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Review
, 49 (1), 171-81

Contraception and the Prevention of Sexually Transmitted Diseases

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Review

Contraception and the Prevention of Sexually Transmitted Diseases

R Kirkman et al. Br Med Bull.

Abstract

Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) are a major cause of ill health in women and their sexual partners and children. Contraceptive methods alter in various ways the risk of acquiring STD but assessment of the odds ratio is difficult due to the many confounding factors. Spermicides have been reported to kill a wide range of bacteria and viruses including HIV in vitro and to protect in vivo from infection by gonorrhoea, chlamydia and pelvic inflammatory disease (organisms unspecified). Spermicides will not cure pre-existing infections. Condoms and diaphragms will give some protection from bacterial and viral infections in all parts of the genital tract. Hormonal contraception and tubal ligation give protection to the upper genital tract but not the cervix. Carcinoma of the cervix follows the same pattern as STDs. The risk of pelvic infection in intrauterine device users is discussed in the chapter by Bromham (pp 100-123, this issue).

PIP: Spermicides kill a wide range of bacteria and viruses causing sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), including the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) in vitro, and protect in vivo from infection by gonorrhoea, chlamydia, and pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). In the UK and the US, the most commonly used compound in spermicidal agents is the neutral surfactant nonoxynol-9. Although spermicides reduce the incidence of reinfection by some STDs, an in vivo virucidal action is not supported by convincing data. Among barrier methods, latex condoms provide an impervious barrier in vitro to most STD pathogens, including HIV. Natural condoms made of sheep intestinal membrane can allow passage of hepatitis B viral particles but not HIV in vitro. Several studies have shown protection against cervical gonorrhoea and PID among diaphragm users; however, diaphragm use has been associated with an increased rate of urinary infection and also bacterial vaginosis. It is conceivable that women using oral contraceptives (OCs) do not develop as much tubal damage as women not using OCs because of a modified immunological reaction. A study carried out in Europe showed a statistically significant protective effect against PID of the levonorgestrel-containing IUD as compared with the copper-containing Nova-T. A case/control study of 1028 women in Chicago in 1970 noted admission for PID during the following 7 years of only 1 woman who had been sterilized compared to 9 controls. A case/control study examining risk factors for cervical intraepithelial neoplasia (CIN) in 103 women with biopsy-confirmed CIN II or III did not find an increased risk with either OC or IUD use after adjusting for other known risk factors. After adjustment for age and education, the odds ratio for diaphragm use was .3 and the odds ratio for condom use was .5. Thus, hormonal contraception and tubal ligation give protection to the upper genital tract but not to the cervix.

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