HIV is a risk, researchers debated for the last 20 years, and has a potential link to the use of hormonal contraceptives. Now, a new study made by UC Berkley may just put a stop to it. The research shows that injecting Depo-Provera (medroxyprogesterone acetate), women increase the risk of infecting with HIV, the pills however don’t have the same effect, the study states.
41 million women from 144 million in the world, use shots of hormonal contraception, a method that works by preventing egg production or stopping its fertilization, while the other 103 million use pills. The effect of the injection lasts 12 weeks using Depo-Provera and eight weeks using Noristerat. While the effectiveness of the injection is more than 99 percent, the woman’s cycle may be affected, leading to weight gains and bone thinning.
An analysis of 12 studies in Africa, out of which, two included women already at high risk, such as sex workers or HIV-infected partners, found women using a type of injectable birth control to have increased chances of becoming infected with the virus.
The article, published Jan. 8, in The Lancet Infectious Diseases was studied on almost 40,000 HIV-negative women injecting in their arm Depo-Provera or norethisterone oenanthate, those that combined oral contraceptives and women on progestin pills. They found that the other methods did not seem to increase the risk of infecting with HIV.
Lauren Ralph, lead author was conducting this research for her Ph.D. dissertation and she says that the results may have more implications, as the use of hormonal contraceptives is much used in every part of the world. Her study arrived at a percentage of 40 for the HIV risk, women take by injecting Depo-Provera, higher than women using non-hormonal methods or by those not using at all. The concerns reached some African nations to think seriously about removing Depo-Provera from their programs.
About the difference between oral and injecting, the researchers remain uncertain, one possibility being the high levels of progestin, a synthetic form of the progesterone hormone, that interfered with local immunity, though the research shows no examination the physiological effects of the different contraceptive methods.
They went on stating that they do not believe the results should lead to the birth control’s withdrawal, but the increased HIV risk should be put in balance with the risk of not using birth control. Many life-threatening risks come with pregnancy and childbirth and it is hard to choose a method of contraception that is reliable. Taking Depo-Provera out of the equation may leave African women with few or no effective options.
Nancy Padian, UC Berkeley professor of epidemiology said that women worldwide should examine other methods of contraception to find a safer one that not include a risk for both pregnancy and HIV, the AIDS causing virus.
Pfizer, the maker of Depo-Provera, said is not aware of any scientific evidence to state a link between injecting hormonal contraceptives and a HIV infecting risk and that are many more factors to be taken in consideration in this kind of study.
By Sebastian Andro