HIV-infected risk at injectable contraceptives for women

The latest study found that women in Africa who used injectable contraceptives doubled their risk of becoming HIV-infected and passing the virus on to their male partners. Accordingly, in couples where there was an HIV infected woman and an HIV negative man, if the woman was using hormonal contraceptives her chances of passing the virus to her partner were doubled. Against, among couples in which the husband is positive with HIV and the wife is negative, the wife’s risk of getting HIV was doubled if she was using hormonal contraceptive.
The study concerned almost 3,800 couples with one HIV-infected partner who were at the age of mid-30s and were followed for up two years, from the African countries of Botswana, Kenya, Rwanda, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda and Zimbabwe.
Comparing with those women who use birth control pills, the risk of HIV infection is higher to those who used injectable contraceptives, showed the study, published in the Lancet Infectious Diseases. Both injectable and oral contraceptives increased the risk for men, but again only the increase in those using the injectable form was statistically significant. In fact, the men were twice as likely to become infected with HIV if their female partners used oral contraceptives compared with couples where women used no birth control at all.
“These outcomes have important implications for family planing and HIV-1 prevention programs, especially in settings with high HIV-1 prevalence,” said study author Jared Baeten of the University of Washington in Seattle. “HIV risk that could be related to contraception is important from a public health point of view. For individual women using hormonal contraception, it’s incredibly important that they be counseled that contraception does not protect them from HIV and indeed it increases their risk and thus using condoms along with contraception is critically important to protect against HIV.”
Scientists believe this is the first study to show increased risk in male partners from HIV-infected females using hormonal contraceptives. They suggest more studies are required for different types of birth manage containing hormones such as implants and patches and other methods including intrauterine devices.
“Recommendations regarding contraceptive use, particularly concentrating on the importance of dual protection with condoms and the use of non-hormonal and low-dose hormonal methods for women with or at risk for HIV-1, are urgently needed,” said lead author Renee Heffron, University of Washington.
The contraceptive used in the study was depot medroxyprogesterone acetate, one of the most commonly used injectable contraceptives for birth control. DMPA was approved for contraceptive use in the United States in 1992 and contains progestin only. The long-acting contraceptive is injected every three months (four times a year), considered nearly 100% effective and has been used by millions of women across the globe, including several million here in the US, according to the National Library of Medicine.
Some of this study’s obstacles are that the data used was self-reported and specific brands of contraceptives were not recorded. There also was no data collected on whether the women stuck to the injection schedule. Dr. Charles Morrison, Family Health International 360, says there have been unanswered questions on the issue for more than two decades. He says more studies are needed.
“Active promotion of DMPA in areas with high HIV incidence could be contributing to the HIV epidemic in sub-Saharan Africa, which would be tragic,” Morrison said. “Conversely, limiting one of the most highly used effective methods of contraception in sub-Saharan Africa would probably contribute to increased maternal mortality and morbidity and more low birth weight babies and orphans-an equally tragic result. The time to provide a more definitive answer to this critical public health question is now.”

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