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Putting Prevention in the Hands of Women: Combining Contraception with HIV & STI Prevention

March 08, 2017 | Bethany Young Holt, PhD, MPH

Multipurpose Prevention Technologies (MPTs) are an innovative field of sexual and reproductive health prevention products that can deliver varied combinations of HIV prevention, other STI prevention, and contraception.

In honor of International Women's Day, the Our Bodies, Ourselves blog features a guest post from PHI's Bethany Young Holt, PhD, MPH, director of the Initiative for MPTs (IMPT), a project of our CAMI Health program. In it, she discusses her work leading a global collaboration of researchers, funders, and advocates working toward a new field of women’s health that can deliver broad spectrum prevention: contraception in combination with HIV and other STI prevention. 

This International Women’s Day, it is clear that the global community needs to act boldly to maintain progress we have made in improving the health and well-being of women worldwide. The potential for losing ground on health advances that have improved millions of lives is all too real. One arena of action that can strengthen women’s resiliency in the face of social, economic, and health challenges is a commitment to better sexual and reproductive health prevention.

When women cannot control if and when they have children, when they cannot space and plan births, and when they cannot prevent the range of sexually transmitted infections (STIs), then a series of negative health consequences can compound, creating a pile up of negative health and economic burdens.

Over the past decade, we have seen marked progress in global women’s sexual and reproductive health, especially in the realm of maternal and infant mortality. However, considerable disparities still exist between wealthy and poor communities, with high rates of unintended pregnancy and HIV transmission among some of the world’s most vulnerable women. In Sub-Saharan Africa, rates of HIV among women and adolescent girls remain intractably high, and worldwide over 225 million women have an unmet need for contraception. Rates of unintended pregnancy remain between 40-50% of all pregnancies both in the U.S. and globally. Every day, one million people around the world contract an STI, which can lead to infertility, cancer, and death when left untreated. The impact on children born to mothers with untreated STIs is profound, deadly, and on the rise in areas of the U.S.

To address these challenges, and to prevent maternal and child mortality and morbidity, we must commit to developing new prevention methods that address women’s interlinked health risks. This is not a simple task. To be effective, we cannot simply flood the market with new products and hope women will use them. Instead, we must listen to the needs and preferences of women and adolescent girls themselves and innovate products that address the challenges and barriers that they face in their daily lives.

Read Bethany's full post to learn more about the promise of MPTs to address these challenges.

Want to learn more about the Initiative for Multipurpose Prevention Technologies? Visit their site.

Bethany Young Holt, PhD, MPH is the director of the Initiative for Multipurpose Prevention Technologies (IMPT), a project of PHI's CAMI Health.