Is the Injectable Contraceptive Depo-Medroxyprogesterone Acetate (DMPA-IM) Associated with an Increased Risk for HIV Acquisition? The Jury Is Still Out.AIDS Res Hum Retroviruses. 2020 05; 36(5):357-366.AR
Intramuscular depo-medroxyprogesterone acetate (DMPA-IM) is the most widely used hormonal contraceptive in sub-Saharan Africa. Previous meta-analyses of observational studies found a significant 40%-50% increased risk associated with DMPA-IM use, relative to no contraception or infrequent condom use. This raised substantial concerns, although these studies had important limitations. Consequently, the open-label randomized Evidence for Contraceptive Options and HIV Outcomes trial was conducted, designed primarily to detect a 50% or greater difference in HIV risk between DMPA-IM, the levonorgestrel (LNG) implant, and the copper-intrauterine device. The ECHO study, published in July 2019, concluded that there is no substantial difference in HIV risk among the methods evaluated, and that all three methods are safe and highly effective. In response, the WHO relaxed the Medical Eligibility Criteria for DMPA-IM use among women at high HIV risk in August 2019. However, two of the three comparisons in the ECHO trial could rule out neither a 50% increase nor no change in HIV risk for one contraceptive compared with another. The study had limitations and the results contained considerable uncertainty. They also did not inform on associated HIV risk for any one of the individual methods due to the absence of a control group such as no contraception or only infrequent condom use. The HIV risks associated with LNG implant and copper-IUD relative to no contraception or infrequent condom use are unknown and these cannot be seen as controls, nor did the authors claim them to be. The results will be discussed in the context of their limitations, what they add to the body of work to date on contraception and HIV acquisition, and the implications of the findings and reports thereof for future research and contraceptive choice.