BAC­TE­RIA IN­FEC­TION AND HIV RISK IN WOMEN

The East African - - NEWS - By AN­GELA OKETCH Spe­cial Cor­re­spon­dent

Women with a his­tory of vagi­nal bac­te­rial in­fec­tions have a higher chance of con­tract­ing and trans­mit­ting HIV.

WOMEN WITH a his­tory of vagi­nal bac­te­rial in­fec­tions have a higher chance of con­tract­ing and trans­mit­ting HIV, a study has shown. The find­ings also in­di­cate that there are more and more Kenyan women with th­ese types of ail­ments.

Med­i­cally known as bac­te­rial vagi­nosis, it is a com­mon sex­u­ally trans­mit­ted disease that oc­curs when dif­fer­ent types of bac­te­ria out­num­ber the nor­mal and use­ful (lac­to­bacil­lus) bac­te­ria in the vagina.

Ex­perts say it af­fects par­tic­u­larly those who are sex­u­ally ac­tive and causes painful in­flam­ma­tion of the birth canal.

The study found a link be­tween bac­te­rial vagi­nosis and HIV/AIDS and HIV in­fec­tions as both are trans­mit­ted mainly through un­pro­tected sex.

Dr El­iz­a­beth Irungu of the Jomo Keny­atta Univer­sity of Agri­cul­ture and Tech­nol­ogy’s HIV Depart­ment said that the disease causes swelling, itch­ing, burn­ing or in­fec­tion in the vagina which can be caused by sev­eral dif­fer­ent germs.

The study on the preva­lence of bac­te­rial vagi­nosis among women seek­ing con­tra­cep­tion in Kenya, re­vealed that the disease was high among young women in Sub-sa­ha­ran Africa, a re­gion that, in­ci­den­tally also, bears the high­est in­ci­dence of new HIV in­fec­tions.

Sci­en­tists wanted to de­ter­mine the preva­lence of bac­te­rial vagi­nosis among women and how it cor­re­lates to de­sir­ing con­tra­cep­tion.

The study en­rolled 363 women, of whom 247 were aged 30 years, and 195 had more than eight years of ed­u­ca­tion. More than three­quar­ters of them (280) re­ported hav­ing an in­come. Of the 247, some 69 per cent, re­ported hav­ing a main sex partner, while 132 (53 per cent) were liv­ing with their part­ners.

A to­tal of 20 per cent of the women re­ported con­dom use ev­ery time they had sex. Daily vagi­nal wash­ing and use of vagi­nal lu­bri­cants were re­ported by 215 (60 per cent) and 32 (nine per cent), re­spec­tively.

Forty-two per cent of the women re­ported an ab­nor­mal vagi­nal dis­charge. The bac­te­rial vagi­nosis was found in 116 of the women.

“Liv­ing with a main sex­ual partner re­duced the like­li­hood of hav­ing bac­te­rial vagi­nosis,” said Dr Irungu.

She added that hav­ing an ab­nor­mal vagi­nal dis­charge, le­sions in the gen­i­tal area or hav­ing a yeast in­fec­tion were also as­so­ci­ated with hav­ing bac­te­rial vagi­nosis.

“Vagi­nal wash­ing and con­dom use were not sig­nif­i­cantly as­so­ci­ated with bac­te­rial vagi­nosis,” she said.

Dr Paul Mitei, a gy­nae­col­o­gist/ob­ste­tri­cian, said that the disease is spread­ing be­cause of chang­ing of sex­ual part­ners and vagi­nal douch­ing.

“Douch­ing flushes out the nor­mal bac­te­ria from the vagina yet they are there to fight vagi­nal in­fec­tions, so it (douch­ing) is not safe for women,” said Dr Mitei.

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