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Hormonal Contraceptives and HIV

One woman should have many choices to meet many needs. HIV prevention must be integrated with sexual and reproductive health.

Many women at risk for HIV are equally, if not more, concerned about avoiding or postponing pregnancy. Women urgently need access to information about contraceptives and HIV prevention, and they need expanded access to the full range of proven options for both.

In June 2019, results from the Evidence for Contraceptive Options and HIV Outcomes (ECHO) Study put these priorities sharply into focus. ECHO found no substantial difference in HIV risk among women using three methods of contraception – depot medroxyprogesterone acetate-intramuscular (DMPA-IM) also known as Depo-Provera, the copper intrauterine device (Cu-IUD), and a levonorgestrel (LNG) implant also known as Jadelle.

The findings from the ECHO study help to answer a decades-long question stemming from mixed data on past observational studies—some had suggested DMPA-IM might be associated with an increased risk of HIV, while others did not.

ECHO also showed high rates of HIV incidence — at nearly four percent — among the study population of women and adolescent girls age 16-35 in East and Southern Africa.

Taken together, these findings must spur action. The risk of HIV for women and girls remains alarmingly high, as do the risks to maternal health from unplanned pregnancies.

The ECHO trial provides important evidence to inform women’s choices, and to inform the integration of policies and programs for HIV and contraceptive services needed to support those choices. Access should be expanded to all proven HIV prevention options—including female condoms and daily oral PrEP—while continuing to invest in the development of new, women-controlled, HIV prevention options. In this context, the voices and priorities of African women must guide the conversation. AVAC works in partnership with groups and individuals in East and Southern Africa to prioritize and amplify womens’ issues and concerns.

Key Update

The World Health Organization (WHO) released updated guidance on “Hormonal Contraceptive Eligibility for Women at High Risk of HIV”. We are gravely concerned that this guidance will be used to justify a “business as usual” approach in which contraceptive procurement, program design, service delivery and counseling approaches go unchanged.

August 29, 2019
What We're Reading

Among adolescent girls and young women in HIV-endemic communities, reproductive aspirations and contraceptive practices affect HIV risk and infection. Tailored adolescent-responsive health services could help young women plan their pregnancies for when they are healthy and well-supported, and help interrupt the cycle of HIV transmission by supporting them to practice dual protection.

August 31, 2020

A year after the Evidence for Contraceptive Options and HIV Outcomes study, researchers say policymakers must renew their focus. A policy brief by the World Health Organisation highlights the need for better HIV & STI (sexually transmitted infections) testing, and action for better clinical and prevention services, particularly among women accessing contraceptives.

August 15, 2020
Health-E News
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