New study summarizing the link between hormonal contraception and HIV risk

 Lauren Ralph

Lauren Ralph

Congratulations to Ms. Lauren Ralph, former UC Berkeley doctoral student and epidemiologist at the University of California, San Francisco, who published a study today in the Lancet Infectious Diseases summarizing the association between women's use of hormonal contraception and HIV infection. Her meta-analysis of 12 observational studies from sub-Saharan Africa involving 39,560 women suggest that use of the injectable contraceptive DMPA increases a woman’s chance of becoming infected with HIV by 40% compared with women using other contraceptive methods or no method. No increased risk was noted for users of oral contraceptive pills, combined oral contraceptives, or norethisterone enanthate. “The moderate elevation in risk observed in our study is not enough to justify a complete withdrawal of DMPA for women in the general population”, cautions Ms. Ralph. “Banning DMPA would leave many women without immediate access to alternative, effective contraceptive options. This is likely to lead to more unintended pregnancies, and because childbirth remains life-threatening in many developing countries, could increase overall deaths among women.” She adds, “Further evidence regarding the magnitude and mechanisms of the DMPA and HIV link among high risk women, such as commercial sex workers and women in serodiscordant partnerships (where one partner is HIV-positive and the other is not), is urgently needed.” A remaining question is whether a randomized trial is warranted; you can read about our group's opinion on the proposed trial here.