Hormonal contraception, vitamin A deficiency, and other risk factors for shedding of HIV-1 infected cells from the cervix and vagina

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SummaryBackground Factors that influence shedding of HIV-1 infected cells in cervical and vaginal secretions may be important determinants of sexual and vertical transmission of the virus. We investigated whether hormonal contraceptive use, vitamin A deficiency, and other variables were risk factors for cervical and vaginal shedding of HIV-infected cells.Methods Between December, 1994, and April, 1996, women who attended a municipal sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) clinic in Mombasa, Kenya, and had previously tested positive for HIV-1, were invited to take part in our cross-sectional study. Cervical and vaginal secretions from 318 women were evaluated for the presence of HIV-1 infected cells by PCR amplification of gag DNA sequences.Findings HIV-1 infected cells were detected in 51% of endocervical and 14% of vaginal-swab specimens. Both cervical and vaginal shedding of HIV-1 infected cells were highly associated with CD4 lymphocyte depletion (p=0.00001 and p=0.003, respectively). After adjustment for CD4 count, cervical proviral shedding was significantly associated with use of depot medroxyprogesterone acetate (odds ratio 2[center dot]9, 95% Cl 1[center dot]5-5[center dot]7), and with use of low-dose and high-dose oral contraceptive pills (3[center dot]8, 1[center dot]4-9[center dot]9 and 12[center dot]3, 1[center dot]5-101, respectively). Vitamin A deficiency was highly predictive of vaginal HIV-1 DNA shedding. After adjustment for CD4 count, severe vitamin A deficiency, moderate deficiency, and low normal vitamin A status were associated with 12[center dot]9, 8[center dot]0, and 4[center dot]9-fold increased odds of vaginal shedding, respectively. Gonococcal cervicitis (3[center dot]1, 1[center dot]1-9[center dot]8) and vaginal candidiasis (2[center dot]6, 1[center dot]2-5[center dot]4) were also correlated with significant increases in HIV-1 DNA detection, but Chlamydia trachomatis and Trichomonas vaginalis were not.Interpretation Our study documents several novel correlates of HIV-1 shedding in cervical and vaginal secretions, most notably hormonal contraceptive use and vitamin A deficiency. These factors may be important determinants of sexual or vertical transmission of HIV-1 and are of public health importance because they are easily modified by simple interventions.Lancet 1997; 350922-27

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