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Birth Control Shot May Increase HIV Risk

Jan 15, 2015

Women who use a specific type of injectable birth control have a slightly higher risk of HIV infection than those who take birth control pills, a newly released study says.

The authors noted that while the link was "statistically significant," it was not enough to justify withdrawal of the drug commonly known by its brand name, Depo–Provera, used by millions of women, Al Arabiya News reports.

The health risks of withdrawing the medicine may far outweigh the potential preventable HIV infections, the authors argued in a paper published in The Lancet Infectious Diseases. The researchers conducted a meta-analysis of 12 studies involving nearly 40,000 women in sub-Saharan Africa. Their analysis showed that use of depot medroxyprogesterone acetate (DMPA) "increases a woman’s chance of becoming infected with HIV by 40 percent compared with women using other contraceptive methods or no method," said a statement. "Although statistically significant, this represents only a moderate increase in relative risk," it added.

The increase in risk was somewhat lower among women "in the general population" than for those like sex workers, already at higher HIV risk, Al Arabiya reports. The analysis showed no increased risk for users of other contraceptive drugs. The studies analyzed all factored in condom use.

"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," said study co-author Lauren Ralph of the University of California at Berkeley. According to Al Arabiya, banning DMPA, the most widely used injectable contraceptive, "would leave many women without immediate access to alternative, effective contraceptive options and would likely result in more unintended pregnancies, and, because of the greater risks of childbirth in many developing countries, this could increase overall deaths among women.

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