Researchers Find Link between Depo Provera and Higher HIV Risk

Worldwide, about 41 million women use Depo-Provera, the injectable form of hormonal birth control. According to a new study conducted by a team of researchers from the University of California at Berkeley, the birth control shot may increase a womanís risk of becoming infected with HIV.

HIV is a virus spread through body fluids that affects specific cells of the immune system, called CD4 cells, or T cells. Over time, HIV can destroy so many of these cells that the body canít fight off infections and disease. When this happens, HIV infection leads to AIDS. Currently, there is no safe and effective cure for HIV. However, with proper medical care, HIV can be controlled by using antiretroviral therapy (ART).

For over 20 years, researchers have debated whether or not hormonal contraceptives increase a womenís risk of HIV. Until the new study from UC Berkeley, research has been inconclusive. Women using Depo-Provera may be increasing their risk of becoming infected with HIV by 40 percent. The team of researchers examined the results of 12 studies from sub-Saharan Africa including over 39,500 women. In 10 studies of Depo-Provera, the team found evidence of an increased HIV risk, however there was no similar risk increase with oral contraceptives.