Whether hormonal contraceptive use increases the risk of HIV acquisition is still a much debated question. In countries that endure the double challenges of high HIV prevalence and high maternal mortality, the need for safe contraceptives is enormous, yet the meaning of "safe" becomes impossible to parse because of competing risks. Effective contraceptive use in these settings clearly and dramatically reduces maternal mortality. If women--or clinicians or health systems--avoid some contraceptives due to fear of HIV, will overall maternal deaths increase or decrease? The answer may vary by country and population subgroup, and thus general advice for public health policy is paralyzed.
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