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Social and behavioural aspects of prevention poster session 1: Adolescents
P2-S2.13 A pilot study of the effectiveness of a vaginal washing cessation intervention among Kenyan female sex workers
  1. L Masese1,
  2. R S McClelland1,
  3. R Gitau2,
  4. G Wanje1,
  5. J Shafi2,
  6. F Kashonga2,
  7. J Ndinya-Achola2,
  8. B Richardson1,
  9. R Lester3,
  10. A Kurth4
  1. 1University of Washington, Seattle, USA
  2. 2University of Nairobi, Kenya
  3. 3University of British Columbia, Canada
  4. 4New York University, USA


Background Intravaginal practices have been associated with HIV-1 acquisition. This may be mediated by mucosal disruption, changes in vaginal flora, or inflammatory responses in the genital tract. Reducing vaginal washing could lower women's risk of HIV-1 acquisition. We conducted a prospective study to test the hypothesis that a theory-based intervention would reduce vaginal washing in a cohort of high-risk Kenyan women. We collected pilot data on changes in biological markers that might help to explain the relationship between vaginal washing and HIV-1.

Methods HIV-1 seronegative women who reported current vaginal washing were recruited from a prospective cohort study of high-risk women in Mombasa, Kenya. A theoretical framework including Information Motivation and Behaviour and Harm Reduction was implemented to encourage participants to reduce or eliminate vaginal washing. At baseline and after 1 month, we evaluated vaginal epithelial lesions by colposcopy, vaginal flora by Nugent's criteria, and vaginal cytokine milieu using ELISA on cervicovaginal lavage specimens.

Results Twenty-three women were enrolled. The most commonly reported vaginal washing substance was soap and water (N=14, 60.9%). The median frequency of vaginal washing per week was 7 (IQR 0–14). After one week, 21 (91.3%) participants reported cessation of vaginal washing. After 1 month, all participants reported cessation of vaginal washing (p≤0.001 for comparison of baseline to follow-up prevalence). The average number of cervicovaginal epithelial lesions by colposcopy decreased after 1 month compared to baseline (Mean [SD] 0.4 [0.6] vs 0.2 [0.5]; coefficient −0.14; 95% CI −0.29 to 0.01; p=0.08). Although there was no change in the prevalence of BV (OR 1.00, 95% CI 0.42 to 2.38; p=1.00]), these pilot data suggest that the likelihood of detecting Lactobacillus by culture might increase after cessation of vaginal washing (2 [8.8%] vs 6 [26.1%]; OR 3.71, 95% CI 0.73 to 18.76, p=0.11). Most cytokine levels were reduced after cessation of vaginal washing, but in this small, time-limited sample none of these changes were statistically significant.

Conclusions A theory-based intervention was highly successful in reducing vaginal washing over 1 month. This pilot study suggests the need for future studies with a larger sample size and longer follow-up to determine the effects of vaginal washing cessation on the cervicovaginal epithelium, vaginal flora, and inflammatory markers.

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