I know this site is primarily devoted to herpes but with HIV rates skyrocketing worldwide, its a topic we need to stay tuned in to. New research out of Northwestern University has discovered a critical way that explains how men can transmit HIV to their female partners. Until recently, scientists postulated that the female vaginal tract was a barrier to HIV. They assumed that the HIV virus could not penetrate vaginal tract tissue, which meant that a woman's vaginal tract was a "natural barrier" to the HIV virus.
New research shows that the HIV virus can indeed penetrate healthy genital tissue and gain access to its target - immune cells. The mechanism seems to be the natural shedding that takes place in the vaginal tract, menaing dead cells slough off as new cells replace them and during this process, the "barrier" integrity is less tightly bound, so the virus can penetrate. The research showed that the virus can move quickly and in 4 hours reach a depth that allows them to penetrate the immune cells. Until now, researchers had assumed it was the cervix that was the possible penetration point, but it can happen all along the vaginal tract, based on this new study.
Women and teen females now account for 26% of all new cases of HIV in the US. Based on CDC numbers, of the 56,300 new cases of HIV infections this year, 31% were traced to high-risk heterosexual contact. So it's clear we need new ways to prevent and block HIV transmission through a woman's vaginal tissue. Even though condoms are 100% effective, many still don't heed the message of safe sex, while others don't use them for cultural or other reasons. Researchers are also hoping this study and further research will prompt the development of microbides and vaccines to protect the population from HIV.
Published On: December 16, 2008