Injectable hormonal contraception may increase women's risk of HIV acquisition and can affect biological risk factors in animal models of HIV. We established, for the first time, a model to investigate whether combined oral contraceptives (COC) alter SHIV susceptibility in macaques.Methods
Seven pigtail macaques were administered a monophasic levonorgestrel (LNG)/ethinyl estradiol (EE) COC at 33% or 66% of the human dose for 60 days. Menstrual cycling, vaginal epithelial thickness, and other SHIV susceptibility factors were monitored for a mean of 18 weeks.Results
Mean vaginal epithelial thicknesses were 290.8 μm at baseline and 186.2 μm during COC (P = 0.0141, Mann–Whitney U-test). Vaginal pH decreased from 8.5 during treatment to 6.5 post-treatment (0.0176 two-tailed t-test). Measured microflora was unchanged.Conclusions
COC caused thinning of the vaginal epithelium and vaginal pH changes, which may increase SHIV susceptibility. 0.033 mg LNG + .0066 mg EE appeared effective in suppressing ovulation.