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HIV infection delinked from contraceptive methods

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A large clinical research by the World Health Organization (WHO) has revealed that their is no significant difference in the risk of HIV infection among women using three highly effective reversible contraceptive methods.

The three methods are: a three month progestogen only injectable contraceptive (DMPA-IM), a five years Levonorgestrel implant that is inserted under the skin and a 10-12 years copper bearing IUD device inserted into the uterus.

The study dubbed as Evidence for Contraceptive Options and HIV Outcomes (ECHO) was conducted in Kenya, Zambia, South Africa and Eswatini.

In the study, 7829 participants  aged between 16-35 were involved. During the research 397 of the participants acquired HIV infection with 143 being on women who used DMPA-IM, 138 who used copper bearing IUD and 116 cases used levonorgesterel implant.

The rate of HIV infection was higher for women aged less than 25 years irrespective of the method of contraception used.

All women who participated in the study received ongoing health services including counselling on HIV prevention and care, screening and treatment for sexually transmitted infections.

{ Read: New study finds five-fold HIV infection disparities in parts of Africa }

The study found, however, that incidence of HIV infections among all of the women participants was high, an average of 3.8 percent  per year, indicating that HIV remains a significant personal risk and public health challenge for many women in these countries.

“The study highlights the need to step up HIV prevention efforts in these high-burden countries – particularly for young women. These should include providing HIV testing and a range of HIV prevention choices within contraceptive service programmes,” said Dr Rachel Baggaley from WHO’s HIV and Hepatitis Department.

“After decades of uncertainty, we finally have robust scientific evidence about the potential relationship between hormonal contraception and the risk of HIV from a rigorous randomized clinical trial. The results on this question are reassuring, but our findings are also sobering, because they confirm unacceptably high HIV incidence among young African women,” said Professor Helen Rees a member of the five-person ECHO Management Committee that leads the ECHO Study.

Currently 214 million women in developing countries want to avoid pregnancy but do not use a modern contraceptive method.

{ See Also: New technology to boost HIV/AIDS research in Kenya }

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Brenda Gamonde
Brenda Gamonde
Brenda Gamonde is reporter with Business Today. Email: [email protected]
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