Seattle, Wash., Oct 7, 2011 / 13:07 pm
Contraceptive use in Africa may increase the risk of acquiring HIV for both men and women, a new study says.
HIV-negative women who use hormonal contraception injections have nearly twice the risk of contracting HIV, while the HIV-negative male partners of infected women also face an increased risk.
The study, led by University of Washington researchers, was published in The Lancet Infections Diseases journal. It involved 3,800 couples in Botswana, Kenya, Rwanda, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia. In each couple, either the man or the woman was already infected.
The study could mean that the promotion of hormonal contraception in Africa has inadvertently fueled the HIV/AIDS pandemic.
The progestin hormone in injectable contraceptives appears to have a physiological effect. Researchers said it could cause immunological changes in a woman’s genitals or could increase the virus’ ability to replicate.
Oral contraceptives also appeared to increase the risk of infection and transmission, but the number of contraceptive pill users was too small to be statistically significant.
There are about 12 million women between ages 15 and 49 in sub-Saharan Africa use injectable contraceptives. The injectable contraceptives used were probably generic versions of Depo-Provera, the researchers said.
Isobel Coleman, director of the women and foreign policy program at the Council on Foreign Relations told the New York Times that if it is proven that contraceptives help spread the AIDS epidemic “we have a major health crisis on our hands.”