Preventing disease by protecting the cervix: The unexplored promise of internal vaginal barrier devices

Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Sciences, University of California, San Francisco, San Francisco, California, United States
AIDS (Impact Factor: 5.55). 10/2001; 15(13):1595-602. DOI: 10.1097/00002030-200109070-00001
Source: PubMed


Available from: Tsungai Chipato
Preventing disease by protecting the cervix: the
unexplored promise of internal vaginal barrier devices
Thomas R. Moench, Tsungai Chipato
and Nancy S. Padian
& 2001 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins
AIDS 2001, 15:1595±1602
Keywords: Cervix, diaphragms, HIV, microbicides, sexually transmitted disease,
susceptibility, women
The need for woman-controlled barrier contraceptives
that protect against both bacterial and viral sexually
transmitted pathogens is widely recognized [1±7]. In
the absence of an effective vaccine or treatment,
contraceptive methods capable of preventing sexual
transmission of HIV as well as other sexually trans-
mitted diseases (STD) are vital for protecting the health
of women. Moreover, widespread violence against
women, double standards of sexual behavior, and the
imbalance of power in many sexual partnerships make
methods initiated and controlled by women critically
important. These issues may severely limit existing
options for protection among women who cannot
negotiate sex with their male partners without being
accused of cheating, of being `loose' women, or of
accusing their partners of in®delity [3,4].
Vaginal microbicides (topical chemical barriers that
protect against acquisition of a variety of STD patho-
gens, including HIV) may provide such alternative
woman-controlled methods. Compared to male and
female condoms, microbicides are expected to interfere
less with intimacy and sexual pleasure, and be more
discrete. Because detergents like nonoxynol-9 (N9) are
microbicidal as well as spermicidal, several existing N9
contraceptives have been tested in observational and
controlled trials as microbicides for HIV/STD preven-
tion [8±17]. Modest protection against Chlamydia and
gonorrhea has been shown [8±12], but HIV prevention
studies [12±17] have yielded mixed results and overall,
the protective effect for HIV appears doubtful. In fact,
the most recently completed trial [17] reported greater
HIV transmission in the women using N9 compared to
those using a placebo gel, possibly due to detergent-
induced compromise of the epithelial barrier after
intensive use. New microbicides (only some of which
are spermicidal) are being developed for vaginal protec-
tion, in an effort to improve ef®cacy, safety, and
acceptability compared to existing detergent-based pro-
ducts such as N9.
Although many of these new microbicides show robust
activity against HIV and other STD pathogens, and
some also appear to be less toxic than N9, achieving
reliable protection with microbicides remains a signi®-
cant challenge. We contend that the likelihood of
success of such products could be greatly increased by
an alternative prevention approach, namely the combi-
nation of a microbicide and an internal barrier device
that protects the cervix. Like condoms, these devices
(diaphragms, caps, and other novel designs) create a
physical barrier that covers the cervix. Yet because they
are worn completely inside the vagina, they avoid the
obtrusiveness that limits the acceptability of male and
From ReProtect, LLC, Baltimore, Maryland, USA, the
Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology University of Zimbabwe,
Harare, Zimbabwe and
AIDS Research Unit, Department of Obstetric Gynecology & Reproductive Sciences, University of
California San Francisco, California, USA.
Requests for reprints to: N. S. Padian, AIDS Research Unit, Department of Obstetric Gynecology & Reproductive Sciences,
University of California San Francisco, Box 0886, 74 New Montgomery, Suite 600, San Francisco, CA 94105-3144, USA.
Received: 11 January 2001; revised: 20 April 2001; accepted: 3 May 2001.
ISSN 0269-9370 & 2001 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins
Page 1
female condoms. With microbicide applied on both
the cervical and vaginal sides of these devices (as is
commonly recommended for contraception in the UK,
but not in the USA or other countries), they should
offer all the bene®ts of the microbicide, with additional
bene®ts provided by physical protection of the cervix.
Although internal barrier devices cover the cervix, they
do not provide a barrier for most of the vaginal
epithelium. Thus, if transmission susceptibility were
distributed equally across all epithelial surfaces, internal
barrier devices might add only modestly to the protec-
tion given by the microbicides with which they were
used. However, substantial epidemiological and bio-
logical evidence suggests that susceptibility is not evenly
distributed, but that the cervix is a site of particularly
high susceptibility to HIV and STD transmission. Thus,
internal barrier devices that cover the cervix may
enhance signi®cantly the protection against HIV and
STD that may be provided by microbicides alone. In
addition, applying the microbicide to the vaginal side
of the barrier may confer vaginal protection as well.
Currently the traditional diaphragm and cervical cap are
the only tested and approved internal devices that
provide physical protection of the cervix. However,
several new barrier methods are under development or
at various stages of testing. These method include the
Leah's shield (similar to a loose ®tting cervical cap made
of rubber with a loop for easy removal), the Femcap
(also similar to the cervical cap but with a brim designed
to ®t into the vaginal fornices), the SILCS diaphragm [a
new single-size design (SILCS Inc., Tinton Falls, New
Jersey, USA) expected to be easier to insert and
remove], and disposable diaphragms (some of which
may be provided with microbicide preapplied).
Evidence for the importance of the cervix
in acquisition of STD and HIV
Cervical infection with bacterial STD
STD facilitate transmission of HIV both by increasing
susceptibility among the uninfected, and by increasing
the infectiousness among those infected with HIV [18].
Thus, the role of the cervix in STD susceptibility, and
the importance of cervical protection in blocking
acquisition of STD, are both relevant to preventing
transmission of HIV. Cervicitis is the classic and
predominant manifestation of Chlamydia and gonorrhea
infection. Both organisms replicate in the cervical
columnar epithelium, and are incapable of replication
in the squamous epithelium of the vagina. Although
these pathogens also infect Bartholin's glands and the
urethra, infections at these sites are generally believed
to be complications of established cervicitis [19,20].
Epidemiological evidence of the protective effect of
physical coverage of the cervix supports these observa-
Although to date, there have been no experimental
studies (i.e., controlled trials) to evaluate the effect of
diaphragm use and STD acquisition, there have been
several observational studies (case±control or cross-
sectional designs) that report a protective effect of
diaphragms in decreasing susceptibility to STD and
associated long-term sequelae. All of the studies com-
pared diaphragm users to non-users, and all used some
type of multivariate analysis to control for known co-
factors or confounders such as socioeconomic status or
age. Although not always speci®ed, in most studies
women who used diaphragms used them together with
spermicides. Thus, although we cannot separate the
protective effect of diaphragms from that conferred by
spermicides used alone, this limitation does not affect
our fundamental argument that diaphragms used to-
gether with microbicides may offer signi®cant protec-
tion. Table 1 summarizes these results. Because the
majority of these studies were not designed to test the
ef®cacy of the diaphragm as their primary objective,
and (as stated above), because they are all observational
studies and thus subject to biases inherent in that
design, results in the table must be seen as suggestive
rather than de®nitive.
Two cross-sectional studies con®rmed a protective
effect for diaphragm use among women seen at a STD
clinic. Magder et al. [9] reported than none of 77
diaphragm users had gonorrhea compared to 20%
Table 1. Observational studies reporting the association between diaphragm use and STD (Diaphragm use versus all other methods).
Design Sample n Outcome Odds ratio
95% Con®dence
interval Reference
Cross-sectional STD clinic 5681 Gonorrhea 0.8 Not available [9]
Cross-sectional STD clinic 1693 Gonorrhea 0.32
0.16±0.45 [10]
Trichomoniasis 0.24
Case±control STD clinic 1031 Gonorrhea 0.45 0.15±1.3 [11]
Case±control Primary health clinics 538 Cervical intraepithelial neoplasia II, III 0.3
0.1±0.8 [22]
Case±control STD clinic 880 Pelvic in¯ammatory disease 0.3 0.09±0.75 [24]
Case±control Hospital 3154 Pelvic in¯ammatory disease 0.4 0.2±0.7 [25]
Also signi®cantly protective when compared speci®cally to condom users.
AIDS 2001, Vol 15 No 131596
Page 2
among non-users [odds ratio (OR), 0.8]; Rosenberg et
al. [10] also reported a reduced risk of gonorrhea
among diaphragm users [OR, 0.32; 95% con®dence
interval (CI), 0.16±0.05]. These results were con®rmed
in a case±control study conducted by Austin et al. [11]
comparing women with gonorrhea to other STD clinic
attendees without a current infection. Compared to
non-users, women who used diaphragms were 55% less
likely to have gonorrhea (OR, 0.45; 95% CI, 0.15±
1.3). Data are more limited regarding the protective
effect of diaphragm use against other STD pathogens.
In the cross-sectional study mentioned above, Rosen-
berg et al. [10] were also able to consider other STD
and detected an OR for diaphragm users of 0.24 (95%
CI, 0.12±0.48) for trichomoniasis and 0.25 (95% CI,
0.05±1.36) for Chlamydia. Human papillomaviruses can
infect the cervix, vagina, and vulva, but cancer risk is
predominantly a result of cervical infection [21].
Becker et al. [22] in a case±control study, detected a
decreased risk for cervical intraepithelial neoplasia
(CIN) II or CIN III among users of diaphragms (OR,
0.3; 95% CI, 0.1±0.8).
Two case±control studies have examined sequelae of
STD, speci®cally pelvic in¯ammatory disease (PID), as
an outcome. Wolner-Hanssen et al. [23], comparing
women with PID to uninfected women seen at an
STD clinic, reported an OR of 0.3 (95% CI, 0.09±
0.75) for diaphragm users, and Keleghan et al. [24],
studying women hospitalized for PID compared to
women hospitalized for other reasons, detected a 60%
decrease in risk among diaphragm users (OR, 0.4; 95%
CI, 0.2±0.7) controlling for potentially confounding
The susceptibility of the cervix to HIV
To date, no studies have examined the protective effect
of physical coverage of the cervix and HIV acquisition.
However, because of its fragility, frequent compromise
by classical STD, and the presence of HIV receptor
sites (all of which are discussed below), the cervix is
probably more susceptible to HIV than is the vaginal
tissue. The importance of the cervix in acquisition of
HIV infection is suggested by a recent experiment in
which rhesus macaques were infected vaginally with
SIV [25]. Using in situ hybridization to detect SIV-
infected cells, the ®rst cellular targets were found to be
located in the lamina propria of the columnar endocer-
vical epithelium. These cervical cells were detectably
infected by day 3, whereas the vaginal mucosa was not
infected until day 12, a time when virus was systemi-
cally disseminated. Thus, the cervix appeared to be the
site of initial infectious entry. The cervix may also serve
as a portal allowing pathogen access to the upper
genital tract. Human cervical tissue section explants are
easily infectable with HIV, as are uterine and fallopian
tube sections [26]. This suggests that upper tract access
may be followed by infectious entry of HIV.
As is apparent from these results and those reported for
STD above, overall, there is a consistent indication that
the cervix is an important infection site for STD and
HIV. Below we review biological mechanisms that
may account for these observations.
Biological plausibility: mechanisms for
cervical susceptibility to STD and HIV
Cervical infection with viral STD (HSV, SIV, and
Herpes simplex virus (HSV) is known to affect the
cervix, vagina, and external genital skin [27]. But
whereas HSV infects surface columnar epithelial cells of
the cervix directly, the susceptible cells of the vagina
and skin reside in the deeper parabasilar and intermedi-
ate epithelial layers [27]. Thus, microtrauma may be
required to provide access to squamous but not to
cervical columnar target cells. In this sense the cervix
may be a site of higher susceptibility than vaginal or
genital skin, and on theoretical grounds, a cervical
barrier might be expected to be protective. However,
no studies have been published examining the effect of
diaphragms or caps on HSV transmission.
Experiments with the SIV/macaque vaginal transmis-
sion model show that the normal genital tract is a
substantial barrier to transmission. Ten thousand times
more SIV must be inoculated vaginally to achieve
reliable transmission than the amount required when
the virus is injected into the blood stream [28]. This
suggests that intact genital epithelium is a potent barrier
to transmission, particularly as semen from HIV-
infected men contains far less infectious virus than used
in these experiments [29,30]. These facts are consistent
with clinical and epidemiological observations that
disruption of the epithelium is associated with en-
hanced HIV acquisition. For example, both genital
ulcer disease [31,32] and trauma (marked by post-coital
bleeding) [33,34] have been associated with increased
HIV risk. Likewise, non-ulcerative, but in¯ammatory
STD [gonorrhea, Chlamydia, trichomoniasis (as dis-
cussed above), and bacterial vaginosis] have also been
associated with increased HIV susceptibility. (Bacterial
vaginosis, although historically considered a non-
in¯ammatory disease, is characterized by increased
cytokine levels in cervicovaginal secretions [35].) These
often untreated and highly prevalent disruptions of
natural epithelial protective mechanisms are thought, in
part, to be responsible for the disastrous pace of the
AIDS epidemic in regions such as sub-Saharan Africa
[36]. Although many of these conditions could affect
both the cervical and vaginal epithelia, the cervix may
be more susceptible than the vagina for reasons
reviewed below.
The cervix and acquisition of STD/HIV Moench et al. 1597
Page 3
The cervical epithelium is an easily compromised
The relative fragility of the cervix as compared to the
vagina provides evidence that the cervix is a likely site
of entry for STD pathogens and HIV. The cervical
columnar epithelium extending from the endocervical
canal out to the transitional zone is much thinner than
vaginal epithelium. Throughout this region the epithe-
lium consists of only a single layer of columnar cells. It
is consequently more easily damaged than the thicker
(30±45 cells thick) strati®ed squamous epithelium of
the vagina [37]. This cervical fragility is evident during
pelvic examination, where the cervix may be friable
(bleeding easily after gentle contact with a cotton
swab), particularly when cervical ectopy is present.
Ectopy is a common physiological condition in which
the columnar epithelium extends well out onto the face
of the cervix, and is thereby exposed to trauma from
intercourse and contacts pathogens in semen. Ectopy
has been reported to be strongly associated with HIV
infection (OR, 5.0; P 0.007) [38]. Ectopy is particu-
larly common in adolescents. This biological phenom-
enon, in addition to other behavioral factors, probably
contributes to increased risk for HIV and other STD
[39] among this age group. Oral contraceptives have
also been associated with ectopy, and are also associated
with erythema and edema of the zone of ectopy,
thereby increasing mucosal fragility further and thus
probably increasing susceptibility to a range of patho-
gens [40]. Bleeding ectopy (friability) is very common
in some populations, for example, a prevalence of 26%
was reported in a study of 257 consecutive women
seen at a maternal and child health clinic in India [41].
In contrast, vaginal epithelium is rarely friable except in
pathological in¯ammatory conditions, such as frankly
ulcerative STD. Thus, damage to mucosal epithelia,
whether traumatic or infectious, may enhance STD/
HIV transmission by compromising what is otherwise a
signi®cant barrier against infection and providing access
to deeper cells. Because the cervix is likely more
susceptible to damage, a high priority should be placed
on protecting it both from traumatic damage and from
direct exposure to pathogens.
Uterine peristalsis rapidly exposes the upper
reproductive tract by aspirating vaginal ¯uids
The tissues of the upper genital tract are susceptible to
classical STD [42] and have recently been shown to be
susceptible to HIV also [26]. Although the endocervical
mucus `plug' has generally been assumed to be a
substantial barrier to the uptake of vaginal ¯uids into
the upper genital tract, this view is no longer tenable.
Many investigators have reported that sperm and
immotile particles deposited in the vagina are rapidly
transported to the fallopian tubes and peritoneal cavity
[43,44]. Over the past decade extensive sonographic
evidence generated by multiple investigators has shown
that the uterus continuously undergoes peristaltic con-
tractions, predominantly directed from cervix to fun-
dus, and peaking in amplitude and frequency at
ovulation [45]. Recent observations show that these
contractions are functional, actually aspirating ¯uids out
of the vagina [46,47]. Scintigraphy after vaginal deposi-
tion of a radiolabeled particle suspension shows ascent
within a few minutes of being placed in the vagina
[46]. Transport is preferential into the fallopian tube
that serves the side on which ovulation had occurred,
suggesting that uterine peristaltic transport of vaginal
¯uid is a highly regulated, fertility-enhancing, physio-
logical mechanism [46]. Other experiments have in-
dependently con®rmed these results, by sonographic
documentation of uterine ascent of intravaginal depos-
ited sonographic contrast medium [47]. Moreover,
peristalsis has been documented to carry ¯uids all the
way to the peritoneum [46], which is patrolled by
macrophages and lymphocytes, obvious targets for
This rapid upward transport of ¯uid deposited in the
vagina may be an important process not only in
transporting sperm to enhance fertility, but also in
transporting STD pathogens such as Chlamydia, gonor-
rhea, and HIV to the endocervix, upper genital tract,
and peritoneum. Furthermore, peristaltic transport by
the uterus markedly reduces the time available for a
microbicide to mix with and inactivate pathogens in
semen rubbed or pooled against the cervix. Thus,
protecting the cervix and upper genital tract may be
dif®cult using microbicides aimed at blocking patho-
gens only in the vagina.
HIV-speci®c receptor sites are present on the
surface of the cervix
The columnar cervical epithelium also harbors recep-
tors implicated in HIV acquisition. CD4-positive cells
are susceptible to HIV, and once infected, may also act
as mobile cellular vectors. Recent data show that CD4-
positive cells are rarely found in the vaginal lumen, but
are easily detected in the endocervical lumen, and are
also present on the surface of the ectocervix [48].
CCR5, a chemokine receptor that serves as a critical
co-receptor for HIV is expressed on cells in the female
genital tract. Expression of CCR5 is much higher in
the cervix than in the vagina [49±51]. Except in rare
cases with infection or in¯ammation, CCR5 was never
observed in the epithelial layer of the vagina, rather, it
was found only in subepithelial tissue [49]. In contrast,
CCR5 is abundant within the super®cial epithelium of
the endocervix and transformation zone [49]. Finally,
Fc-gamma receptors have been postulated to play a role
in (antibody-coated) HIV entry into cells that express
these receptors, especially dendritic cells. Fc receptor
expression shows preferential cervical distribution,
strongly predominating at the transitional zone (be-
tween columnar and squamous epithelium) [52].
AIDS 2001, Vol 15 No 131598
Page 4
Con¯icting evidence of the importance of
the cervix in acquisition of HIV
The above considerations all suggest that the cervix
may be a key site for HIV transmission. However,
there are also data that do not support the importance
of the cervix in acquiring HIV. In the SIV/macaque
model, removal of the cervix long before vaginal
inoculation did not decrease the ef®ciency of transmis-
sion, clearly showing that transmission can occur across
the vaginal epithelium [53]. Moreover, unlike the
®ndings of Zhang et al. [25] described above, Miller et
al. [54] found SIV-infected cells soon after infection
not only in the cervix, but also in the strati®ed
squamous epithelium of the vagina. Dendritic cells in
the vaginal epithelium are thought to be important in
early SIV uptake and transmission events in this model.
Finally, in parallel with the monkey data, HIV has been
acquired vaginally by women who have had hysterec-
tomies [55].
Unfortunately, these observations have been interpreted
to mean that the cervix must not be a site of increased
susceptibility compared to the vaginal epithelium. Yet
these studies do not model the increased susceptibility
of the cervix that is a likely result of STD or coital
trauma (factors intentionally avoided in the model, but
frequently present in women; see above). Furthermore,
experiments with HIV inoculation in chimpanzees
provide opposing evidence. In the chimpanzee, an
inoculum containing a very small number of infectious
units (300 HIV-infected cells), transmitted infection
when inoculated into the endocervical canal [56]. The
relevance of these chimpanzee endocervical inocula-
tions has been questioned on the supposition that
semen will not have access to this site [54]. However,
as reviewed above [43±47], there is strong evidence
that vaginal ¯uids are indeed aspirated to the upper
tract. Likewise, cervical ectopy commonly exposes
cervical columnar epithelium to the vaginal environ-
ment. Thus, while it is clear that HIV transmission
probably can occur in the vagina (and probably also at
the introitus), the majority of transmission events may
still occur at the cervix and upper tract. Although, the
negative evidence cited above demonstrates that the
cervix is not necessary for transmission, it does not
disprove the hypothesis that the cervix is a site of
disproportionate susceptibility in women.
Lessons for STD/HIV prophylaxis from
contraceptive data
The contraceptive literature provides strong evidence
that in actual human use, cervical barrier devices
signi®cantly increase the contraceptive ef®cacy of sper-
micides. The most recent published data [57] show that
the risk of pregnancy in women using spermicide alone
is 60% higher than the rate observed using spermicide
with a diaphragm, even when adjusted for age, marital
status, and income (factors associated with contracep-
tive reliability, and also with likelihood of using
diaphragms). Although contraceptive failures of spermi-
cides used alone are often due to user failure (lack of
consistent and correct use) some failures are intrinsic to
the method.
The spermicides used in most trials contain more than
100 times the concentration and total dose needed to
inactivate all enveloped viruses and sperm in an
ejaculate [58]. How can spermicides of this potency fail
to contracept? It is likely that failures are caused by
short contact times between semen and spermicide,
inadequate distribution of the spermicide before ejacu-
lation, rapid contact between the ejaculate and freshly-
secreted cervical mucus that is not yet impregnated
with spermicide, and/or by aspiration of semen into
the upper genital tract. All of these contraceptive
method-failure modes would be reduced signi®cantly
or eliminated by a cervical barrier device that also
delivered, distributed, and positioned the spermicide
more reliably.
The failure modes listed above may also be relevant to
microbicide failure to inactivate pathogens. Distribu-
tion, mixing, and contact time may be inadequate, and
the upper tract may be exposed. Hence we believe use
of cervical barriers with microbicides will probably
result in similar reductions in method failures for STD/
HIV prevention to that well documented for contra-
ceptive spermicides.
All microbicides must somehow be delivered to and
distributed in the vagina. Thus, they require the use of
some kind of applicator. One simple method of
application is ®nger placement, which is possible with
suppositories, foaming tablets, ®lms, and sponges. This
simplicity is undeniably advantageous, but not alto-
gether reliable, because ®lms, suppositories, and tablets
can slip off the inserting ®nger without the user's
knowledge, leading to improper placement or even
failure to insert. Most other vaginal products require
the use of an applicator that helps insure the spermicide
is deposited well inside the vagina, near the cervix.
Diaphragms and caps can themselves be the applicator,
and would help assure proper placement of a micro-
bicide near the cervix. Moreover, barrier devices can
provide the added bene®ts of improved distribution to
both the cervical and vaginal epithelium, and enhanced
microbicide retention.
We predict that any microbicide will give higher
ef®cacy for both contraception and disease prevention
if it is used with an internal barrier that protects the
The cervix and acquisition of STD/HIV Moench et al. 1599
Page 5
cervix. The microbicide should not only be applied on
the cervical side as has been traditional for contra-
ceptive use, but also on the vaginal side of the device
to mix directly with semen and help protect the vaginal
epithelium. Nevertheless, in spite of its potential
ef®cacy, as with any new method of prevention, its
ef®cacy will only be as good as its use, which is
ultimately determined by acceptability.
Acceptability of the diaphragm, cervical cap, and
female condom
Diaphragms and caps are perceived by some as having
low acceptability because they are currently used by a
very small proportion of contracepting women. Dia-
phragms were once much more widely used, but were
supplanted by oral contraceptives that offered higher
contraceptive reliability and the convenience of a non-
coital method. To date, the few studies that have
assessed the acceptability of the diaphragm among
women allowed participants to choose from a range of
products [59±61], anywhere from 1±20% of women
chose the diaphragm depending on the study. How-
ever, the message used to promote the diaphragm was
not standardized, and due to lack of data, statistics
regarding STD and HIV prevention could not be
provided. In general, women who chose the diaphragm
reported a higher frequency of intercourse than women
who chose other methods and cited safety and freedom
(the fact that use was under their control and did not
require male sex partner negotiation) as being factors
signi®cantly associated with their choice [59,60].
No studies have been done assessing acceptability of
internal barrier devices among male partners. However,
in a recent contraceptive trial [62], only 10 out of 398
participants using diaphragms noted that their partner
could feel the device during intercourse. This suggests
that acceptability by men will probably be high, and
that diaphragms are relatively unobtrusive in use.
These data bode well for the acceptance of the
diaphragm among high-risk women. Another study
[61] found that women who chose diaphragms were
older and better educated than women who chose the
pill and were more likely than intra-uterine device
users to opt for spaced as opposed to limited births.
Among those who did choose diaphragms, 50±60% of
women continued use after 6 months of follow-up,
although researchers concluded that this was in part
due to the message and training about diaphragm use
given by providers. It seems likely that today, in the
presence of the HIV and STD epidemics, the attrac-
tiveness of diaphragms, caps, and other newer methods
that may be easier to use would increase substantially if
clinical trials demonstrated that they help to protect
against disease. The added bene®t of these devices as
reversible methods of pregnancy control may also
contribute to their attractiveness. In addition, the
acceptability of the female condom [63±65], a device
more cumbersome and obtrusive than the diaphragm,
clearly suggests that internal barrier devices would be
more acceptable if their disease-preventive ef®cacy
were proven. Finally, the costs of diaphragms, or other
similar devices, will probably be substantially lower
than the cost of female condoms, and perhaps not
much more expensive than male condoms as reusable
devices last for 3 years, thus, with typical coital
frequencies [66], 200±300 acts of intercourse. As far as
we are aware, no published data on diaphragm accept-
ability are available from those countries hardest hit by
HIV/AIDS. However, studies that should provide
additional data on diaphragm acceptability and use are
currently underway in Zimbabwe and in Kenya.
To our knowledge, no studies of the HIV preventive
capabilities of internal barrier devices have been pub-
lished, are ongoing, or are planned and funded.
Clinical, epidemiological and biological evidence
strongly support the hypothesis that combining a
microbicide with such a barrier will enhance protec-
tion. Direct tests of this hypothesis with controlled
trials are well justi®ed and should be a high priority.
The authors thank R. Cone, Johns Hopkins Univer-
sity, for reviewing the manuscript.
Sponsorship: Supported by NIH/NIAID (PO1 AI45967)
and CONRAD and CDC (CSA 99-269).
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AIDS 2001, Vol 15 No 131602
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  • Source
    • "According to Mesquita et al. [17] , disruption of the vaginal epithelial barrier has been shown to facilitate the movement of HIV into the laminae propriae, where HIV target cells are shown to be more abundant [17]. In addition, clinical and epidemiological observation studies have also reported that the disruption of the vaginal epithelium is associated with enhanced HIV acquisition [16]. Sexually transmitted infections are known to facilitate HIV transmission by rupturing protective mucosal bar- riers [7]. "
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: It is well documented that the mucosal linings of the female genital tract (FGT) usually provides a robust barrier that protects against sexually acquired infections. However, to the best of our knowledge there are limited South African studies that have investigated the association between damage to the mucosal linings and the acquisition of HIV infections. We hypothesize that in this cohort of women, a higher rate of HIV seroconversions will be observed for women who present with evidence of mucosal damage. We undertook a secondary analysis of the Methods for Improving Reproductive Health in Africa (MIRA) trial that assessed the effectiveness of the latex diaphragm and lubricant gel on HIV prevention among women. Participants underwent a physical examination which included a pelvic examination to detect the presence of mucosal abnormalities. During the physical examinations, the study clinicians examined the genitalia, cervix and vagina for signs of epithelial disruptions and abnormal vaginal discharge. The association between the various genital factors and HIV seroconversion was modeled using Cox proportional hazards regression analysis. In this cohort of 1485 women that had enrolled to participate in the study, women that had presented with genital epithelial disruptions and abnormal vaginal discharge were shown to be at highest risk for HIV acquisition (Hazard Ratio (HR): 4.30, 95 % CI: 2.25, 8.22, p <0001, HR: 2.37, 95 % CI: 1.69, 3.33, p <0.001) respectively. In addition, the Kaplan Meier analysis showed that the highest number of seroconversions was observed in women that had disrupted genital epithelia (27 per 100/py, 95 % CI: 15.0, 50.7) and abnormal vaginal discharge (12 per 100/py, 95 % CI: 9.70, 16.7). Other significant factors included: genital signs and symptoms (HR: 1.67, 95 % CI: 1.07, 2.61, p = 0.02) and genital ulcers/sores (HR: 1.79, 95 % CI: 1.05, 3.06, p = 0.03). We have shown that damage to the mucosal epithelial lining increases a women’s risk of HIV seroconversion. Future studies that provide an in depth understanding of the mechanisms associated with the FGT and mucosal immunity will be most valuable. An understanding of all of these mechanisms will be key in directing the advancement of products most suitable for combating HIV infection in women. Trial registration This study was registered with,number NCT00121459 on the 28 th February 2007.
    Full-text · Article · Dec 2016 · BMC Women's Health
    • "Although high rates of lifetime casual sexual partnerships among heterosexual men has produced the assumption that men are at increased risk for HIV/STI acquisition (and subsequent transmission to female partners; see Higgins et al., 2010; Vitellone, 2000), our results suggest that female heavy drinkers who have casual partners could be important targets for intervention. This finding is important because of the higher biological vulnerability to STI and HIV transmission through heterosexual contact among women (Bolan et al., 1999; Cohen, 1998; Moench et al., 2001; Wasserheit, 1992). It should be noted that these results are not explained by higher levels of transactional sex; several participants (5.4%) reported having 15 or more unprotected sex events with casual partners over the 30 days, and of these, 67% (N = 12) were women, but only 17% of these (N = 2) reported engaging in transactional sex in their lifetimes. "
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Global association and experimental studies suggest that alcohol use may increase sexual behavior that poses risk for exposure to sexually transmitted infections (STI) among heterosexual men and women. However, results from longitudinal and daily recall studies exploring the co-occurrence of alcohol use with various sexual risk outcomes in more naturalistic contexts have been mixed, and the bulk of this research has focused on college students. The current study enrolled heavy-drinking emergency department (ED) patients and used a cross-sectional, 30-day Timeline Followback (TLFB) method to examine the daily co-occurrence between alcohol use and three sexual behavior outcomes: Any sex, unprotected intercourse (UI), and UI with casual partners (versus protected intercourse [PI] with casual partners, or UI/PI with steady partners). Results indicated that increasing levels of alcohol use on a given day increased the odds of engaging in any sexual activity and that heavy drinking (but not very heavy drinking) on a given day was associated with an increased odds of engaging in UI with either steady or casual partners. However, day-level alcohol use was not associated with an increased odds of UI with casual partners. These findings suggest that alcohol may play an important role in increasing risk for HIV/STIs among heterosexuals, and support the continued need to target heavy drinking in sex risk reduction interventions. However, our results also suggest that alcohol may not universally result in unprotected sex with casual partners, a behavior posing perhaps the highest risk for HIV/STI transmission. Copyright © 2015. Published by Elsevier Ireland Ltd.
    No preview · Article · Apr 2015 · Drug and alcohol dependence
  • Source
    • "Limited evidence from observational studies suggests that the diaphragm protects against STI and their sequelae, including gonorrhoea (Austin et al. 1984, Rosenberg et al. 1992), pelvic inflammatory disease (Wolner-Hanssen et al. 1990) and cervical dysplasia (Becker et al. 1994). This is biologically plausible—the cervix being a primary entry site for STIs such as HIV, Neisseria gonorrhoeae, Chlamydia trachomatis and the human papilloma virus (Moench et al. 2001). Ongoing trials aim to determine its protective efficacy against HIV. "
    Full-text · Dataset · Nov 2012
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