Use of injectable contraceptives increase risks of HIV

09 January 2015
An HIV ribbon

The use of injectable contraceptives moderately increases the risks of HIV in women, this is compared to other women who use other hormonal contraceptives, including the pill. The new research published in the Lancet Infectious Diseases, polled results from 12 observational trials. They concluded that woman at a higher risk of HIV infection, and using injectable contraceptives, had a 40 percent increased risk of HIV, will women of the general population have a 30 percent increased risk.

What this means for the individual risk of women for HIV depends on their personal risk of HIV infection. For women living in sub-Saharan Africa, the risk of unwanted pregnancy leading to the chance of dying during pregnancy or labour, might outweigh the risk of becoming infected with HIV. For certain populations of women, such as sex workers, the implications of this research are more alarming, although more in-depth research is needed to show the scope of this relation.

The research did not provide enough evidence to warrant taking the injectable contraceptives off the market, as the relationship between increased HIV risk and the use of these contraceptives is still unclear. In many developing countries injectable contraceptives are the only available contraceptives, or are the only form of contraceptives which women can use without the knowledge of their husband. Banning these contraceptives may cause an increase in unintended pregnancies, and as childbirth still remains life threating in many developing countries, this could lead to an increase in the overall death rate among women.

In order to increase scientific rigor about the use of injectable contraceptives more research on women using injectable contraceptives is needed- especially women belonging to high risk groups, and women who have a HIV positive partner. For the moment, the WHO advises that women should be informed about the increased risk of HIV when using injectable contraceptives, and should be informed about other options of contraceptives as well.

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