We have heard for years that the only way to prevent HIV, Herpes, and any other sexually transmitted diseases is to practice abstinence or at least safe sex. But, what does “safe sex” actually mean? Birth control, condoms, other forms of protection?
And, what if you contract a disease, and you thought you were practicing safe sex? Apparently according to a new study women using a birth control shot are left vulnerable to increased risks of transmitting HIV.
The study, published in the journal, Lancet Infectious Diseases, involved 3,790 couples from seven African countries in which one member of the couple was HIV positive and the other was not; the researchers found that HIV-negative women who used a progestin contraceptive shot were nearly twice as likely to acquire HIV infections from their infected partners as those who used no contraception. HIV positive women who used the shot were twice as likely to transmit the infections to their partners.
Condom use, which protects against HIV, was accounted for by the researchers, who found that those who used hormonal contraceptives — whether a shot or the pill — were slightly less likely to use condoms than those who didn’t use any birth control method besides a condom.
Here’s what I don’t understand though- a birth control shot is to control unwanted pregnancies, don’t these women understand that just because they are on a birth control method, DOES NOT mean they are protected from STD‘s?!
Sexually transmitted diseases are acquired through bodily fluids, and when these fluids come in contact with another person, you are now at an increased risk of contracting these horrifying diseases! Just taking a pill, or getting a shot does not create a barrier between your body and the affected fluids.
According to the report, there’s no reason for American women using Depo Provera to switch off the method if it’s working for them, according to Charles Morrison, senior director of clinical sciences at FHI 360, a nonprofit global health organization in Durham, N.C., who wrote an editorial that accompanied the study.
HIV rates are also lower here than in Africa, so any increase in risk doesn’t carry as much of a danger in the United States.
Those who are satisfied using Depo Provera shouldn’t be too alarmed by the study findings. “The study concludes that the shots may increase the risk of HIV transmission, but this hasn’t been proven since it was observational,” said Morrison, “and it’s tough to account for all differences” between those who chose to use the shot and those who chose to use no hormonal contraception.
Scientists aren’t certain why the hormone shots would make it easier to get infected with and transmit HIV, but it could be that the high dose of progestin — when given without estrogen — causes a thinning of vaginal tissue, making it easier for viruses to enter and exit.
And it’s not known whether other forms of hormonal contraceptives, like birth control pills, also raise HIV transmission risk. The new study indicated that they might, but there weren’t enough pill users in the study to get a statistically significant result.
Bottom line, said Morrison, is that the latest study serves as a “very important reminder to women” to use condoms if they’re having sex with a new partner or not in a monogamous relationship. That hormonal contraceptive might be great at preventing pregnancy, but it won’t protect against HIV or other sexually transmitted diseases — and might even raise your risk.