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A recent multi-country study on hormonal contraceptives (HC) and HIV acquisition and transmission among African HIV-serodiscordant couples reported a statistically significant doubling of risk for HIV acquisition among women as well as transmission from women to men for injectable contraceptives. Together with a prior cohort study on African women seeking health services, these data are the strongest yet to appear on the HC-HIV risk. This paper will briefly review the Heffron study strengths and relevant biological and epidemiologic evidence; address the futility of further trials; and propose instead an alternative framework for next steps. The weight of the evidence calls for a discontinuation of progestin-dominant methods. We propose here five types of productive activities: (1) scaling injectable hormones down and out of the contraceptive mix; (2) strengthening and introducing public health strategies with proven potential to reduce HIV spread; (3) providing maximal choice to reduce unplanned pregnancy, starting with quality sexuality education through to safe abortion access; (4) expanding provider training, end-user counseling and access to male and female barriers, with a special renewed focus on female condom; (5) initiating a serious research agenda to determine anti-STI/HIV potential of the contraceptive cervical cap. Trusting women to make informed choices is critical to achieve real progress in dual protection.
Originally Published In
AIDS Research and Treatment
Gollub, Erica and Stein, Zena, "Living with Uncertainty: Acting in the Best Interests of Women" (2012). All Faculty. 32.
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