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News for Women with HIV/AIDS

Focusing on Medical and Social Research

May 2000

This new feature in our Women's Pages presents news items of particular interest to women with HIV/AIDS, focusing on medical and social research.

Women living with HIV are at high risk for cervical complications, including cancer.

Researchers at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, have created a vaccine designed to help the body fight cervical cancer using its own immune system. According to the March 27 edition of the St. Petersburg Times, the vaccine attacks the human papillomavirus (HPV) using genetically altered immune system cells. A Phase I trial will begin this fall. HPV has been linked to the development of cervical cancer.

Research May Point Toward Cancer Cause

The March 31 issue of Biomedicine & Pharmacotherapy reported that invasive cervical cancer could have more than one cause.

It is known that human papillomavirus (HPV) plays a role in the etiology of cervical cancer, the third most common cancer for women worldwide, but not all women with cervical cancer have HPV. This research suggests cervical cancer could be triggered by the interaction between DNA viruses, specifically HPV and/or herpes simplex virus type 2 infection, and tar exposure from smoking cigarettes and/or douching with tar-based products. Studies continue.

Pregnancy Enabled Without Greater Risk

A new procedure for cervical cancer known as laparoscopic vaginal radical trachelectomy (LVRT) has enabled some young women with early stage cervical cancer to become pregnant without increasing their risk of spreading the cancer. On April 14 Reuters Health Information Services reported that French researchers have performed the procedure on 47 women, and 13 of 25 women who became pregnant delivered successfully. Watch for more details on LVRT.

Support Groups Beneficial to PWAs

According to the March 28 edition of the Washington Post, a survey from the University of Texas indicates that people affected by diseases associated with social stigma, such as AIDS, are more likely to join support groups than individuals with other conditions.

U.S. Birth Rates Drop

The number of births in the United States fell between 1990 and 1997, as more reliable contraceptives became more available and there was an increased emphasis on abstinence and the risk of AIDS. However, the New York Times reported on March 29 that births rose 2 percent in 1998, according to latest CDC statistics, many of them to women in their 20s and 30s. Might this also reflect a more relaxed attitude toward safer sex?

Tissue Structure Related to Infection

A new treatment strategy for women with HIV? The Toronto Sun Online on March 29 described a study published in the April issue of Nature Medicine of a model developed by researchers at the University of Pittsburgh that uses human tissue to copy the sites of sexual transmission of HIV in the vagina and outer cervix. Understanding the tissue structure will help in the understanding of how women contract HIV, possibly leading to new strategies for fighting the virus.

New Tests for Cancer Replace Pap Smear?

For HIV-positive women, regular Pap tests are essential. Now, new tests for cervical cancer are replacing the Pap smear because they make it easier to detect cancerous cells. The New York Times on February 28 reported that two companies recently received patents for new approaches to cervical cancer screening. Meanwhile, challenges exist for women in the use of newly developing tests. The March 8 edition of the Journal of the American Medical Association reported that another Pap smear replacement which has been available for years, The Bethesda System (TBS), should decrease false-negative reports, but it is not widely used. Moreover, Wichita Eagle Online on March 14 reported that many women who opt for one new test, the ThinPrep, are paying for the procedure themselves, because their basic medical benefits do not cover it. Ask your provider what your options are for cervical screening tests.

Teens Discuss Unprotected Sex

A survey from by the Washington-based National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy shows that almost half of U.S. teens say that pressure by a partner has led them to engage in unprotected sex, according to Reuters Health Information Services (March 8). Although most of the teens questioned said that birth control is necessary for every sexual encounter, three out of 10 girls questioned said they used no contraception the last time they had sex. Many teens cited drug and alcohol use as reasons for neglecting contraception during sex.

AIDS, Sex and Aging

Older people are less likely to practice safe sex, and rarely get tested for disease, according to the March 12 Austin American-Statesman. In addition, older Americans tend not to ask their partners about possible diseases and may feel they do not need protection. If you are an older woman, remember that "safer sex" is not just a slogan anymore -- for anyone.

Rebecca Solomon is a case manager in AIDS Project Los Angeles' Client Services Division. For more information on these reports, please call (323) 993-1436 or contact her by e-mail at

This article has been reprinted at The Body with the permission of AIDS Project Los Angeles (APLA).

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This article was provided by AIDS Project Los Angeles. It is a part of the publication Positive Living.