It is estimated that eight million women are infected with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) worldwide. Heterosexual transmission is the predominant mode of HIV transmission on a global basis and is becoming increasingly important in the Western world. Women have long used contraceptives as a means of protection against an unwanted pregnancy, some of which may also protect against sexually transmitted disease (STD) including HIV. We review the relationship between contraceptive methods and STD acquisition and transmission; HIV acquisition and transmission; and the implications of contraceptive use, particularly regarding disease progression, in those women who are already infected with the virus. It is important for all women that protection against both unwanted pregnancy and HIV acquisition and transmission are considered together and not in isolation as nowhere is the argument for a broad based multi-disciplinary approach more cogent.