Prevention Research and Pregnant Populations: An urgent plan for action

March 7, 2023

International Women’s Day is on March 8 and its 2023 #EmbraceEquity campaign put the question of justice and inclusion first and foremost. AVAC is right there to champion the call. At the just-concluded Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections (CROI), the sessions were filled with data showing the urgency to meet the needs of women and gender diverse populations for their health and wellness. See our CROI round-up, especially the section Women and Choice: The data say yes!

While incidence of HIV and other health threats, social and economic barriers, and gender-based violence have destructive effects on women around the world, research is making strides in developing interventions that can and should offer women powerful choices for HIV prevention and the protection of their overall health (be sure to check out the updates from the DELIVER and B-Protected studies!). But critical gaps remain.

Pregnancy and the post-partum period are times of heightened HIV risk. Cisgender women are two to three times more likely to acquire HIV during pregnancy per exposure and four times more likely post-partum than otherwise. People who acquire HIV during pregnancy have an 18 percent chance of transmitting HIV to their newborn, which goes up to a 27 percent chance if they acquire HIV while breastfeeding.

download the report

Yet, HIV prevention options for pregnant and breastfeeding/lactating people and populations (PLP) are limited, and their inclusion in research inadequate—hence evidence gaps can be seen across the research landscape for new prevention products.

The Coalition to Accelerate and Support Prevention Research (CASPR), AVAC and partners are proud to jointly release with PHASES, our latest effort to take aim at one of these gaps and close them. Advancing HIV Prevention Research in Pregnant and Lactating People (PLP): Think Tank Report & Action Plan identifies priority goals to advance the responsible study of HIV prevention in PLP, a population that must be better served by the research enterprise. Realizing these goals requires sustained multi-stakeholder collaboration, including a central role for advocates and community voices at every stage.

The action plan includes calls for using a reproductive justice framework to work collaboratively in advancing the research agenda, implementing Good Participatory Practice in trials that center PLP, greater resources to support ethics bodies and for the harmonization of regulatory frameworks to support a research agenda for PLP. It is building on a growing consensus and evidence that safe, inclusive and ethical research among PLP is imperative.

It’s time to move from exclusion to fair inclusion. We hope you’ll join us in supporting this action plan. Reach out to AVAC to share information on relevant initiatives and stay tuned for opportunities to learn more and engage!