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WHO says to use a condom if you use injectable contraception

Flickr, Jaume d’Urgell

Last fall, Seattle scientists issued some problematic findings indicating higher risk for HIV among women using the contraceptive Depo-Provera, a hormone delivered by injection popular in poor countries for its ease of use and reliability.

Today, experts at the World Health Organization, which contends the evidence for this hormone-HIV risk is equivocal, said women should continue to use the hormonal contraceptive method but also use condoms to prevent against HIV.

As a result of this apparently mixed message, we are getting news stories with equivocal headlines or reports heading in quite different directions:

The Guardian HIV warning to women using injectable contraception

PSI WHO upholds guidance on hormonal contraceptives and HIV

IRIN WHO clarifies guidance on hormonal contraception and HIV

So, is that clear? Not really.

Still, one of the Seattle scientists involved in the original study, Jared Baeten at the University of Washington, told IRIN news that he felt the WHO statement struck the right balance:

“I think the [WHO] statement really reflects what was an extremely thoughtful deliberation and detailed evaluation of the evidence,” Baeten said.

“They made a clear statement by issuing a strong clarification and I think that what’s important in the context of delivering family planning service is that we strongly remind women at high risk of HIV that contraception does not protect against HIV and that condoms are the HIV preventative measure.”


About Author

Tom Paulson

Tom Paulson is founder and lead journalist at Humanosphere. Prior to operating this online news site, he reported on science,  medicine, health policy, aid and development for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Contact him at tom[at] or follow him on Twitter @tompaulson.