Birth control shot could increase HIV risk

Around 41 million women worldwide use the injectable form of hormonal contraception. According to a new study, however, this widely used form of birth control may increase women’s risk of becoming infected with HIV.

A team of researchers from the University of California at Berkeley conducted a meta-analysis of 12 studies from sub-Saharan Africa involving a total of 39,560 women. Their findings are published in The Lancet Infectious Diseases.

The association between hormonal contraceptives and an increased risk of HIV acquisition has been debated for the past 2 decades. A lot of uncertainty around the subject still remains.

As well as the shot, women can also receive hormonal contraception in the form of a pill taken orally. Around 103 million women worldwide receive birth control in this manner.

These forms of contraception work by preventing ovulation. Injectable hormonal contraception – depot medroxyprogesterone acetate (DMPA) – also alters the lining of the uterus so that pregnancy cannot occur. Women receive the birth control shot once every 3 months, whereas the pill must be taken daily.

“Use of these hormonal contraceptives prevents unintended pregnancies, reduces the rate of maternal and infant morbidity and mortality, and enables women to achieve other life goals,” write the authors of the study.

If an increased risk of HIV infection was associated with hormonal contraception, there would be implications for both contraceptive counseling and policy implementation. The authors state that some countries in sub-Saharan Africa are considering withdrawing DMPA.

For more information, please click here.