Monday, January 14, 2013

Contraceptive Use in Women with HIV

If you are a woman with HIV (human immunodeficiency virus), preventing unintended pregnancy is important to preventing the transmission of HIV to a baby. While abstinence is the best option to prevent further spread of HIV, some individuals choose to use hormonal contraception.

However, there has been speculation that use of hormonal contraception in women with HIV will lead to worsening of disease progression.

 In an upcoming article in the journal, AIDS, researchers conducted a systematic review of the literature to determine if women with HIV who use hormonal contraceptives are at increased risk of disease progression compared to women who do not use contraceptives. Eleven total studies were reviewed.

The authors found that most of the evidence showed that women with HIV can use hormonal contraception without needing to worry that it will result in increased disease progression. Disease progression was measured by mortality (death), increased viral load, time to beginning anti-retroviral therapy, decreased CD4 cell count, and time to CD4 count below 200). CD4 cells are types of white blood cells that help protect the body against disease by fighting infectious organisms. When these levels go below 200, it is an important marker of disease progression. Anti-retroviral therapy (ART) refers to medications designed to suppress HIV and disease spread.

Suggested reading: The First Year: HIV: An Essential Guide for the Newly Diagnosed

Related blog entry: Increased Risk of Sudden Hearing Loss in HIV

Reference: Phillips SJ, Curtis KM, Polis CB. (2013). Effect of hormonal contraceptive methods on HIV disease progression: a Systematic Review. AIDS, in press.

The image above shows HIV (yellow) attacking a human cell. Credit: National Institutes of Health.

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