Hormonal contraception ups HIV risk in women

Updated: Oct 04, 2011, 10:59 AM IST

London: Women using hormonal contraception are at double the risk of acquiring HIV, and HIV-infected women who use hormonal contraception have twice the risk of transmitting the virus, according to a new study.

The study, which was carried out among 3,790 heterosexual couples in Africa, showed that using hormonal contraceptives doubled an HIV uninfected woman````s chances of becoming infected with HIV.

The risk was increased for both injectable (mainly depot medroxprogeterone acetate: DMPA) and oral contraceptives, although it was not statistically significant for oral contraceptives.

The research emphasizes the need for couples to use condoms in addition to other forms of contraception in order to prevent pregnancy and HIV, said lead study author Renee Heffron, an epidemiology doctoral student working with the International Clinical Research Center at UW.

“Women should be counseled about potentially increased risk of HIV acquisition and transmission with hormonal contraception, particularly injectable methods, and about the importance of dual protection with condoms to decrease HIV risk,” said Heffron.

Jared Baeten, an associate professor of global health with the International Clinical Research Center, said to his knowledge this is the first prospective study to show increased HIV risk to male partners of HIV-infected women using hormonal contraception.

More than 140 million women worldwide use hormonal contraception, including daily oral pills and long-acting injectables, like Depo-Provera.

“The benefits of effective hormonal contraception are unequivocal and must be balanced with the risk for HIV infection,” said Baeten.

The study was published in The Lancet Infectious Diseases.