There is variable evidence of an association between hormonal contraceptives (HCs) and acquisition of HIV-1 infection. Further insights are provided by a study published in mBio (online, 1 September 2015)
, which suggests that different HCs influence the cervical and vaginal immune response to other genital tract infections, affecting immunity to HIV-1.
Through analysis of cervical swabs from 832 HIV-uninfected young reproductive-age women, the researchers showed that levels of cervical immunity mediators associated with subsequent HIV acquisition are affected by HCs. These changes were more significant among women using HCs who had disturbed vaginal microbiota or a history of herpes.
“[A] weakened mucosal barrier against HIV may be a combined result of genital tract infections and HC use,” the researchers conclude. HCs may be less safe for women with a certain type of vaginal microbiota or genital tract infections.