Popular Birth Control Shot ‘DMPA’ Increases Risk for HIV

Raised HIV Risk for Women Who Used DMPA ?

A comprehensive research review revealed the necessity to replace the popular contraceptive shot known as DMPA with safer methods of contraception because it raises the risk of HIV infection among women.

In the research review by Janet P. Hapgood, Ph.D., University of Cape Town, South Africa, and Zdenek Hel, Ph.D., professor in the University of Alabama at Birmingham Department of Pathology, UAB School of Medicine, co-authors of the study, it is imperative to replace DMPA to curb the spread of HIV particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa and other high-risk regions.

Hel said, “We have to do everything in our power to rapidly replace DMPA with a safer alternative. The word ‘replace’ is critical; DMPA cannot just be taken off the shelves as many women would be left with no available option.”

DMPA – or depot-medroxyprogesterone acetate – is the predominant contraceptive in sub-Saharan Africa, administered as a birth control shot every three months. It is estimated to be used by more than 50 million women worldwide.

DMPA Not A Safe Contraceptive?

A study revealed the impact of contraceptive injectable containing depot medroxyprogesterone acetate to women’s risk of HIV. The key result showed that DMPA increases the risk for HIV among women.

This new finding was confirmed by Hel who said, “Human studies suggest DMPA use may raise the risk of HIV infection in exposed women by about 40 percent.”

The researchers have revealed that the progestin used in DMPA – medroxyprogesterone acetate, or MPA, acts differently from other forms of progestin used in contraceptives. In the cells of the genital tract that can come in contact with HIV, MPA behaves like the stress hormone cortisol.

First author Janet P. Hapgood, Ph.D., said, “The increased rate of HIV infection among women using DMPA contraceptive shots is likely due to multiple reasons, including decreases in immune function and the protective barrier function of the female genital tract. Studying the biology of MPA helps us understand what may be driving the increased rate of HIV infection seen in human research.”

A DMPA shot, a popular contraceptive in Sub-saharan Africa.
A DMPA shot, a popular contraceptive in Sub-saharan Africa.

The Urgency to Replace DMPA Shots

The researchers suggested other forms of birth control that could rapidly replace DMPA shots. In fact, first author Janet P. Hapgood, Ph.D., stressed the need for safer contraception alternatives.

Hapgood said, “To protect individual and public health, it is important to ensure women in areas with high rates of HIV infection have access to affordable contraceptive options. Increasing availability of contraceptives that use a form of the female hormone progestin different from the one found in DMPA could help reduce the risk of HIV transmission.”

Mina Fabulous
Mina Fabulous follows the news, especially what is going on in the US State Department. Mina turns State Department waffle into plain English. Mina Fabulous is the pen name of Carmen Avalino, the NewsBlaze production editor. When she isn't preparing stories for NewsBlaze writers, she writes stories, but to separate her editing and writing identities, she uses the name given by her family and friends.