Side Effects of Depo-Provera Birth Control Shot May Increase HIV Risk: Study

The findings of new research suggest that women using the Depo-Provera birth control shot may face an increased risk of HIV infections. 

In a study published by the medical journal The Lancet Infections Diseases, researchers from the University of California Berkeley indicate that side effects of Depo-Proversa may be associated with as much as a 40% increased HIV risk. Similar risks were not seen with other forms of birth control.

Depo-Provera (depo-medroxyprogesterone acetate), also known as DMPA or the Depo shot, is an injectable form of birth control developed by Pfizer and approved by the FDA in 1992. The shot is given four times a year and prevents ovulation.

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Researchers looked at data from 12 different studies involving nearly 40,000 women from sub-Saharan Africa, finding a statistically significant 40% increased risk of an HIV diagnosis among women who received the Depo shot. The risk was lower among women in the general population than those who were employed as sex workers, the researchers determined.

The cause of the increased risk is unclear, since there is no similar risk among women given birth control pills, which one would expect if it were simply a matter of women not using condoms because they thought another form of birth control was enough protection.

However, the researchers said their findings in no way should suggest that the Depo shot should be banned, and called for more research.

“Further evidence regarding the magnitude and mechanisms of the DMPA and HIV link, among high risk women, such as commercial sex workers and women in serodiscordant partnerships (where one partner is HIV-positive and the other is not), is urgently needed,” lead study author Lauren Ralph, an epidemiologist at the University of California at Berkeley said in the study. “The moderate elevation in risk observed in our study is not enough to justify a complete withdrawal of DMPA for women in the general population. Banning DMPA would leave many women without immediate access to alternative, effective contraceptive options.”


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