October 23, 2014
This week a new issue of the journal BJOG: An international Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology published a suite of articles (all open access) on the future of “multipurpose” options that would provide both contraception and protection against HIV and/or other sexually transmitted infections. It is a strong series of updates related to the science and policy of new product development and an excellent overview of the state of play of this critical area of work.
For decades, advocates working on both HIV prevention and sexual and reproductive health have spoken about the need for strategies that multiple issues, multiple needs. This is true for all people—our bodies require many types of care and treatment, and the more places we have to go to get what we need, the more likely it is that something… doesn’t get taken care of. It is particularly true for women, who have urgent needs for HIV prevention and contraception that is safe, effective and discrete. HIV positive women have similar needs—that extend to HIV treatment that works with their contraception.
The contributions include one from Helen Rees, leader of the Wits Reproductive Health and HIV Institute and long-time women’s health advocate Anna Forbes on “Policy implications for multipurpose prevention technologies service delivery“. AVAC Executive Director contributed a piece, “Condoms: the multipurpose prevention technologies that already exist“. The full volume is also available.
A blog post on the issues quotes Heather Boonstra, Director of Public Policy at the Guttmacher Institute, Washington, DC, USA, and lead author of the review paper:
“The evidence strongly indicates that providing women with effective new tools to simultaneously prevent unwanted pregnancy as well as STIs and HIV is essential. However, just developing these methods is not enough. They need to be designed and marketed in a way that meets the needs and respects the rights of women and their partners. Ultimately, MPTs will only be viable options if women actually use them.
“To succeed, MPTs must adequately address concerns that cause many women to reject other modern contraceptive methods, taking into account women’s perceptions of risk for unintended pregnancy, HIV and other STIs. Any successful strategy must also acknowledge that women’s needs change over time, and a suite of MPT options may be needed to provide women with choices.”