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Hormones May Increase Aids Spread

Tue., Oct. 1, 1996

Hormones used in injected and implanted contraceptives might make women more susceptible to getting infected with the AIDS virus during sex, a study of monkeys suggests.

Monkeys were given implants of progesterone, which resembles synthetic hormones used in the injected contraceptive Depo-Provera and the implanted contraceptive Norplant. Those monkeys became far more vulnerable to vaginal infection with the monkey AIDS virus than untreated monkeys were.

The Associated Press reported the results in May when they were presented at a meeting of researchers. The study is now being published in the October issue of the journal Nature Medicine.

Robert Spirtas, chief of the contraceptive and reproductive evaluation branch of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, said last week that it’s not clear whether the monkey results apply to women.

Scientists are investigating that now, he said.

“We don’t recommend that women change their contraceptive practices,” he said.

Spirtas noted that hormone-based contraceptives don’t offer protection against the AIDS virus as condoms do. “If a woman knows or thinks she’s in a risky situation … she should protect herself,” he said.

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