Do Certain Contraceptives Increase the Risks of HIV/AIDS?

By National Institutes of Health (NIH) (National Institutes of Health (NIH)) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

According to the American Society for Microbiology, evidence has suggested that injectable contraceptives (Depo-Provera or DMPA), is associated with an increased risk of HIV infection. The study was published in September of 2015, in the open-access journal mBIO, of the American Society for Microbiology. These findings may help women make a better informed decision about birth control.

Study Results

Dr. Raina Fichorova, PhD and director of the Division of Genital Tract Biology at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston states, “Before the study, there were all these controversial reports, some showing that DMPA increases the risk of HIV infection and others showing it doesn’t, and there was no biological explanation for the differences between studies.”

She further stated, “This new study offers an explanation for the inconsistent studies, and it lies in the microbial communities of the reproductive tract.”

The research team reviewed cervical swabs and information from 823 women. The women in the study were between the ages of 18 and 35 years old, HIV positive and enrolled in family planning clinics located in Zimbabwe and Uganda. Approximately 200 of the women in this group became infected with HIV. The women were divided into subgroups, those who used Depo-Provera, those who used estrogen-progesterone oral contraceptives, and those who used no hormonal contraceptives.

Within each group, the team compared information from women with a healthy vaginal environment against those who had disturbed vaginal microbiota or an infection from bacteria, fungus or parasites.
The team looked to see if the women were taking oral contraceptives or receiving hormonal injections were at a high risk for developing immunological changes that could lead to an increase a person’s susceptibility to HIV, when compared to those who didn’t take anything. For example, women who had herpes and took Depo-Provera were more likely to have an increase in the level of proteins that attract HIV host cells.

Researchers found that DMPA use was associated with an increase in immunological changes and the presence of certain types of vaginal bacteria lead to a further risk.

In Conclusion:

Dr. Ficharova states, “Women deserve to know more so that they can make informed choices about birth control. Both men and women should be educated about our findings, as both partners are at risk and need to prevent and treat infections.”

In closing she states, “Studies of new contraceptives methods should evaluate how they impact the microbial environment and how they act in concert with preexisting, treatable microbial disturbances, to weaken the mucosal barrier against HIV and other infections. Our hope is to prevent the unwanted side effects of available hormonal contraceptives and improve and save millions of lives by developing new affordable tools and approaches to restore and keep the healthy vaginal microbial environment in women of reproductive age.”


The information provided on is designed to support, not replace, the relationship that exists between a patient/site visitor and his/her health professional. This information is solely for informational purposes and does not constitute the practice of medicine. We encourage all visitors to see a licensed physician or nutritionist if they have any concerns regarding health issues related to diet, personal image and any other topics discussed on this site. Neither the owners or employees of nor the author(s) of site content take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading this site. Always speak with your primary health care provider before engaging in any form of self treatment. Please see our Legal Statement for further information.