Study finds no link between contraceptives, HIV risk

Results of the Evidence for Contraceptive Options in HIV Outcomes (Echo) study have shown that three popular contraceptive methods, namely copper-releasing intrauterine device (Cu-IUD), Jadelle Implant and Depo-Provera do not increase HIV risk among women.

The findings were released yesterday at the South African Aids Conference underway in Durban and monitored through video teleconference.

Reads part of the findings: “This well-executed randomised trial did not find a substantial difference in HIV risk among the methods evaluated and all methods were safe and highly effective.

 “These results underscore the importance of continued and increased access to these three contraceptive methods, as well as expanded contraception choices, complemented by high-quality HIV and STI

[sexually transmitted infection]

prevention services.”

 Conducted between December 2015 and October 2018, the study had 7 829 HIV negative women participants aged between 16 and 35 from eSwatini (formerly Swaziland) (505), South Africa (5 768), Kenya (901) and Zambia (658). They received counselling, HIV prevention and PrEP (drug meant to prevent HIV infection in negative people) referrals where available.

Dr James Kiarie of the Department of Reproductive Health and Research at WHO says the Echo trial results will support better access to contraception and quality reproductive health services

“The results will 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,” he observes

Meanwhile, the report has recommended that the World Health Organisation (WHO) should consider maximising access to preferred contraceptive methods while protecting women’s health and also provide women with the latest and best information as well as access to a broad range of effective and acceptable methods.

Although Malawi was not among the participating countries in the study, the findings were of interest to the country where Depo-Provera is the most commonly used contraceptive methods.

According to the 2016 Malawi Demographic Health Survey (MDHS), 49.8 percent of Malawians use Depo-Provera while 19.9 percent use implants and 18.4 percent (women) go for sterilisation.

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