Objectives: To evaluate the effect of vaginal lavage with diluted chlorhexidine on mother-to child transmission of HIV (MTCT) in a breastfeeding population.
Methods: This prospective clinical trial was conducted in a governmental hospital in Mombasa, Kenya. On alternating weeks, women were allocated to non-intervention or to intervention consisting of vaginal lavage with 120 ml 0.2% chlorhexidine, later increased to 0.4%, repeated every 3 h from admission to delivery. Infants were tested for HIV by DNA polymerase chain reaction within 48 h and at 6 and 14 weeks of life.
Results: Enrolment and follow-up data were available for 297 and 309 HIV-positive women, respectively, in the non-lavage and the lavage groups. There was no evidence of a difference in intrapartum MTCT (17.2 versus 15.9%, OR 0.9, 95% CI 0.6-1.4) between the groups. Lavage solely before rupture of the membranes tended towards lower MTCT with chlorhexidine 0.2% (OR 0.6, 95% CI 0.3-1.1), and even more with chlorhexidine 0.4% (OR 0.1, 95% CI 0.0-0.9).
Conclusion: The need remains for interventions reducing MTCT without HIV testing, often unavailable in countries with a high prevalence of HIV. Vaginal lavage with diluted chlorhexidine during delivery did not show a global effect on MTCT in our study. However, the data suggest that lavage before the membranes are ruptured might be associated with a reduction of MTCT, especially with higher concentrations of chlorhexidine.