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Treatment and Prevention News for Women

December 2000

A note from The field of medicine is constantly evolving. As a result, parts of this article may be outdated. Please keep this in mind, and be sure to visit other parts of our site for more recent information!

Women More at Risk for STDs, Study Finds

Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) affect five times more women than men, according to a United Nations Population Fund report.

"Lives Together, Worlds Apart: Men and Women in a Time of Change" noted that major changes in just discussing issues like rape, incest and female reproductive rights have occurred in the last few years. And stated that the fact that AIDS, the sex trade, and sex education for adolescents can be openly discussed at the United Nations and government offices "is an indication of a massive change in thinking."

Increasing women's power could thus help avoid many of the STDs contracted every year, the report said.


Early AZT Shows Good Results in Pregnancy

The New England Journal of Medicine reports that treating HIV-positive pregnant women with AZT 28 weeks before delivery significantly reduces the amount of time their newborns have to be treated.

Early AZT therapy enabled the doctors to reduce the babies' treatment time from six weeks to three days. The Harvard study provided AZT to all of the mothers and infants studied, prompting praise from critics of previous mother-to-child studies that involved placebos.

Low Vitamin A, Cervical Cancer Link

Vitamin A deficiency may contribute to cervical cancer development in HIV-infected women.

Researchers from Rush Medical College in Chicago assessed vitamin A levels in the blood of more than 1,300 HIV-positive women and studied cervical cells for signs of cancer, including HPV. The study found that 15.5 percent of women had too little vitamin A, and 36.5 percent of the women had abnormalities in their cervical cells.

According to the researchers, HIV-positive women with low blood retinol (vitamin A) concentrations were nearly two-thirds more likely to have specific abnormalities in the cervix than women with higher concentrations of the vitamin.

Age Is No Vaccine Against HIV

A new study suggests that 4.5 million American women over 40 engage in behaviors that place them at high risk for HIV transmission.

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), as of 1999, some 78,000 people 50 years of age and older had developed AIDS, approximately 10,000 of whom were over the age of 65. Although people over 50 make up just 10 percent of all AIDS cases, older Americans face unique challenges in terms of treatment and prevention, as well as more complicated disease management due to other health conditions and possible drug interactions.

Studies indicate that older women know far less about HIV than younger women.

New Tampon Can Test for STDs

Research indicates that a new tampon may be used to test for some sexually transmitted diseases by absorbing fluid in the vagina that can later be tested.

Scientists in South Africa assessed the diagnostic tampon on 1,030 women with no signs of infection. Researchers then reported that the tampon detected 247 cases of the STD Trichomonas vaginalis while the traditional swab method detected just 191 cases. Work on product development continues.

Spill the Wine

Scientists at Northeastern Ohio University College of Medicine have found that a chemical in red wine can block herpes viruses from replicating.

It has been established that resveratrol may offer some protection against heart disease. New research finds that a modified version of the chemical has anti-herpes properties and can be added to contraceptive foams or lubricants for condoms.

Teens and Sex: Beginning a Dialogue

More teen-agers are having sex earlier, about 31 percent by age 15 in 1995, according to a study published in Family Planning Perspectives.

Casual sexual encounters are becoming more common in middle school, too. Young teen-agers reported that they have oral sex because they think it is "safe," meaning an activity that will not lead to pregnancy or sexually transmitted diseases and also because they want the experience.

However, STDs can be transmitted during oral sex, which experts note has emotional consequences as well.

Meanwhile, a recent survey from the Kaiser Family Foundation showed that parents want help in providing sex education to their teen-agers, and suggests that parents not open the conversation about sex directly.

If parents begin by asking about cliques at school or something else that's emotionally meaningful in their children's lives, that may touch off a conversation about sexuality. Experts believe that conversations about sex between parents and teens must start in middle school.

Women Urge Effort to Combat AIDS in Africa

The National Council of Negro Women has called for more effort to help women in sub-Saharan Africa fight AIDS.

According to "A Devastating Tragedy: AIDS in Africa," 40 percent of HIV-infected pregnant women in the region transmit the virus to their babies during birth.

The group, based in Washington, D.C., called for more debt forgiveness and better access to health care for African women, including improving attitudes toward AIDS patients and promoting the use of condoms.

Clinical Trial Ethical Guidelines Revised

Placebos are unethical in studies that involve diseases with already proven treatments, according to a document considered the basis for ethical research.

Although not a legally binding document in the United States, the Declaration of Helsinki does set the standard for medical research worldwide. The latest revision stems, in part, from a controversy over the use of placebos in trying to find an inexpensive and easy way to reduce HIV transmission from pregnant women to their infants.

Studies in several Asian and African countries gave HIV-positive pregnant women either placebos or short regimens of AZT prior to delivery. The revision would mean that, if treatment is available, giving a placebo would be unethical.

However, defenders of the placebo-controlled studies said the real issue was whether the short-course of AZT was better than nothing, which is generally what was available to the African and Thai women, instead of whether the regimen was as good as a longer AZT regimen, which none of the women typically would have received.

Rebecca Solomon is a case manager in AIDS Project Los Angeles' Case Management Services department. She can be reached by calling (323) 993-1436 or by e-mail at

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

A note from The field of medicine is constantly evolving. As a result, parts of this article may be outdated. Please keep this in mind, and be sure to visit other parts of our site for more recent information!

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