Key HIV trial for SA women to start early 2014

2013-06-21 08:42

A new randomised clinical trial, which seeks to determine if hormonal contraceptives – especially injectable ones – increase the risk of HIV infection in women, is expected to begin early next year.

The trial is key for South Africa as 60% of women using contraceptives are using hormonal contraceptives, injectable progestins Depo-Provera and Nuristerate.

Scientists have been calling for such research since 2011 when a study conducted in seven African countries, including South Africa, found there was a possible link between injectable hormonal contraceptives and HIV acquisition.

Professor Justus Hofmeyer, head of the department of obstetrics and gynaecology in the East London Health complex, who will be conducting the trial with other health experts, explained the 2011 study left too many questions unanswered because there was no conclusive evidence that hormonal contraceptives influenced the risk of HIV acquisition in women.

“Right now we don’t know whether there is any association between the two. Data from several previous studies has been very confusing and of low quality. We therefore need to conduct this trial if we want definitive answers,” he explained.

The 2011 study, which sparked a global debate, also showed that using Depo-Provera doubled a woman’s risk of transmitting the virus to her partner.

Hofmeyer, who was speaking at this week’s South African Aids conference in Durban, said the proposed trial would compare different methods of contraception, including both injectable progestins, progestin implants and intrauterine devices.

He said: “We have finalised the protocols and the trials should commence by early next year.”

He couldn’t say where the trial will be conducted but said, “it will be a big study and we should have several sites”.

The study will be conducted over a three-year period.

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