A new grant to study vaginal insertion practices

28 February 2017

A new study that focuses on mucosal injury from sexual trauma (MIST) was recently awarded to principal investigators Professor Jo-Ann Passmore from CAPRISA and Dr Heather Jaspan from the Seattle Children’s Research Institute.

This National Institutes of Health grant, over a four year peri-od, will fund the scientists’ work to investigate socio-behavioural, physiological and biological fac-tors associated with vaginal insertion practices, specifically tobacco and alum, in women at high risk for HIV infection.

The study, which commenced in 2017, will include a cohort of 300 adolescents and 100 adult women from Vulindlela in KwaZulu-Natal. "The behavioral, physiological and immunological fac-tors that may render younger women more vul-nerable to HIV acquisition than older women are not well understood," explains associate Profes-sor Passmore who heads the HIV Mucosal Immunology group in the Division of Medical Virology at UCT.

Professor Passmore says that "the skewing of HIV risk towards young women is likely fueled by high rates of intimate partner violence; high levels of male control in a woman's current relationship; and a preference for dry sex (vaginal insertion practices to dry/tighten the vagina)". This cohort study aims to evaluate the reproductive anatomi-cal, immunological and microbiological character-istics following both consensual vaginal sex, sexual violence and intravaginal product use in fe-male adolescents compared to older women, at 48 hours following sex (to define biomarkers of mucosal trauma) and at 7 days post exposure (to assess wound healing and epithelial barrier repair).