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Women and HIV in the News

by Rebecca Solomon

February 2001

Assertive Females More Likely to Be Protected Against Infection

Researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Emory University recently reported that consistent condom use may rely on how assertive a girl is and how well she can negotiate. The authors studied more than 500 sexually active African-American females between the ages of 14 and 18 and reported that girls who had little or no fear of negative reactions from their partners were more than two times as likely to use condoms regularly. In addition, compared to girls with older partners, those with partners of similar age were also more likely to use condoms regularly.


Mixed Outcomes in C-section Study

The University of Cincinnati Medical Center evaluated the cost-effectiveness of Cesarean delivery for HIV-infected women during pregnancy. Using several factors for the study, including quality-of-life issues, the researchers found that elective C-section led to an HIV transmission rate of 34.9 per 1,000 births, compared to 62.3 per 1,000 vaginal deliveries. However, C-section delivery also increased the risk of maternal mortality (i.e., death) by 2.4 deaths per 100,000 deliveries. The researchers concluded that "in pregnant women with detectable HIV RNA, elective Cesarean section would reduce total costs and increase overall quality-adjusted life expectancy for the mother-child pair, albeit at a slight loss of quality-adjusted life expectancy to the mother."


Teens Unaware of Cervical Cancer Virus

A Duke University Medical Center study shows that high school students know little about human papilloma virus (HPV), which is linked to cervical cancer. Approximately 15 percent of sexually active adults in America have HPV, yet ignorance remains profound. According to a report in the November issue of the Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, 87 percent of the students had not heard of HPV. The researchers also note that only 39 percent of the sexually active young women knew who should get a Pap smear, which can detect abnormal cells.


Teenagers Bounce Back Quickly After HIV Assault

Researchers have found evidence that the immune systems of HIV-infected teenagers can rebound quickly after highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART). "The research suggests adolescent patients have a more robust immune system, and we [can speculate that we] should start treating them very aggressively early on," said one physician. The study included 192 HIV-positive and 78 HIV-negative youths. Compared to the uninfected group, the HIV-infected individuals had lower CD4 cell counts; but one surprising discovery was that the infected teenagers had much higher CD8 cells counts than the HIV-negative teens. The finding reinforces a theory that HIV-positive adolescents have stronger immune systems than HIV-infected adults, so they, thus, may have better cytotoxic T-lymphocyte and other responses than both HIV-infected adults or children.


Cervical Cancer Virus May Speed HIV Progression

A study of laboratory-grown cells, reported in the December issue Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, suggests that the human papilloma virus (HPV), which is associated with cervical cancer, could reawaken latent HIV infection in immune cells. Researchers discovered that HPV-infected cells produced growth factors and proteins that stimulated the immune system and thus spurred HIV-infected cells to start producing more copies of the virus. The authors conclude, therefore, that active infection with HPV could speed HIV disease progression.


Shedding of CMV, HSV Higher Than Expected

A report in the October issue of the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology shows that the rate asymptomatic of shedding of herpes simplex virus (HSV) and cytomegalovirus (CMV) DNA from the genital tract of HIV-1-infected women is higher than once thought.

Researchers from the University of Washington at Seattle used PCR tests to detect shedding in cervical swabs of 17 women infected with all three viruses, and found evidence of infection in 10 percent of 450 cervical samples. The results are significant, note researchers, since asymptomatic shedding can transmit HSV and CMV.


Lesbians Not Immune to Infections

Australian researcher Dr. Katherine Fethers has reported that lesbians are just as likely as heterosexual women to contract sexually transmitted diseases like hepatitis and genital herpes. Fethers and colleagues compared the histories of 1,408 lesbians to 1,423 heterosexual women between 1991 and 1998, and found a higher prevalence of bacterial vaginosis, hepatitis C, and HIV risk factors in lesbians compared with a control group. Seven percent of women with female sex partners never had sex with a man; however, they were more likely to have had a relationship with a gay or bisexual man and were also more likely to have had more partners than other women.


AIDS-Infected Women and Fertility in Africa

Worldwatch Institute, an environmental research group, confirms in a recent report the devastating impact that the AIDS epidemic is having in Africa. The report states that the epidemic is not being made the priority it should be, either in Africa or elsewhere. As has already been documented, life expectancy has dropped significantly in Africa due to HIV, but the Worldwatch report also describes another trend: HIV cuts fertility rates as well since, by the time symptoms appear, women are much less likely to be pregnant than HIV-negative women. The report also noted that because more females than males in Africa are being infected, many men will not be able to find wives or will move to other countries in search of a spouse.


Project Links PCs

A new project called "Fight AIDS at Home," www.fightAIDSathome.org, uses existing connections on the Internet to link personal computers to a network that compares anti-AIDS drugs against genetic variations to find the best one. Downloadable software from Entropia allows personal computers to help evaluate AIDS drugs using software called AutoDock. Users should be aware of their privacy needs and research the project before taking part.

Rebecca Solomon is a case manager in AIDS Project Los Angeles' Client Services Division. She can be reached by calling (323) 993-1436 or rsolomon@apla.org.


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




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