion), or the Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test (AUDIT) - can detect associations between alcohol use and unsafe sexual behaviour among male sex workers.
Methods
A cross-sectional survey in 2008 recruited male sex workers who sell sex to men from 65 venues in Mombasa district, Kenya, similar to a 2006 survey. Information was collected on socio-demographics, substance use, sexual behaviour, violence and STI symptoms. Multivariate models examined associations between the three measures of alcohol use and condom use, sexual violence, and penile or anal discharge.
Results
The 442 participants reported a median 2 clients/week (IQR = 1-3), with half using condoms consistently in the last 30 days. Of the approximately 70% of men who drink alcohol, half (50.5%) drink two or more times a week. Binge drinking was common (38.9%). As defined by AUDIT, 35% of participants who drink had hazardous drinking, 15% harmful drinking and 21% alcohol dependence. Compared with abstinence, alcohol dependence was associated with inconsistent condom use (AOR = 2.5, 95%CI = 1.3-4.6), penile or anal discharge (AOR = 1.9, 95%CI = 1.0-3.8), and two-fold higher odds of sexual violence (AOR = 2.0, 95%CI = 0.9-4.9). Frequent drinking was associated with inconsistent condom use (AOR = 1.8, 95%CI = 1.1-3.0) and partner number, while binge drinking was only linked with inconsistent condom use (AOR = 1.6, 95%CI = 1.0-2.5).
Conclusions
Male sex workers have high levels of hazardous and harmful drinking, and require alcohol-reduction interventions. Compared with indicators of drinking frequency or pattern, the AUDIT measure has stronger associations with inconsistent condom use, STI symptoms and sexual violence. Increased use of the AUDIT tool in future studies may assist in delineating with greater precision the explanatory mechanisms which link alcohol use, drinking contexts, sexual behaviours and HIV transmission.
doi:10.1186/1471-2458-11-384
PMCID: PMC3128017  PMID: 21609499
alcohol; sexual behaviour; Kenya; indicators; men who have sex with men; sex worker
11.  Health system weaknesses constrain access to PMTCT and maternal HIV services in South Africa: a qualitative enquiry 
Background
HIV remains responsible for an estimated 40% of mortality in South African pregnant women and their children. To address these avoidable deaths, eligibility criteria for antiretroviral therapy (ART) in pregnant women were revised in 2010 to enhance ART coverage. With greater availability of HIV services in public health settings and increasing government attention to poor maternal-child health outcomes, this study used the patient's journey through the continuum of maternal and child care as a framework to track and document women's experiences of accessing ART and prevention of mother-to-child HIV transmission (PMTCT) programmes in the Eastern Cape (three peri-urban facilities) and Gauteng provinces (one academic hospital).
Results
In-depth interviews identified considerable weaknesses within operational HIV service delivery. These manifested as missed opportunities for HIV testing in antenatal care due to shortages of test kits; insufficient staff assigned to HIV services; late payment of lay counsellors, with consequent absenteeism; and delayed transcription of CD4 cell count results into patient files (required for ART initiation). By contrast, individual factors undermining access encompassed psychosocial concerns, such as fear of a positive test result or a partner's reaction; and stigma. Data and information systems for monitoring in the three peri-urban facilities were markedly inadequate.
Conclusions
A single system- or individual-level delay reduced the likelihood of women accessing ART or PMTCT interventions. These delays, when concurrent, often signalled wholesale denial of prevention and treatment. There is great scope for health systems' reforms to address constraints and weaknesses within PMTCT and ART services in South Africa. Recommendations from this study include: ensuring autonomy over resources at lower levels; linking performance management to facility-wide human resources interventions; developing accountability systems; improving HIV services in labour wards; ensuring quality HIV and infant feeding counselling; and improved monitoring for performance management using robust systems for data collection and utilisation.
doi:10.1186/1742-6405-8-10
PMCID: PMC3058008  PMID: 21371301
12.  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.
Background
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.
Conclusions
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
Background
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 http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1000416
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
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1000416
PMCID: PMC3039685  PMID: 21358808
13.  Sex work and the 2010 FIFA World Cup: time for public health imperatives to prevail 
Background
Sex work is receiving increased attention in southern Africa. In the context of South Africa's intense preparation for hosting the 2010 FIFA World Cup, anxiety over HIV transmission in the context of sex work has sparked debate on the most appropriate legal response to this industry.
Discussion
Drawing on existing literature, the authors highlight the increased vulnerability of sex workers in the context of the HIV pandemic in southern Africa. They argue that laws that criminalise sex work not only compound sex workers' individual risk for HIV, but also compromise broader public health goals. International sporting events are thought to increase demand for paid sex and, particularly in countries with hyper-endemic HIV such as South Africa, likely to foster increased HIV transmission through unprotected sex.
Summary
The 2010 FIFA World Cup presents a strategic opportunity for South Africa to respond to the challenges that the sex industry poses in a strategic and rights-based manner. Public health goals and growing evidence on HIV prevention suggest that sex work is best approached in a context where it is decriminalised and where sex workers are empowered. In short, the authors argue for a moratorium on the enforcement of laws that persecute and victimise sex workers during the World Cup period.
doi:10.1186/1744-8603-6-1
PMCID: PMC2829543  PMID: 20181213
14.  Association of HIV infection with distribution and viral load of HPV types in Kenya: a survey with 820 female sex workers 
Background
Human papillomavirus (HPV) and HIV are each responsible for a considerable burden of disease. Interactions between these infections pose substantial public health challenges, especially where HIV prevalence is high and HPV vaccine coverage low.
Methods
Between July 2005 and January 2006, a cross-sectional community-based survey in Mombasa, Kenya, enrolled female sex workers using snowball sampling. After interview and a gynaecological examination, blood and cervical cytology samples were taken. Quantitative real-time PCR detected HPV types and viral load measures. Prevalence of high-risk HPV was compared between HIV-infected and -uninfected women, and in women with abnormal cervical cytology, measured using conventional Pap smears.
Results
Median age of the 820 participants was 28 years (inter-quartile range [IQR] = 24-36 years). One third of women were HIV infected (283/803; 35.2%) and these women were y more likely to have abnormal cervical cytology than HIV-negative women (27%, 73/269, versus 8%, 42/503; P < 0.001). Of HIV-infected women, 73.3% had high-risk HPV (200/273) and 35.5% had HPV 16 and/or 18 (97/273). Corresponding figures for HIV-negative women were 45.5% (229/503) and 15.7% (79/503). After adjusting for age, number of children and condom use, high-risk HPV was 3.6 fold more common in HIV-infected women (95%CI = 2.6-5.1). Prevalence of all 15 of the high-risk HPV types measured was higher among HIV-infected women, between 1.4 and 5.5 fold. Median total HPV viral load was 881 copies/cell in HIV-infected women (IQR = 33-12,110 copies/cell) and 48 copies/cell in HIV-uninfected women (IQR = 6-756 copies/cell; P < 0.001). HPV 16 and/or HPV 18 were identified in 42.7% of LSIL (32/75) and 42.3% of HSIL (11/26) lesions (P = 0.98). High-risk HPV types other than 16 and 18 were common in LSIL (74.7%; 56/75) and HSIL (84.6%; 22/26); even higher among HIV-infected women.
Conclusions
HIV-infected sex workers had almost four-fold higher prevalence of high-risk HPV, raised viral load and more precancerous lesions. HPV 16 and HPV 18, preventable with current vaccines, were associated with cervical disease, though other high-risk types were commoner. HIV-infected sex workers likely contribute disproportionately to HPV transmission dynamics in the general population. Current efforts to prevent HIV and HPV are inadequate. New interventions are required and improved implementation of existing strategies.
doi:10.1186/1471-2334-10-18
PMCID: PMC2845133  PMID: 20102630
15.  Enhancing global control of alcohol to reduce unsafe sex and HIV in sub-Saharan Africa 
Sub-Saharan Africa carries a massive dual burden of HIV and alcohol disease, and these pandemics are inextricably linked. Physiological and behavioural research indicates that alcohol independently affects decision-making concerning sex, and skills for negotiating condoms and their correct use. More than 20 studies in Africa have reported higher occurrence of HIV among people with problem drinking; a finding strongly consistent across studies and similar among women and men. Conflation of HIV and alcohol disease in these setting is not surprising given patterns of heavy-episodic drinking and that drinking contexts are often coterminous with opportunities for sexual encounters. HIV and alcohol also share common ground with sexual violence. Both perpetrators and victims of sexual violence have a high likelihood of having drunk alcohol prior to the incident, as with most forms of violence and injury in sub-Saharan Africa. Reducing alcohol harms necessitates multi-level interventions and should be considered a key component of structural interventions to alleviate the burden of HIV and sexual violence. Brief interventions for people with problem drinking (an important component of primary health care), must incorporate specific discussion of links between alcohol and unsafe sex, and consequences thereof. Interventions to reduce alcohol harm among HIV-infected persons are also an important element in positive-prevention initiatives. Most importantly, implementation of known effective interventions could alleviate a large portion of the alcohol-attributable burden of disease, including its effects on unsafe sex, unintended pregnancy and HIV transmission.
doi:10.1186/1744-8603-5-16
PMCID: PMC2781801  PMID: 19919703
16.  Maternal morbidity in the first year after childbirth in Mombasa Kenya; a needs assessment 
Background
In sub-Saharan Africa, few services specifically address the needs of women in the first year after childbirth. By assessing the health status of women in this period, key interventions to improve maternal health could be identified. There is an underutilised opportunity to include these interventions within the package of services provided for woman-child pairs attending child-health clinics.
Methods
This needs assessment entailed a cross-sectional survey with 500 women attending a child-health clinic at the provincial hospital in Mombasa, Kenya. A structured questionnaire, clinical examination, and collection of blood, urine, cervical swabs and Pap smear were done. Women's health care needs were compared between the early (four weeks to two months after childbirth), middle (two to six months) and late periods (six to twelve months) since childbirth.
Results
More than one third of women had an unmet need for contraception (39%, 187/475). Compared with other time intervals, women in the late period had more general health symptoms such as abdominal pain, fever and depression, but fewer urinary or breast problems. Over 50% of women in each period had anaemia (Hb <11 g/l; 265/489), with even higher levels of anaemia in those who had a caesarean section or had not received iron supplementation during pregnancy. Bacterial vaginosis was present in 32% (141/447) of women, while 1% (5/495) had syphilis, 8% (35/454) Trichomonas vaginalis and 11% (54/496) HIV infection.
Conclusion
Throughout the first year after childbirth, women had high levels of morbidity. Interface with health workers at child health clinics should be used for treatment of anaemia, screening and treatment of reproductive tract infections, and provision of family planning counselling and contraception. Providing these services during visits to child health clinics, which have high coverage both early and late in the year after childbirth, could make an important contribution towards improving women's health.
doi:10.1186/1471-2393-9-51
PMCID: PMC2777848  PMID: 19891784
17.  Impact of five years of peer-mediated interventions on sexual behavior and sexually transmitted infections among female sex workers in Mombasa, Kenya 
BMC Public Health  2008;8:143.
Background
Since 2000, peer-mediated interventions among female sex workers (FSW) in Mombasa Kenya have promoted behavioural change through improving knowledge, attitudes and awareness of HIV serostatus, and aimed to prevent HIV and other sexually transmitted infection (STI) by facilitating early STI treatment. Impact of these interventions was evaluated among those who attended peer education and at the FSW population level.
Methods
A pre-intervention survey in 2000, recruited 503 FSW using snowball sampling. Thereafter, peer educators provided STI/HIV education, condoms, and facilitated HIV testing, treatment and care services. In 2005, data were collected using identical survey methods, allowing comparison with historical controls, and between FSW who had or had not received peer interventions.
Results
Over five years, sex work became predominately a full-time activity, with increased mean sexual partners (2.8 versus 4.9/week; P < 0.001). Consistent condom use with clients increased from 28.8% (145/503) to 70.4% (356/506; P < 0.001) as well as the likelihood of refusing clients who were unwilling to use condoms (OR = 4.9, 95%CI = 3.7–6.6). In 2005, FSW who received peer interventions (28.7%, 145/506), had more consistent condom use with clients compared with unexposed FSW (86.2% versus 64.0%; AOR = 3.6, 95%CI = 2.1–6.1). These differences were larger among FSW with greater peer-intervention exposure. HIV prevalence was 25% (17/69) in FSW attending ≥ 4 peer-education sessions, compared with 34% (25/73) in those attending 1–3 sessions (P = 0.21). Overall HIV prevalence was 30.6 (151/493) in 2000 and 33.3% (166/498) in 2005 (P = 0.36).
Conclusion
Peer-mediated interventions were associated with an increase in protected sex. Though peer-mediated interventions remain important, higher coverage is needed and more efficacious interventions to reduce overall vulnerability and risk.
doi:10.1186/1471-2458-8-143
PMCID: PMC2397398  PMID: 18445258
18.  Efavirenz use during pregnancy and for women of child-bearing potential 
Background
Efavirenz is the preferred non-nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitor for first-line antiretroviral treatment in many countries. For women of childbearing potential, advantages of efavirenz are balanced by concerns that it is teratogenic. This paper reviews evidence of efavirenz teratogenicity and considers implications in common clinical scenarios.
Findings
Concerns of efavirenz-induced fetal effects stem from animal studies, although the predictive value of animal data for humans is unknown. Four retrospective cases of central nervous system birth defects in infants with first trimester exposure to efavirenz have been interpreted as being consistent with animal data. In a prospective pregnancy registry, which is subject to fewer potential biases, no increase was detected in overall risk of birth defects following exposure to efavirenz in the first-trimester.
Discussion
For women planning a pregnancy or not using contraception, efavirenz should be avoided if alternatives are available. According to WHO guidelines for resource-constrained settings, benefits of efavirenz are likely to outweigh risks for women using contraception. Women who become pregnant while receiving efavirenz often consider drug substitution or temporarily suspending treatment. Both options have substantial risks for maternal and fetal health which, we argue, appear unjustified after the critical period of organogenesis (3–8 weeks post-conception). Efavirenz-based triple regimens, initiated after the first trimester of pregnancy and discontinued after childbirth, are potentially an important alternative for reducing mother-to-child transmission in pregnant women who do not yet require antiretroviral treatment.
Conclusion
Current recommendations for care for women who become pregnant while receiving efavirenz may need to be re-considered, particularly in settings with limited alternative drugs and laboratory monitoring. With current data limitations, additional adequately powered prospective studies are needed.
doi:10.1186/1742-6405-3-11
PMCID: PMC1468418  PMID: 16603057

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