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Dr. Charu Kaushic & Colleagues Analyze Link Between Common Contraceptive Shot and Increased Risk of HIV Infection

The common birth control shot DMPA is correlated with an increased risk of HIV acquisition, recent research published within Endocrine Reviews has found.

McMaster University’s Dr. Charu Kaushic, along with colleagues from Cape Town, South Africa and the University of Birmingham, Alabama reviewed the current literature which suggests that the use of depot-medroxyprogesterone acetate (DMPA) – the predominant contraceptive shot in Sub-Saharan Africa – may raise the risk of HIV infection by up to 40 percent within women from high-risk regions.

The research, supported by the National Institutes of Health and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, goes further to discuss potential underlying biological mechanisms that could contribute to the increased risk of HIV infection in users of DMPA versus other contraceptive shots. Through their extensive review of animal, cell and biochemical research, the team suggests that the form of progestin specifically used in DMPA – called medroxprogesterone acetate, or MPA – may mimic the stress hormone cortisol. Such stresses can affect the physiology of cells within the genital tract, resulting in decreased immune function and protective barrier function which can, in turn, contribute to the heightened risk of HIV acquisition.

Based on the evidence, the authors suggest the administration of alternative contraception methods to women in high-risk areas and shed light on the critical need for continued research in the areas of women’s reproductive health and sexually transmitted infections.

Read the press release from the Endocrine Society.

Read the full study, “Hormonal Contraception and HIV-1 Acquisition: Biological Mechanism” in Endocrine Reviews.