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Faculty & Staff Honors

Washington Receives NIH Grant to Provide Long-Awaited Data on Hormonal Contraceptives and HIV

A new grant from the National Institutes of Health will allow researchers led by the University of Washington School of Public Health to determine if hormonal contraceptives put women at increased risk of acquiring HIV.

reneeheffron

[Photo: Dr. Renee Heffron]

Dr. Renee Heffron, assistant professor in global health and epidemiology, received $3.5 million in 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 trial of three equally safe and effective contraceptive methods: the copper T intrauterine device (IUD); injectable depo-medroxyprogesterone acetate (DMPA), also known as the Depo shot; and the Jadelle implant.

The Depo shot continues to be the most commonly used method for birth control for women in sub-Saharan Africa, a region where women disproportionately shoulder the burden of the HIV epidemic.

Multiple studies over the last 20 years on the Depo shot and risk of HIV acquisition have had mixed results, with some indicating anywhere from 30-50 percent increased risk. However, those studies can be biased, leading to unreliable data, according to Dr. Heffron.

“These prior studies have all been observational, meaning that women chose their contraceptive method themselves,” she said. Women who choose their own contraceptive method may reduce their condom use, putting them at higher risk of HIV, she added.

With this additional funding, ECHO will now 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.

Link to full story: http://hsnewsbeat.uw.edu/story/hormonal-contraceptives-risk-hiv-focus-new-study