Background: In vitro, animal, biological and observational clinical studies suggest that some hormonal methods, particularly depot medroxyprogesterone acetate - DMPA, may increase women's risk of HIV acquisition. DMPA is the most common contraceptive used in many countries worst affected by the HIV epidemic. To provide robust evidence for contraceptive decision-making among women, clinicians and planners, we are conducting the Evidence for Contraceptive Options and HIV Outcomes (ECHO) study in four countries with high HIV incidence and DMPA use: Kenya, South Africa, Swaziland, and Zambia (Clinical Trials.gov identifier NCT02550067). Study design: We randomized HIV negative, sexually active women 16-35 years old requesting effective contraception and agreeing to participate to either DMPA, the copper T 380A intrauterine device or levonorgestrel implant. Participants attend a contraception support visit after 1 month and quarterly visits thereafter for up to 18 months. Participants receive a standard HIV prevention package and contraceptive side-effect management at each visit. The primary outcome is HIV seroconversion. Secondary outcomes include pregnancy, serious adverse events and method discontinuation. The sample size of 7800 women provides 80% power to detect a 50% relative increase in HIV risk between any of the three method pairs, assuming 250 incident infections per comparison. Ethical considerations: Several WHO consultations have concluded that current evidence on HIV risk associated with DMPA is inconclusive and that a randomized trial is needed to guide policy, counselling and choice. Previous studies suggest that women without a specific contraceptive preference are willing to accept randomization to different contraceptive methods. Stringent performance standards are monitored by an independent data and safety monitoring board approximately every 6 months. The study has been conducted with extensive stakeholder engagement. Conclusions: The ECHO study is designed to provide robust evidence on the relative risks (HIV acquisition) and benefits (pregnancy prevention) between three effective contraceptive methods.
Keywords: DMPA; HIV acquisition; IUD; contraception; effectiveness; implants; randomized trial.