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Women Need More Contraception Options That Protect Against Pregnancy, HIV

In this Huffington Post “Black Voices” opinion piece, Vanessa Cullins, vice president for external medical affairs at Planned Parenthood Federation of America, responds to an announcement by the WHO in February that the agency would not revise its contraception guidelines for women living with and at risk of HIV infection based on a “study suggesting that hormonal contraception increases women’s risk of [acquiring and] transmitting HIV to their partners.” A panel found “there was not enough evidence” to support women abandoning hormonal contraception and concluded there should be “no restrictions on hormonal contraception,” Cullins states.

“More than anything, what the brouhaha around this flawed study underscores is the importance of dual protection for couples who wish to avoid unintended pregnancy and prevent HIV transmission,” she writes, adding, “Male and female condoms are the only methods currently available that protect against both” pregnancy and HIV. However, “[w]omen simply need more options” because “[t]oo often, women must rely on men’s condom use to protect them. Too often men’s condom use is inconsistent,” she says. Cullins concludes, “Donors, governments, and the pharmaceutical industry should invest in better technologies to increase the number of options on the market. Women in [the U.S.] and around the world need convenient, affordable access to methods that empower them to prevent unintended pregnancy and HIV” (2/29).