Pathfinder Endorses WHO, USAID Skepticism on Hormonal Contraception and HIV Link
On Tuesday, October 4th, the The New York Times published an article regarding a recent study of links between hormonal contraceptives and increased HIV risk. Pathfinder International endorses WHO and USAID's positions that the weight of evidence does not indicate that use of hormonal contraception increases the risk of HIV acquisition, transmission, or progression.
"There's a great deal at stake in uncritically disseminating research like this," Julio Pacca, Pathfinder's Director of Technical Services Unit and former Mozambique Country Director, said. "We have seen, throughout the countries where we work, the enormous and harmful impact that this kind of premature speculation can have on the health of women, men and adolescents around the world."
The study, conducted by The University of Washington, alleges an increased risk of HIV infection for women using a popular hormonal contraceptive. When it is used by HIV-positive women, the study suggests their male partners are twice as likely to become infected than if women had used no hormonal contraception. The research findings were first presented this past August at an international AIDS conference, and were found questionable at that time. The attention given the research by The New York Times, and other news outlets, has taken many in the field by surprise.
WHO and USAID are urging for more research to resolve key gaps in the understanding of the topic, given how crucial contraception is to helping women with, or at risk of, HIV infection to prevent unintended pregnancies and prevent perinatal transmission of HIV to their infants as well as the adverse social and health consequences of unwanted pregnancy.
"We have seen the abandonment of health practices, like the IUD, out of fear, when really, such fears are completely unfounded," Demet Gural, Vice President of Programs at Pathfinder, said. "We must carefully weigh the assertions of this recent study in relation to other studies that have come before showing no correlation."
In light of the University of Washington study, as well as the public health concerns it raises, WHO is convening a Technical Consultation this coming January to re-examine the totality of evidence on potential effects of hormonal contraception on HIV acquisition, disease progression, and infectivity/transmission to sexual partners.
Pathfinder will participate in the January meeting and continue to monitor the research closely.
For more information, please contact Jaime-Alexis Fowler, email@example.com 617.407.8955
Pathfinder is pleased to announce a new three-year grant from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation in support of crucial work in West Africa targeting the unmet need for contraception among young married adolescents in Guinea, Burkina Faso, and Niger.
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