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To determine whether vaginal douching is associated with HIV infection.A total of 397 female patients who attended the referral clinic for sexually transmitted diseases in Bangui, Central African Republic, from August 1994 to February 1995, were interviewed regarding sexual behavior, sexual history, and vaginal douching during the previous 3 years. Pelvic examinations were conducted and vaginal and cervical fluids evaluated for genital infections. Blood was drawn for HIV and syphilis serologic testing.The seroprevalence of HIV infection in the study population was 34%. Twenty-one per cent of the 115 HIV-seropositive women had a consistent practice of douching with commercial antiseptics versus 35% of the 223 HIV-seronegative women [odds ratio (OR), 0.6; 95% confidence interval (CI), 0.4–0.9; after adjusting for lifetime number of sexual partners, marital status, and condom use]. In contrast, a higher percentage of HIV-seropositive than HIV-seronegative women had a consistent practice of douching with a non-commercial preparation (14.8 versus 6.7%; adjusted OR, 1.7; 95% CI, 1.0–3.0).Our results suggest that vaginal douching with non-commercial preparations is associated with an increased prevalence of HIV, whereas douching with commercial antiseptic preparations was associated with a lower prevalence of HIV. The findings from this cross-sectional survey require confirmation in prospective studies.