By Bobbi Nodell, Alex Murphy and Nicole Sadow-Hasenberg.
A new grant from the National Institutes of Health will allow researchers led by Renee Heffron, Assistant Professor of Global Health at the University of Washington, to determine whether hormonal contraceptives increase women's risk of acquiring HIV.
Injectable depo-medroxyprogesterone acetate, also known as the "Depo shot," is the most common birth-control method for women in sub-Saharan Africa, where women disproportionately shoulder the burden of the HIV epidemic. Mixed results have emerged from studies over the last 20 years on the Depo shot and risk of HIV acquisition.
The $3.5 million grant is new funding for the Evidence for Contraceptive Options and HIV Outcomes (ECHO) trial, which is tracking 7,800 participants in sub-Saharan Africa through a randomized distribution of three contraceptive methods: a copper IUD, the Depo injection and the Jadelle implant.With this additional funding, ECHO will begin to measure biological markers periodically over the three-year trial period associated with the Depo shot. These markers include bacterial changes, inflammation, increased HIV target cells and mucosa to identify differences between women using the different contraceptives.