For HIV, Women the Weaker Sex

Hormone leads to higher immune activity, faster progression
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 14, 2009 12:00 PM CDT
In this May 7, 2009 photo, Michelline Leon, a woman living with HIV/AIDS, poses for a photo with her children in Cange, in central Haiti.   (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)
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(Newser) – Women may be the weaker sex when it comes to HIV. The virus progresses faster in women, and a new study published in Nature Medicine finds that may be due to the hormone progesterone, the BBC reports. The research team is continuing work on the findings to see if they can develop a drug to slow or stop HIV’s progression to AIDS.

The study found that women’s immune cells were more active when first presented with the virus than men’s, but post-menopausal women—who have lower levels of progesterone—had responses similar to men. Though the immune activity can be beneficial at first, “stronger chronic immune activation can lead to the faster progression of AIDS that has been seen in women,” the lead researcher says.