HealthInternational

Injectable Birth Control Raises HIV Risk for African Women

Recent studies suggest that African women face greater risk of HIV infection upon using an injectable birth control, a hormone shot known as Depo-Provera.

The shot provides an opportunity to discreetly avoid pregnancy for a period of about three months. Due to societal pressures from both families and partners desiring children, most African men refuse to use condoms.

These shots are quite popular in areas where HIV is prevalent and, in some cases, is the only form of contraception available for women as opposed to other options like intrauterine devices, also known as IUDs or the pill.

A recent study, Evidence for Contraceptive Options and HIV Outcomes, involved 7.800 women in four African countries (South Africa, Kenya, Zambia and eSwatini (formerly Swaziland), presented relieving results for health care providers showing that while Depo-Provera appeared to have minimally higher risk of HIV infection than other forms of contraception.

However, the results were not significant enough to prove that the birth-control shots method is completely dangerous or should be stopped completely.

The study has proved controversial with concerns that it would instead cause more harm than good as more women could possibly become infected with the HIV virus. It compared infections rates among the women over an 18-month period. Each woman was required to use one of the three most modern forms of birth control during that time. While the study was deemed well executed and the study quite helpful in its results, physicians remain concerned about opting for birth control shots over much safer options.

In an interview with the New York Times, Dr. Lauren Ralph, an epidemiologist at the University of California, said she hoped the debate would continue and not be quickly settled in favor injectable hormones.

The World Health Organization plans to review the studies within the next month and decide whether or not to promote the use of injectable hormones as the top-rated safest contraception, a rating that other more traditional forms of contraception currently hold.

Compiled by Olivia Boyd, WI Intern

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