A local cultural practice that may enhance sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and HIV transmission is vaginal douching and vaginal substance use. These activities also have potential implications for the acceptability of HIV-prevention strategies such as the use of condoms and vaginal microbicides. We aimed to establish the prevalence, determinants and reasons for these practices among sex workers in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. A structured questionnaire was administered to 150 sex workers, who were being screened for a vaginal microbicide-effectiveness trial in the province. The questionnaire sought information on the frequency, reasons for and nature of vaginal douching and vaginal substance use and was drawn up on the basis of findings from a pilot study. Seventy per cent (95% Cl: 62.0-77.2%) of the sex workers were HIV positive and on average they had five sexual partners per day. Vaginal douching and vaginal substance use were common among the sex workers. Vaginal douching was reported by 97% (n = 146) of the respondents and 94% reported vaginal substance use for 'dry sex'. A combination of traditional remedies, patent medicines, antiseptics and household detergents was used to clean and make the vagina dry and tight. The primary reasons reported for dry sex were to increase men's sexual pleasure (53%) and to attract clients and generate more money (20%). Sixty-five per cent of the women reported the practice of douching mainly for hygienic purposes and 13% for the prevention and treatment of sexually transmitted infections. Douching and dry-sex practices may increase women's risk of HIV and STI infection, and may have implications for the acceptability and development of HIV-prevention barrier methods such as microbicides and the use of condoms. These barrier methods may enhance or reduce sexual pleasure for men and women who engage in the practice of vaginal douching and vaginal substance use for 'dry sex'.
|Number of pages||4|
|Journal||South African Journal of Science|
|Publication status||Published - Jul 2003|