Sunday, October 9, 2011

Depo-Provera Is Said to Increase the Risk of HIV Transmission

A recent prospective cohort study published in the Lancet Infectious Diseases found a correlation between forms of hormonal contraceptives and the risk of HIV contraction and transmission. The longitudinal study was composed of 3,800 heterosexual couples in which one of the members was HIV-positive and was positive for the herpes simplex virus type 2. The couples were monitored for rates of HIV transmission and acquisition (in respect to the female member of the couple) from 2004 to 2010. In this time, they found that women who were initially HIV-negative and were taking either birth control pills or the Depo-Provera shots had a probability of contracting HIV from their HIV-positive partners that was two-fold higher than HIV-negative women that were not taking birth control or were taking a different form of birth control. Similarly, women who were initially HIV-positive and were on the birth control pill or Depo-Provera shot were twice as likely to transmit the viral infection to their HIV-negative partner. Furthermore, when the women who were HIV positive and were taking the Depo-Provera shots had significantly higher levels of the virus in their genital tract but normal levels of the virus in their blood.

Even though further studies need to examine the correlation of certain hormonal contraceptives, specifically Depo-Provera, and rates of HIV-transmission and acquisition in order to take definitive action, I believe that women who are at high-risk of contracting the virus should be properly counseled on this study’s findings and the need for protection. The World Health Organization has recently released a similar statement, saying that, “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… This is a very difficult dilemma.” WHO will convene in January in order to review this study’s findings (as well as others) to recommend action that should be taken concerning the use of Depo-Provera in regions characterized by a high-risk of HIV transmissions.

-Angie CeseƱa

AIDS Beacon-


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