Brief Report: Hormonal Contraception Is Not Associated With Reduced ART Effectiveness Among Women Initiating ART

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To explore the association between concomitant hormonal contraceptive and antiretroviral therapy (ART) use and (1) plasma viral suppression and (2) genital HIV shedding among HIV-positive women initiating ART.


We analyzed plasma viral load and genital viral RNA shedding from 1079 HIV-positive women initiating ART who were followed prospectively in 3 sub-Saharan African HIV prevention studies. Plasma and endocervical swab samples were collected every 6 months. Self-reported contraceptive use was categorized into injectable, implant, oral, or nonhormonal/no contraception. We used multivariate Cox regression to assess time to plasma viral suppression and logistic regression with generalized estimating equations to assess genital viral shedding for each contraceptive method.


At the time of ART initiation, there were 211 (20%) injectable, 69 (6%) implant, 50 (5%) oral, and 749 (69%) nonhormonal or no method users. Plasma viral suppression was high (90% by 6 months) and hormonal contraceptives did not diminish time to plasma viral suppression as compared to nonhormonal/no methods [adjusted hazard ratios: injectables 0.89 (95% confidence interval: 0.75 to 1.07), implants 0.91 (0.68 to 1.23), and oral methods 1.33 (1.06 to 1.66)]. Genital viral shedding was uncommon any time after ART initiation (only 9% of samples had detectable viral shedding) and hormonal contraceptives were not associated with an increased detection of genital viral shedding [adjusted odds ratios: injectables 1.07 (0.69 to 1.65), implants 0.67 (0.31 to 1.49), and oral methods 0.56 (0.19 to 1.69)].


The hormonal contraceptives assessed were not associated with reduced ART effectiveness among HIV-positive women initiating ART. HIV-positive women should continue to be offered contraceptive options, including hormonal ones that best meet their needs.

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