Injectable Birth Control Increases Risk for HIV

Greater HIV risk for couples using hormonal contraceptives

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) If you or your partner uses injectable birth control, you may be at higher risk of catching HIV, says a new University of Washington study.

The latest findings show that injectable contraception, like Depo Provera, makes it easier for heterosexual people to transmit HIV to their partners. Switching to non-injectable contraception might be a smart move for men and women worried about HIV transmission.

Researchers tracked 3,790 couples in Africa in which one partner was HIV-positive and the other was not. They found that HIV-negative women using injectable birth control were twice as likely to catch HIV from their infected partners, compared to women using other methods, such as a diaphragm, or none at all.

Men also have an increased risk of becoming HIV-infected if their HIV-positive partner uses injectables.

"Birth control shots may raise your HIV risk."

Use of oral birth control, known as “The Pill,” was also linked to a slightly higher risk of HIV transmission, though researchers said the risk was small.

Study author Dr. Jared Baeten says the findings could impact the future of family planning and HIV prevention programs.

Injectable contraceptives are widely used in Africa, and could have dangerous implications for the global fight against HIV/AIDS.

Isobel Coleman, director of the women and foreign policy program at the Council on Foreign Relations, told the New York Times that a major health crisis will result if birth control shots are helping spread the AIDS epidemic. 

The World Health Organization will meet in January to discuss the findings.

Researchers discovered the connection between hormonal birth control and HIV infection while conducting another type of study, the Partners in Prevention study, which examined whether treating herpes simplex II could lower the risk of acquiring HIV in couples with an infected partner. (It didn’t, say researchers.)

The study authors warned that the results may be skewed because men were less likely to use a condom if a woman was on birth control, which could increase rates of HIV transmission, and because methods of birth control were self-reported and not verified by the researchers. 

This observational study was published in The Lancet.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
October 4, 2011
Last Updated:
October 7, 2011