A daily aspirin could lower women’s risk of catching HIV by 35 percent, a new study has found.
To infect someone, the virus requires susceptible cells in the genital tract, and previous studies have shown that people with higher blood pressure are more likely to have vulnerable cells down there.
Researchers at the University of Manitoba tested this theory by administering a low dose of the anti-inflammatory drug to a group of women in Kenya.
The results were stark: after six weeks, the number of HIV target cells in their genital tracts had reduced by 35 percent.
And now, several years after starting the study, all of the women who received the prescription remain uninfected.
‘These are highly promising results,’ lead author Dr Keith Fowke told Global News.
‘The reduced number of HIV target cells in the women who took Aspirin approached the level found in Kenyan women at high risk of HIV contraction who have remained uninfected for many years.’
The women were all low-risk, HIV negative women living across Kenya.
They were not exposed to HIV during the study, rather they were monitored to see how their levels of HIV target cells changed.
Dr Fowke said it is highly improbable that aspirin has the capability to be used as a preventative measure on its own.
For that, there are already drugs on the market globally: pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) drastically reduces the risk of infection.
What the study does show, he says, is that sexually active people – particularly those with a high risk of contracting HIV – should consider adding aspirin to their protective measures, like condoms and PrEP.
But, he says, further study is needed to explore its range of benefits and flaws.
‘What we need to do is show that we can observe the same thing, the same effect, in women that are highly exposed to HIV,’ Dr Fowke told CBC.
‘And we also need to know if there’s a different dose that maybe can do it better.’