Traditional vaginal agents: use and association with HIV infection in Malawian women

AIDS, Volume 9, Issue 3: Pages 293-297, March 1995.

Dallabetta GA, Miotti PG, Chiphangwi JD, Liomba G, Canner JK, Saah AJ

Department of Epidemiology, Johns Hopkins University School of Hygiene and Public Health, Baltimore, Maryland, USA.


OBJECTIVES: To assess the prevalence of traditional vaginal agent use in Malawian women and its association withHIV infection.

METHODS: Consenting, consecutive antenatal women were administered a questionnaire and screened for sexually transmitted diseases (STD) including HIV.

RESULTS: Of the 6603 consenting women, 886 (13%) reported using intravaginal agents for tightening and 2222 (34%) for self-treatment of vaginal discharge and itching. A higher proportion of HIV-infected than uninfected women (17% versus 14%) reported use of intravaginal agents for treatment (odds ratio, 1.29; 95% confidence interval, 1.05-1.57), but no difference in HIV status was found when these agents were used for tightening. In multivariate analysis, vaginal agent use for treatment was independently associated with HIV seropositivity.

CONCLUSIONS: The association of HIV infection with vaginal agents for self-treatment, but not for tightening, suggests that STD may play a role or that vaginal agents are used differently for the two purposes. In addition to a small increased risk of HIV infection associated with vaginal agent use, these agents may interfere with condom effectiveness or acceptability of vaginal microbicides.


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