Wednesday, October 19, 2011
Bad news for women?
The New York Times reported "Contraceptive Used in Africa may double risk of HIV" The most popular contraceptive for women in eastern and southern Africa, a hormone shot given every three months, appears to double the risk the women will become infected with H.I.V., according to a large study published Monday. And when it is used by H.I.V.-positive women, their male partners are twice as likely to become infected than if the women had used no contraception. A lot of Ugandan women use this method of contraception. It's one that they can easily control themselves, even somewhat secretly if they need to--and so those with resistant partners can still do some family planning on their own. It would be a real shame if it turns out that the risks outweigh the benefits. I agree with the WHO epedemiologist, “We want to make sure that we warn when there is a real need to warn, but at the same time we don’t want to come up with a hasty judgment that would have far-reaching severe consequences for the sexual and reproductive health of women,” she said. “This is a very difficult dilemma.” Like many contraceptive methods, how the method works isn't always well understood resulting in ineffective use. Yesterday I was chatting with a woman who used the injection plan. She patted her swollen belly. "I don't even know when I'm due," she said, "I must be a very stupid woman. I didn't get injections at regular times. I only went to get injections when my husband would come back from Juba every few months. I guess that doesn't work." This might be bad news for women like her, who are aware of their husbands extramarital exploits. On the other hand, it just might give them more leverage to push their partners to use contraceptive methods that offer more protection against HIV transmission.