Journal of women’s health (2002) 2018 04 09() doi 10.1089/jwh.2017.6743
Female sex workers (FSWs) are at high risk for gender-based violence (GBV) and HIV infection. This study aimed to identify associations between GBV exposure in the past 12 months and biomarkers of physiologic stress and inflammation that may play a role in increased HIV risk among Kenyan FSWs.
MATERIALS AND METHODS
Participating women responded to a detailed questionnaire on GBV and mental health. Plasma was collected for assessment of systemic C-reactive protein (CRP) and interleukin-6 (IL-6) levels. Hair proximal to the scalp was collected to measure cortisol concentration. CRP and IL-6 were measured by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay, and hair cortisol concentration was determined by enzyme immunoassay. Log-transformed biomarker values were compared across GBV exposure categories using Kruskal-Wallis or Wilcoxon rank sum tests. Multivariable linear regression was used to explore associations between recent GBV and hair cortisol concentration.
Two hundred eighty-three women enrolled, of whom 112 (39.6%) reported physical, sexual, or emotional violence in the past 12 months, 134 (47.3%) reported more remote exposure, and 37 (13.1%) reported no exposure. CRP and IL-6 levels did not differ across groups (p = 0.57 and p = 0.62, respectively). Among 141 women who provided hair, cortisol concentrations were higher among recently exposed women compared to the other two groups combined (p = 0.02). In multivariable regression, recently exposed women had higher hair cortisol levels than remotely exposed or unexposed women (adjusted beta = 0.52, 95% confidence interval 0.02-1.02, p = 0.04).
While CRP and IL-6 levels did not differ by GBV category, recent GBV was associated with increased hair cortisol concentration. GBV-related increases in cortisol could affect health outcomes and merit study in relation to HIV acquisition risk.