Study links contraceptive to increased HIV risk

African women availing of a widely used injected contraceptive are more likely to contract the HIV virus, a new study has revealed.
According to the Population Research Institute (PRI), the Depo-Provera contraceptive (with the active ingredient Depot Medroxyprogesterone Acetate, DPMA) can be linked to a 50% increased likelihood of HIV contraction, following a major investigation across 24 different studies of those using the injectable method and women who do not use a hormonal contraceptive.
“Over 88% of cross-sectional studies and over 75% of longitudinal studies observed a positive association between HIV acquisition and DMPA use,” PRI said.
While acknowledging that researchers do not know for certain why the link between HIV and Depo-Provera/DPMA exists, PRI adds: “DMPA is an artificial steroid made to mimic the effects of natural endogenous progesterone, a hormone that helps regulate the menstrual cycle and is crucial during pregnancy for the health of the foetus. One of the effects of progesterone is to attenuate the immune system’s inflammatory response to allow the body to accept the embryo during pregnancy. This attenuation of the immune system could also make it easier for the HIV virus to cause an infection.”
Worryingly, PRI also states: “International Aid Programmes and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have largely ignored the recent evidence suggesting a strong association between DMPA and HIV acquisition.”
The use of Depro-Provera, a Pfizer brand of pharmaceutical, in sub-Saharan Africa is promoted by the United Nations and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
The PRI concludes: “Those involved with decision making in international aid programmes should take note of the strong association between DMPA and HIV and should consider the evidence on the issue when planning and implementing aid programs. In the interest of public health, government agencies and the UNFPA should cease providing funding for DMPA injectable contraceptives at least until or unless it can be proven that DMPA does not place women at a greater risk of acquiring HIV.”
The Population Research Institute report on Depo-Provera can be read here.