Women beware! A study has recently warned that a popular injectable contraceptive drug can increase the risk of HIV infection in women by 40 percent.
Depot-medroxyprogesterone acetate (DMPA) is an injectable birth control shot administered every three months, which prevents the ovaries from releasing eggs and thickens the mucous layer around the cervix to block sperm from getting through.
According to researchers, transitioning away from DMPA could help protect women from becoming infected with HIV.
Human studies suggest DMPA use may raise the risk of HIV infection by 40 percent.
The findings suggest other forms of birth control should rapidly replace DMPA shots, the researchers noted.
The team wanted to review the underlying biological mechanisms that could contribute to increased risk of HIV infection for certain hormonal contraceptives but not others.
"To protect individual and public health, it is important to ensure women in areas with high rates of HIV infection have access to affordable contraceptive options," said first study author Janet P. Hapgood from the University of Cape Town in South Africa.
"Increasing availability of contraceptives that use a different form of the female hormone progestin than the one found in DMPA could help reduce the risk of HIV transmission," Hapgood added.
The team examined animal, cell and biochemical research on the form of progestin used in DMPA - medroxprogesterone acetate, or MPA.
MPA is used in birth control and as part of menopausal hormone therapy.
The analysis revealed MPA acts differently than other forms of progestin used in contraceptives.
MPA behaves like the stress hormone cortisol in the cells of the genital tract that can come in contact with HIV.
The researchers explained that the increased rate of HIV infection among women using DMPA contraceptive shots is likely due to multiple reasons, including decreases in immune function and the protective barrier function of the female genital tract.
"Studying the biology of MPA helps us understand what may be driving the increased rate of HIV infection seen in human research.
The research appears in journal of Endocrine Reviews.