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Birth Control Injections Double AIDS Risk

Tuesday, 04 Oct 2011 07:28 AM

Using contraceptive injections such as Pfizer Inc.’s Depo Provera doubles the chance women will catch HIV and transmit it to a male partner, a study found.

Researchers from the University of Washington in Seattle followed 3,790 African couples in which one partner was infected with the AIDS-causing virus. Women who received hormone-based contraceptive injections were twice as likely to acquire and pass on HIV as those who weren’t, the researchers wrote Wednesday in the journal The Lancet Infectious Diseases. A higher risk was also observed for birth-control pills, but that finding wasn’t statistically significant, the researchers said.

The findings contradict those of previous studies, which have had inconsistent results, and suggest the active promotion of injectable contraception in Africa may be fueling the spread of the world’s biggest infectious killer, said Charles S. Morrison and Kavita Nanda, researchers at FHI 360, a nonprofit organization in Durham, North Carolina, that works on reproductive health projects.

“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 birthweight babies and orphans — an equally tragic result,” the pair wrote in an editorial accompanying the paper. They weren’t involved in the study.

Because the results came from a secondary analysis of an HIV prevention trial that wasn’t designed to examine the relationship between contraception and viral transmission, a further study crafted specifically to settle the question should now be done, Morrison and Nanda said.

More than 140 million women worldwide use hormonal contraception, including pills and long-acting injections. The trial was funded by the National Institutes of Health and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

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