July 31, 2013
Bacterial vaginosis (BV) is an imbalance of naturally occurring vaginal micro-organisms caused by a decrease in normal helpful bacteria and an increase in harmful bacteria. BV increases women's risks of acquiring HIV and other STDs as well as experiencing pre-term delivery. Also, HIV-infected women with BV might have higher levels and greater shedding of HIV from the cervix and vagina.
Craig R. Cohen, M.D., M.P.H., professor of obstetrics, gynecology, and reproductive sciences at the University of California, San Francisco, and colleagues investigated the association between BV and HIV transmission in a study of 2,236 HIV-infected women from seven African countries and their uninfected male partners. The researchers controlled for sociodemographic factors, sexual behavior, male circumcision, sexually transmitted infections, pregnancy, and level of HIV in the blood of the HIV-infected women.
Results showed that risk of female-to-male HIV transmission was three times higher for HIV-infected women with BV than for HIV-infected women without BV. Researchers could not account for the result. The researchers acknowledged the need for more research to improve BV diagnosis, and treatment to improve women's health and decrease HIV transmission, especially in areas such as sub-Saharan Africa, which has both the world's highest HIV burden and a high BV incidence.
The full report, "Bacterial Vaginosis Associated With Increased Risk of Female-to-Male HIV-1 Transmission: A Prospective Cohort Analysis Among African Couples," was published in the journal PLoS Medicine (2012; 9(6): e1001251. doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001251).