Increased Cervical CD4+CCR5+ T Cells Among Kenyan Sex Working Women Using Depot Medroxyprogesterone Acetate

AIDS Res Hum Retroviruses. 2019 Mar;35(3):236-246. doi: 10.1089/AID.2018.0188. Epub 2019 Jan 24.


Depot medroxyprogesterone acetate (DMPA) is the most common hormonal contraceptive used by women in sub-Saharan Africa, however, it has been epidemiologically associated with HIV infections. To assess whether DMPA has an effect on the number and activation of HIV target cells, this study assessed the levels and phenotype of blood- and mucosal-derived HIV target cells among women using DMPA. Thirty-five HIV uninfected women from the Pumwani Sex Worker cohort from Nairobi, Kenya were enrolled in the study (15 using DMPA and 20 not using hormonal contraception). Blood (plasma and peripheral blood mononuclear cells) and cervicovaginal (lavage, cervical cells, and ectocervical biopsies) samples were collected. Cellular phenotype and activation status were determined by flow cytometry, cytokine levels were assessed by bead array and image analysis assessed cell number and phenotype in situ. In blood, the proportion of HIV target cells and activated T cells was lower in DMPA users versus those not using hormonal contraceptives. However, analysis of cervical mononuclear cells showed that DMPA users had elevated levels of activated T cells (CD4+CD69+) and expressed lower levels of the HIV co-receptor CCR5 on a per cell basis, while tissue samples showed that in the ectocervix, DMPA users had a higher proportion of CD4+CCR5+ T cells. This study demonstrates that DMPA users had higher levels of activated T cells and HIV target cells in the genital tract. The increased pool of mucosal HIV target cells provides new biological information about the potential impact of DMPA on HIV susceptibility.

Keywords: HIV target cells; cervical biopsy; contraception; depot medroxyprogesterone acetate (DMPA); ectocervix; immune activation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • CD4-Positive T-Lymphocytes*
  • Cervix Uteri / drug effects
  • Cervix Uteri / immunology*
  • Cohort Studies
  • Contraceptive Agents, Female / administration & dosage
  • Contraceptive Agents, Female / adverse effects
  • Contraceptive Agents, Female / pharmacology*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Cytokines / blood
  • Disease Susceptibility / chemically induced
  • Female
  • HIV Infections / immunology
  • Humans
  • Kenya
  • Lymphocyte Activation / drug effects
  • Medroxyprogesterone Acetate / administration & dosage
  • Medroxyprogesterone Acetate / adverse effects
  • Medroxyprogesterone Acetate / pharmacology*
  • Receptors, CCR5 / metabolism*
  • Sex Workers*


  • CCR5 protein, human
  • Contraceptive Agents, Female
  • Cytokines
  • Receptors, CCR5
  • Medroxyprogesterone Acetate

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