A new study in the British medical journal The Lancet has revealed that a common contraceptive doubles the risk of HIV infection — at least based on evidence from where it is most popularly recommended and used, in eastern and southern Africa (the world’s most AIDS-infected areas). The New York Times reports:
The most popular contraceptive for women in eastern and southern Africa, a hormone shot given every three months, appears to double the risk the women will become infected with H.I.V., according to a large study published Monday. And when it is used by H.I.V.-positive women, their male partners are twice as likely to become infected than if the women had used no contraception.
The study, which several experts said added significant heft to previous research while still having some limitations, has prompted the World Health Organization to convene a meeting in January to consider if evidence is now strong enough to advise women that the method may increase their risk of getting or transmitting H.I.V.
Such a dynamic has been seen in previous research on why condom promotion in Africa has also not slowed, and may have even increased, the rates of HIV infection. Edward C. Green, formerly of the AIDS Prevention Research Project at Harvard (and a proud liberal), summarized the undeniable evidence in a Washington Post editorial two years ago. It is important to note that these scientific findings apply consistently across studies of the AIDS epidemic in Africa, but not necessarily elsewhere. That evidence, as Green argues, continues to be ignored, as is obvious in today’s report from the response to the new contraception’s flaws:
First, the researchers and others say, greater emphasis should be placed on condom use along with hormonal methods.
It is always a shame when liberals selectively ignore science in favor of their ideologically motivated solutions, but it is far worse when solutions are needed to a global health crisis, and selective ignorance may be causing thousands of infections and deaths. Unfortunately, much of the global health community seems allergic to the idea that a better answer to the AIDS pandemic may be promoting not unrestrained safe sex, but behavioral change.