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Most popular contraceptive in southern and eastern Africa may double HIV infection risk

The researchers also found that when used by H.I.V.-positive women, the contraceptive may make it twice as likely that men who the woman has relations with will become infected.
Thu Oct 6, 2011 - 2:41 pm EST

LONDON, October 6, 2011 (LifeSiteNews.com) – According to an alarming new study, the most popular contraceptive for women in eastern and southern Africa may double the risk that women who are using it will become infected with H.I.V..

Researchers at the University of Washington published their findings October 4 in The Lancet Infectious Diseases about the contraceptive hormone shot, which is given every three months.

The researchers also found that when used by H.I.V.-positive women, the contraceptive may make it twice as likely that men who the woman has relations with will become infected than if the women had used no contraception.

“This is a good study, and I think it does add some important evidence,” said Dr. Morrison, senior director of clinical sciences at FHI 360, who wrote a commentary accompanying the Lancet article, according to the New York Times. He said that although the new research has limitations, including its use of data not originally intended to determine the link between contraceptive use and H.I.V., it has strengths over previous work because researchers tracked transmission of H.I.V. to both men and women by following couples.

The study, which involved 3,800 couples in Botswana, Kenya, Rwanda, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia, followed most couples for two years and detailed their contraception method. In each couple, either the man or the woman was already infected with H.I.V., and the study noted whether the uninfected partner contracted H.I.V. from the infected partner.

The research, which was presented at an international AIDS conference this summer, found that women using the hormone shot, probably a generic version, became infected at a rate of 6.61 per 100 person-years, compared with 3.78 for those not using that method. When used by H.I.V.-positive women, transmission of H.I.V. to men occurred at a rate of 2.61 per 100 person-years compared with 1.51 when the women had used no contraception.

According to the Times, about 12 million women between the ages of 15 and 49 in sub-Saharan Africa, roughly 6% of all women in that age group, use the hormone shots.

The study determined that increased infection did not occur because couples using the hormone shot were less likely to use condoms.

Pfizer, the manufacturer of the branded version of the hormone shot, Depo-Provera, declined to comment to the Times on the study.

As a result of the study, the World Health Organization in January will meet to consider advising women that a hormone shot may increase their risk of getting or transmitting H.I.V.

“We want to make sure that we warn when there is a real need to warn, but at the same time we don’t want to come up with a hasty judgment that would have far-reaching severe consequences for the sexual and reproductive health of women,” said Mary Lyn Gaffield, an epidemiologist in the World Health Organization’s department of reproductive health and research, according to the Times. “This is a very difficult dilemma.”

The idea that contraceptives may significantly increase HIV infection rates is not new. Culture of Life Foundation Executive Director Jennifer Kimball and Population Research Institute President Steven Mosher in August warned that while population control programs have promoted steroid-based contraceptive drugs to tens of millions of Third World Women, women who take drug-based hormonal and steroidal contraceptives are at an increased risk of sexually transmitted infections.

Dr. Edward C. Green, president of the New Paradigm Fund, former director of the AIDS Prevention Research Project at the Harvard School of Health, and a major critic of the AIDS-prevention establishment’s promotion of condoms, in the past has told LifeSiteNews that “fidelity (sometimes called partner reduction) and to a lesser extent, by abstinence (or late sexual debut) is what works best in AIDS prevention, especially in Africa.”

Green made headlines in 2009 when he backed an argument by Pope Benedict XVI that condoms actually increase the problem of H.I.V. and AIDS.


  aids, condoms, contraception

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