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New Study Finds No Link Between HIV Infection And Contraceptive Methods

GENEVA : A large clinical research study conducted in four African countries found no significant difference in risk of HIV infection among women using one of three highly effective, reversible contraceptive methods.

Published today in the Lancet, the study showed that each method had high levels of safety and effectiveness in preventing pregnancy, with all methods well-accepted by the women using them.

The three methods investigated in the trial ? known as the Evidence for Contraceptive Options and HIV Outcomes (ECHO) study ? were:

  • DMPA - intramuscular (DMPA-IM), a three monthly, progestogen-only, reversible injectable contraceptive;
  • Levonorgestrel implant, a progestogen-only implant inserted under the skin in the upper arm that can be used for up to five years;
  • A copper-bearing IUD, a device inserted into the uterus that can be used for up to 10-12 years.

“These results support making available to women and girls a broad choice of effective contraceptive methods that empower them to make informed decisions about their own bodies - including if and when to have children,” said Dr James Kiarie, from the Department of Reproductive Health and Research at the World Health Organization. “Better access to contraception and quality reproductive health services would have a dramatic impact in improving the lives of millions of women and their families.”

The study found, however, that incidence of HIV infections among all of the women participants was high – an average of 3.8% 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,” said Dr Rachel Baggaley from WHO’s HIV and Hepatitis Department. “These should include providing HIV testing and a range of HIV prevention choices within contraceptive service programmes.”

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