DURBAN – The results of a clinical study that will provide evidence about the potential link between three female contraceptives and an increased risk in HIV infection will be released at the 9th South African Aids Conference in Durban on Thursday afternoon.
The Evidence for Contraceptive Options and HIV Outcomes (ECHO) study started in 2015, with trials eventually taking place on 7,830 HIV negative women between the ages of 16 and 35 who wanted to be placed on contraception.
Participants were from South Africa, Kenya, Eswatini and Zambia, where the risk of HIV infection and HIV infection itself is high.
The contraceptives being studied were the widely utilised DMPA progestin injection (known as Depo), LNG arm implant and copper IUD.
The potential risks of the DMPA injection for women who are at high risk of HIV infection has long been uncertain, which is where the ECHO study comes in.
The data collected during the study will be able to determine if the implants and IUDS are better alternatives (relating to potential HIV infection) to the injection.
The results of the study will be used by the World Health Organisation (WHO) to guide policy about contraceptive use.
The ECHO study was carried out by a team that included participants from FHI 360, the University of Washington, Wits Reproductive Health and HIV Institute and the World Health Organisation.
A consortium of donors funded ECHO, including the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the US Agency for International Development (USAID), the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency, the United Nations Population Fund and the Medical Research Council of South Africa.
The contraceptives used in the study were donated by USAID and the South African government.
In South Africa, trials were conducted at the Aurum Institute in Klerksdorp, the Desmond Tutu Foundation Emavundleni Research Centre in Cape Town, the Effective Care Research Unit in East London, the Madibeng Centre for Research in Brits, the Maternal, Adolescent and Child Health (MatCH) Research in Durban and Pietermaritzburg, the Qhakaza Mbokodo Research Clinic in Ladysmith, the Setshaba Research Centre in Shoshanguve and WRHI/University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg.
In Kenya, the trials took place at the KEMRI-RCTP Study Centre, Lumumba Health Centre, in Kisumu; in Eswatini, the trials took place at the Family Life Association of Swaziland and ICAP-Columbia in Manzini; and in Zambia, at the UNC Global Projects Zambia/Kamwala Clinic in Lusaka.