African women need greater choices when it comes to the provision of contraceptives, a South African AIDS activist has told a panel at the ninth South African AIDS Conference in Durban.
The activist, Yvette Raphael, was speaking at the Inkosi Albert Luthuli International Convention Centre in Durban on Thursday, 13 June 2019, following the official release of the Evidence for Contraceptive Options and HIV Outcomes (ECHO) study in the port city.
The study compared three different types of contraceptives and the possibility that one of them – the DMPA progestin injection, known as Depo – increased the risk of HIV infection among women.
The potential risk of the DMPA injection has long been uncertain, which led to the 50-million-dollar study.
Raphael said it was common knowledge that when women went to clinics seeking contraceptives, they were not given a choice.
“It’s only Depo or the pill. That is not a choice – the choice is when I am given all methods to choose from and I can choose,” Raphael said.
She said Depo should not be the only “long-acting method available for many black women and brown women across the world.”
“The ECHO study shows the method mix is possible. We have heard the scientists saying women love Depo. It’s not true. This trial has shown us that women, if randomised, if given a choice, will maybe not choose Depo. So, Depo is not our favourite method,” she added.
ECHO started in 2015, with trials eventually taking place on 7 830 HIV negative women between the ages of 16 and 35 years who wanted to be placed on contraception in South Africa, Kenya, eSwatini and Zambia.
The results indicated that there was no evidence to suggest that women who used Depo were at a greater risk of contracting HIV than women who used the other contraceptives.
Raphael, who heads the group Advocates for the Prevention of HIV in Africa, said it was good that the question about the safety of the injection had been answered.