Vaginal washes increases HIV risk
Jan 23, 2006, 16:02

Women who use vaginal washes are more likely to be infected with HIV than those who do not, says a University of Washington study.

The 10-year study by Scott McClelland and other researchers at the University of Washington examined 1,270 Kenyan women and found that those who washed their vaginas with water were three times more likely to be infected with HIV than those who did not.

The practice of vaginal washes is common among women throughout sub-Saharan Africa.

The researchers also found that women who reported that they washed with soap were four times more likely to be infected with HIV, reports science portal SciDev.Net.

It has long been thought the practice would increase women's susceptibility to HIV by stripping away the vagina's natural protection against infection and making it easier for the virus to enter cells.

"Water and the process of washing may damage the vaginal lining, providing an entry point for the virus. The use of soap would exacerbate [the damage]," said the study.

However, Robin Shattock, professor of molecular infection at St George's Medical School in London, said more studies were needed to demonstrate a definitive link between washing and HIV infection.

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