Menstruation and HIV: does the human immunodeficiency virus affect women's periods?

Many women experience various menstrual irregularities throughout their lives. These include irregular periods, changes in the menstrual cycle, and worsening premenstrual symptoms. Sometimes this can be the consequence of some health problem. However, for the majority of women with HIV infection who go to the doctor with complaints about problems with the menstrual cycle, these problems are not directly related to HIV.

However, there is evidence that women with HIV infection are more likely to suffer from amenorrhea. 

Amenorrhea is the absence of menstruation for 6 months in a woman who previously had a normal menstrual cycle.

According to a meta-analysis published in AIDS Online , women living with HIV have a significantly higher risk of developing amenorrhea due to menstrual disorders. The results of international studies involving almost 9,000 women showed that the risk of developing amenorrhea for more than 3 months in women with HIV is 70% higher.

A clinical study of 828 women from 1994 to 2002 also found that women living with HIV were more likely to experience amenorrhea over the course of a year compared with HIV-negative women. However, for a third of women with HIV, this amenorrhea was reversible.

It is still unclear whether amenorrhea is a complication of HIV infection itself or whether it occurs due to other risk factors that were more common among HIV-positive women at the time of the study (low body weight, weakened immunity, etc.). 

Amenorrhea may be associated with infertility, an increased risk of cardiovascular disease and poor bone health. Therefore, women with HIV infection should consult their doctor if they experience menstrual changes.  

Is a missed cycle a symptom of HIV?

One missed cycle is not a sign of HIV. Symptoms of recent HIV infection are the same in men and women, with the most common being fever, swollen glands, muscle pain and fatigue. For a more detailed list of symptoms associated with HIV seroconversion, please visit our website .

Remember that there are many reasons why a woman might miss her regular period, including pregnancy, stress, sudden weight loss, being overweight or obese, and extreme exercise. 

Does the risk of contracting HIV increase in women during menstruation?

Menstrual bleeding during the period itself does not increase the risk of contracting HIV infection. However, hormonal changes during the menstrual cycle are thought to put women at greater risk of infection than at other times. The biology of the vagina and cervix suggests that women, especially adolescents and older women, are generally more vulnerable to HIV and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs) than men.

A 2015 study in monkeys found that immune defenses weaken significantly mid-cycle, providing a window of opportunity for infections to enter the body. 

Therefore, women are advised to use barrier methods of contraception , such as male and female condoms, to provide the best protection against STIs, including HIV, regardless of the stage of their menstrual cycle.

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