Accessibility links

Kenyan Birth Control Method May Put Women at Risk for HIV

Kenyan researchers say women using a popular birth control method are at risk of being infected with HIV, the human immunodeficiency virus. HIV has been called the AIDS virus. Studies have linked it to development of the disease.

The Kenya Medical Research Institute studied 228 women in the city of Nairobi. The women used different kinds of methods to prevent pregnancy. The study found that women who used an injection known as Depo Provera had high levels of a chemical that made them vulnerable to HIV infection. They were more likely to get infected than women who used other forms of birth control.

Dr. Elizabeth Bukusi works with the Kenya Medical Research Institute.

“…Depo Provera is a contraceptive that’s used a lot in sub-Saharan Africa. It’s easy to use. It’s a discreet injection. Women find it convenient because they go for it once every three months. So the question is, is it because we just have a large number of women using this product in the same area where you have a lot of HIV? And so this association is one that has been found, but we have not had a study designed to answer this question yet.”

Dr. Bukusi says the researchers looked at whether chemicals in the injection are to blame for the increase in HIV infection rates. They also explored whether the higher rates could be linked to the sexual behavior of Depo Provera users.

Health researchers note that men can wear condoms. But not all women have the ability to require their partners to use them.

To solve the problem, Dr. Bukusi says researchers have developed preventative technologies like microbicides. Microbicides are substances that can kill or neutralize a virus or bacteria. They can come in the form of a gel or film, or a ring that can be placed within the woman’s vagina. This stops the woman from getting infected.

“…we are particularly thinking about mechanisms that young women can use to protect themselves from getting HIV. Women aged between 16 to 25 are at highest risk of getting HIV, and so we are looking at options that will allow these women to manage their reproductive lives in a healthy manner.”

The World Health Organization says Kenya has the fourth-largest number of HIV infections in the world. Kenyan officials say at least 100,000 people are infected every year.

I’m Christopher Cruise.

Correspondent Mohammad Yusuf reported this story for VOA from Nairobi. Christopher Cruise wrote it in Learning English. George Grow was the editor.


Words in This Story

birth control n. things that are done to keep a woman from becoming pregnant

infect(ed) v. to cause (someone or something) to become sick or affected by disease

vulnerable adj. open to attack, harm or damage

discreet adj. not likely to be seen or noticed by many people

options n. something that can be chosen; a choice or possibility

reproductive adj. relating to or involved in the production of babies, young animals or new plants (always used before a noun)

What kind of birth control methods are used in your country? We want to hear from you. Write your thoughts in the comments section.

Show comments