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UC Berkeley epidemiologists Caitlin Gerdts and Divya Vohra critique a new study says that African women using birth-control shots have a higher risk of contracting and passing on HIV.
From the article:
This week, The New York Times published a shocking front-page article on a study claiming that African women using injectable hormonal contraceptives like Depo-Provera have double the risk of contracting HIV from an infected partner, and nearly triple the risk of passing on the disease to uninfected men as well. The study has caused heated debate among those working in the fields of reproductive health and family planning. If the results of this study are to be believed, hundreds of thousands of women could face the impossible choice between preventing unwanted pregnancies—and all their associated risks—and avoiding the transmission of HIV. Damned if they use birth control, damned if they don’t.
Problem is, the study is hardly a smoking gun that exposes a concrete link between birth-control use and HIV infection. Rather, it is methodologically flawed, and contrary to what the study suggests, the jury is still out about the real risk of using birth control—if there is any risk at all.
It’s crucial to get this information right, because the lives of hundreds of thousands of women hang in the balance. Every year, nearly 500,000 women—mostly in the developing world—die from complications related to childbirth. That’s the equivalent of three 747-airplane crashes each day. For many of these women, health-care facilities are often too far away, too expensive, and too short-staffed to help in the case of pregnancy-related emergencies. In rural Ethiopia, where our research group has spent years working to make pregnancy safer for local women, a mother has a 1-in-40 chance of dying from childbirth in her lifetime. In the United States, that chance would be 1 in 2,000.