A clinical study conducted in four African countries has shown evidence proving there is no link between the prevention of HIV infection and the use of contraceptives by women.
The large study investigated three methods of contraceptives dubbed as the ‘Evidence for Contraceptive Options and HIV Outcomes (ECHO)’ randomly used by a total of 7829 sexually active HIV-negative women.
The participants, between the ages 16 to 35 years, were drawn from Kenya, Eswatini, South Africa, and Zambia.
One of the methods analysed is the “DMPA – intramuscular (DMPA-IM)”, which is a reversible contraceptive injection containing progestogen. The medication works for a duration of 12 weeks.
The second method administered on the study participants is a levonorgestrel implant. This is a progestogen-only implant inserted under the skin in the upper arm that can be used for up to five years.
The last method examined is the use of a copper-bearing IUD, which is a device inserted into the uterus that can be used for up to 10-12 years.
Results from the research showed that although the contraceptive methods were effective in preventing pregnancies, these methods have no substantial difference in terms of women’s exposure to HIV risk.
“We did not find a substantial difference in HIV risk among the methods evaluated, and all methods were safe and highly effective,” the researchers wrote on the study paper.
“HIV incidence was high in this population of women seeking pregnancy prevention, emphasising the need for integration of HIV prevention within contraceptive services for African women. These results support continued and increased access to these three contraceptive methods.”
The researchers recorded 143 infections in women who used DMPA-IM; 138 infections in women who used a copper-bearing IUD and 116 in women who used a levonorgestrel implant.
Published in the Lancet journal, the study was conducted by a team of researchers at the FHI 360, University of Washington, Wits Reproductive Health and HIV Institute, and the Human Reproduction Programme (HRP) at the World Health Organization.