News & AnalysisAIDS Research

HIV Study Renews Scrutiny of Hormonal Contraception

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Science  14 Oct 2011:
Vol. 334, Issue 6053, pp. 166
DOI: 10.1126/science.334.6053.166

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A recent New York Times story that reported that hormonal contraceptive use increases HIV risk posed a quandary for some HIV/AIDS researchers who study the issue. For many poor women in sub-Saharan Africa, HIV and pregnancy are "competing risks," as having a child presents both health and socioeconomic downsides. Evaluating the contribution that injectable hormones make to HIV transmission is also fraught with confounding variables that complicate analyses of cause and effect. Although the Times attempted to put the new findings in context and noted that they had limitations, some researchers worry that the global influence of the newspaper's account will overshadow the many complexities in the data that leave open critical questions about whether injected contraceptives truly pose an HIV risk.