The Corner

Contraceptive Increases HIV Risk in African Study

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.

The reasons behind this association are as yet unclear, and may be biological. But to those who have not been blinded by the leftist global health consensus, another explanation seems quite possible: the aggressive promotion of contraception may increase the rates of sex, both protected and unprotected (especially with multiple partners, the main cause of the HIV pandemic).

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.

I would call this a wonderful example of liberals betraying their hallowed rationalist and scientific principles in favor of pushing their true ideology — unfettered freedom, at least with regard to sex — if it weren’t also an enormous human tragedy.

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.

Patrick Brennan was a senior communications official at the Department of Health and Human Services during the Trump administration and is former opinion editor of National Review Online.


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