Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | After a trial ruled out any increased risks of HIV acquisition associated with use of contraceptives – implants, depo provera injections and copper inter uterine device, activists are now calling for research into a method that can provide double protection against both HIV and pregnancy when used concurrently.
Speaking during a webinar held on Tuesday to discuss the results of the study dubbed ECHO released in July, Dr Tim Mastro a member of the trial management committee said before this trial, which was the first large randomized trial to examine the relationship between contraceptives and HIV, the general belief was that African women preferred injection to other methods of family planning but this was disapproved since equal numbers of women sought the other birth control methods.
He said the information gathered from the research which was conducted for four years in four high prevalence countries and involving over 7000 HIV negative women aged 16 to 35 years shows that scientists should now be thinking of studying innovations which can enable women get double protection from both STIs and pregnancy.
Even as there was 3.8% acquisition of HIV per year each year, he said the number of those that got other STIs like gonorrhea and chlamydia were very high.
On her part, Dr. Nelly Mugo a researcher based at the Kenya Medical Research Institute said the worst bit is that majority of the women in the study that tested positive for chlamydia for instance were unaware that they had the disease.
“These STIs have no symptoms but can be disastrous. In fact, chlamydia is a common cause for infertility and blocked Fallopian tubes”.
A civil society advocate Jackie Wambui says the challenge is that women, especially of childbearing age, have no choice of protection against both unwanted pregnancy and infection at the moment because the condom is not easy to negotiate even though it’s highly effective.
However, it was revealed to the meeting that very early stage trials are going in the West where they are studying whether the HIV preventing dapivirine vaginal ring can as well be made to act as a contraceptive.