Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

When Condoms Are Not Enough

December 16, 2013

Anashe and Carol are two young women living half a world apart, but with a lot in common: their risks for HIV, unplanned pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections are high and their options for protection are limited.

Anashe, 23, lives in Johannesburg, South Africa with her husband and their young son. Like 92 percent of heterosexual people around the world in committed relationships, they don’t use condoms. Anashe has traveled far to get a long-lasting birth control implant so she can space her children, but she knows that this offers no protection from HIV. 

Carol is 19. She lives with housemates in New York City, USA. She has no children but wants to some day. She used condoms while dating, but once she and her boyfriend were together for a while she switched to the pill and their condom use dropped off. That is when she contracted chlamydia. Approximately 100 million people around the world get chlamydia every year. If Carol remains untreated, her risk for infertility increases and she is 3-5 times more likely to become infected with HIV.

Currently, male and female condoms are the only prevention tools for sexually active people that simultaneously offer contraception with HIV and STI prevention. Only condoms can prevent a sexually active young woman from becoming one of the 86 million women who have an unplanned pregnancy every year while at the same time protecting her from contracting HIV, which a young woman does every minute.

Both male and female condoms require male partner cooperation, and while condoms are extremely effective if used consistently and correctly, couples overwhelmingly forgo condoms once they are in a more committed partnership. It is clearly time to innovate new female initiated products that offer multipurpose prevention of HIV, STIs and unplanned pregnancy.

The Case for MPTs Infographic

The good news is that the move is on to advance Multipurpose Prevention Technologies (MPTs)—a new class of prevention that combines family planning and prevention of HIV and other STIs in easy to use, female initiated methods.

The Initiative for Multipurpose Prevention Technologies (IMPT) is an international collaboration that brings together researchers, funders, developers and women’s health advocates across the world to expand and develop the field of MPTs.

The initiative invites input from women around the world to ensure that developers integrate concerns and input about demand, acceptability, and access throughout the product development process. This collaboration enables greater collective impact through shared findings and avoiding duplication. In a recent San Francisco Chronicle Op Ed, Manjula Lusti-Narasimhan and I argue that in order to create products that meet women’s interlinked SRH needs, we need greater collaboration between HIV and reproductive health research and funding.

Just imagine if women who want to avoid an unplanned pregnancy were at the same time able to also easily protect themselves from HIV and other STIs. Anashe told us she is very excited to learn about MPTs in development and looks forward to their availability. MPTs will surely be a game-changer for women and their families.

Join us as we create a concerted international effort to make MPTs a standard tool in women’s healthcare to address the interlinked reproductive health needs of women everywhere. We have created a new infographic that explains more about the need for MPTs—how they solve pressing health problems—and also illustrates the range of MPTs in development. We invite you to share it and support MPTs.

blog comments powered by Disqus