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GLOBAL: Pregnancy increases men's HIV risk

Photo: Tiggy Ridley/IRIN
Pregnancy makes men and women more susceptible to HIV
Johannesburg, 24 May 2010 (PlusNews) - Findings from a new study reveal that a man's risk of contracting HIV from an infected female partner doubles during pregnancy. Other studies have indicated that women are more susceptible to HIV infection during pregnancy, but this is the first to show that men are also at greater risk.

The findings were presented this week at the International Microbicides Conference in Pittsburgh in the US, where 1,000 participants have gathered to discuss the latest developments in the field.

Researchers from the Partners in Prevention HSV/HIV Transmission Study Team followed 3,210 discordant couples [in which one partner was HIV-infected and the other not] in seven African countries over a two-year period, to better understand the factors contributing to HIV risk.

They found that 28 percent of the 61 women who became infected with HIV during the study period acquired the virus while they were pregnant, and 21 percent of the 57 men who became infected did so while their partner was pregnant.

Analysis of the results found that pregnancy increased HIV risk for both sexes, but other factors such as sexual behaviour played a role in the case of some women. In the men, the link between pregnancy and heightened HIV risk was clearer even when the researchers took into account whether or not they were circumcised or had had unprotected sex.

One of the study investigators, Dr Nelly Mugo, of the University of Nairobi and Kenyatta National Hospital in Nairobi, and the University of Washington in Seattle, speculated that biological changes occurring during pregnancy might explain the increase in female-to-male HIV transmission.

Further research is needed to confirm this, but the finding emphasizes the need for men to join their partners in being tested for HIV during antenatal visits.

Results from another study presented at the conference established the safety of using a microbicide during pregnancy. Microbicides are substances designed to be applied vaginally to protect women against sexually transmitted HIV.

Read more:
 Women becoming HIV-positive during pregnancy
 Men take a hands-on approach to pregnancy
 ARVs in microbicide research - keeping hope alive?
Researchers have so far failed to find an effective microbicide, but one of the more promising candidates currently in clinical trials incorporates the antiretroviral drug, tenofovir.

The study found that a single dose of tenofovir gel could be applied by women prior to giving birth by caesarean section without the mothers or their babies experiencing serious side effects.


Theme (s): HIV/AIDS (PlusNews), Prevention - PlusNews,

[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]

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