What Are the Different Ways HIV Affects Women?
HIV can lead to a variety of health issues that are specific to women, including:
- Problems with gynaecological health
Cervical cancer risk is higher.
Heart disease risk is higher.
Drug interactions and negative effects of HIV medications
Concerns about ageing
Pregnancy and birth control also necessitate close consultation with a physician.
The good news is that women who take HIV medicine (also known as antiretroviral therapy or ART) on a regular basis as directed and achieve and maintain an undetectable viral load can stay healthy and have almost little chance of passing HIV to an HIV-negative partner through sex.
HIV and gynaecological health problems
Gynecological issues are common among HIV-positive women. The following are some of the challenges that women may face:
Sexually transmitted illnesses (STDs)—Some STDs, such as genital herpes, pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), and chancroid, occur more frequently, are more severe, and/or are more difficult to treat in HIV-positive women than in HIV-negative women. Because HIV and other STDs might raise the risk of HIV transmission to sexual partners, STD screening and treatment is critical for the health of a woman living with HIV.
Vaginal yeast infections—Vaginal yeast infections are more common in HIV-positive women and are more difficult to treat. In women with advanced HIV or AIDS, recurrent vaginal yeast infections (those that occur at least four times a year) are more common.
Bacterial vaginosis (BV) is a condition that occurs when the quantity of specific bacteria in the vaginal area varies. BV is more common in HIV-positive women and may be more difficult to treat.
Missed periods, lighter or more bleeding, or more severe premenstrual symptoms may be experienced by HIV-positive women.
These health issues can be addressed with treatment. Consult your medical team about the best treatment options for you.
HIV and Cervical Cancer
Cervical cancer is more common among HIV-positive women. It is critical that they be checked for this condition on a frequent basis.
Cervical cancer begins in the cervix, the lowest, thin portion of the uterus (the womb). Human papillomavirus (HPV) infection is virtually invariably the reason.
Cervical cancer-causing HPV varieties are more frequent in HIV-positive women. As a result, women living with HIV should get regular Pap tests to detect changing cervical cells before they turn cancerous. Consult your healthcare practitioner about the best Pap test schedule for you. In addition, women (and males) with HIV infection should have the HPV vaccine until they are 26 years old.
Cervical cancer is a malignancy that is linked to AIDS. This means that when a person is diagnosed with cervical cancer, their HIV infection has advanced to AIDS.
Drug Interactions and Side Effects of HIV Medicine
Women’s HIV medicine is just as effective as men’s. Some drugs, however, can have distinct adverse effects in women than in men. Consider the following scenario:
Side effects of nevirapine (also known as Viramune or NVP) have been associated in studies to an increased risk of rashes and liver issues in women with higher CD4 counts.
Ritonavir side effects—Ritonavir (also known as Norvir or RTV) is an HIV medication that can cause nausea and vomiting in women. It is sometimes prescribed to aid the effectiveness of other HIV medications.
Women are more likely than men to develop fat deposits throughout their bodies or develop pancreatic difficulties as a result of HIV medications.
Furthermore, HIV medications can interact with other medications, potentially harming you or making your HIV medications less effective. These are some of them:
- Medication that has been prescribed
Medications available over-the-counter
Alcohol and recreational drugs
If you’re taking HIV medication and are having problems with side effects or have questions regarding drug interactions, talk to your doctor or pharmacist to come up with a solution that works for you. Unless your provider instructs you otherwise, do not reduce, skip, or stop taking your HIV medications.
HIV and Women’s Aging
Women with HIV are living longer lives as a result of efficient HIV therapy. That means they’ll suffer the same health issues as many other older women, such as heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, arthritis, and some malignancies, as they grow older.
As women with HIV get older, they may develop various health problems. These are some of them:
Those with HIV may reach menopause earlier or experience more intense hot flashes than women without HIV. Researchers believe that after menopause, the female hormone oestrogen begins to decline, which may influence women’s CD4 counts.
Osteoporosis is a disease that causes bones to become brittle and easily broken. It is a source of concern for all older women, but particularly for HIV-positive women. Bone loss is more rapid in HIV-positive women (and men) than in HIV-negative adults. Some HIV medications have been linked to an increased risk of osteoporosis.
Speak with your health care team if you have any questions about menopause symptoms or osteoporosis.