Women with a history of vaginal bacterial infections have a higher chance of contracting and transmitting HIV, a study has shown.
The findings also indicate that there are more and more Kenyan women with these types of ailments.
Medically known as bacterial vaginosis, it is a common sexually transmitted disease that occurs when different types of bacteria outnumber the normal and useful (lactobacillus) bacteria in the vagina.
Experts say it affects particularly those who are sexually active and causes painful inflammation of the birth canal.
The study found a link between bacterial vaginosis and HIV/Aids and HIV infections as both are transmitted mainly through unprotected sex.
Dr Elizabeth Irungu of the Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology’s HIV Department said that the disease causes swelling, itching, burning or infection in the vagina which can be caused by several different germs.
The study on the prevalence of bacterial vaginosis among women seeking contraception in Kenya, revealed that the disease was high among young women in Sub-Saharan Africa, a region that, incidentally also, bears the highest incidence of new HIV infections.
Scientists wanted to determine the prevalence of bacterial vaginosis among women and how it correlates to desiring contraception.
The study enrolled 363 women, of whom 247 were aged 30 years, and 195 had more than eight years of education. More than three-quarters of them (280) reported having an income.
Of the 247, some 69 per cent, reported having a main sex partner, while 132 (53 per cent) were living with their partners.
A total of 20 per cent of the women reported condom use every time they had sex. Daily vaginal washing and use of vaginal lubricants were reported by 215 (60 per cent) and 32 (nine per cent), respectively.
Forty-two per cent of the women reported an abnormal vaginal discharge. The bacterial vaginosis was found in 116 of the women.
“Living with a main sexual partner reduced the likelihood of having bacterial vaginosis,” said Dr Irungu.
She added that having an abnormal vaginal discharge, lesions in the genital area or having a yeast infection were also associated with having bacterial vaginosis.
“Vaginal washing and condom use were not significantly associated with bacterial vaginosis,” she said.
Dr Paul Mitei, a gynaecologist/obstetrician, said that the disease is spreading because of changing of sexual partners and vaginal douching.
“Douching flushes out the normal bacteria from the vagina yet they are there to fight vaginal infections, so it (douching) is not safe for women,” said Dr Mitei.