In the News
PHI Writes in the San Francisco Chronicle About Multipurpose Prevention Technologies to Protect Women from HIV and Unwanted Pregnancy
At this week’s International AIDS Conference, activists and leaders will debate “what’s next” in the battle against HIV/AIDS. They should consider Alicia, a young woman in Alameda County, where AIDS is now the leading cause of death among African American females age 20 to 40. Alicia’s boyfriend doesn’t like wearing condoms, so they don’t always use them. She doesn’t want to get pregnant, but even if she goes on the pill, she’ll remain at risk for HIV and other sexually transmitted infections. Her health, even her life, will be jeopardy. The need for HIV prevention and contraception go hand in hand for many women. This is not only true for African American women in Alameda County, but for women across the globe. AIDS is now the leading cause of death among women of reproductive age. But the only widely available product that protects against HIV and pregnancy at the same time is the condom, a device invented for men centuries ago. Too often, this means women’s lives are in the hands of their male partners. There are new products on the horizon that combine contraception with HIV and sexually transmitted disease protection and put women back in control. One day soon, Alicia could use a vaginal ring that contains both a hormonal contraceptive and an antiretroviral drug to prevent HIV transmission. Or she could use a gel or get a shot for the same protection. With one product, she could keep herself safe from both HIV and unwanted pregnancy – and the decision would be in her hands. In the United States, 1 in 32 African American women will be diagnosed with HIV in their lifetime. Globally, women represent half of those living with HIV. Nearly half of pregnancies in the United States are unintended. In the developing world more than one-third of pregnancies are unintended. Multipurpose prevention technologies are clearly one of the smartest strategies for HIV/AIDS prevention and family planning. Many of these technologies are in development or early stage clinical trials right now. (The female condom, the first such device for women, continues to gain traction although limitations prevent its widespread use.) Making sure new technologies get into the hands of women should be a top priority for those fighting for women’s reproductive health. The Coalition Advancing Multipurpose Innovations at the Oakland’s Public Health Institute is coordinating organizations from across the globe to identify the most promising new technologies and bring them to market. In the legislation Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, introduced in the House last week, multipurpose technologies are included as one of many urgently needed HIV prevention interventions. But time is of the essence. Women’s lives are on the line and it’s time for U.S. and international leaders, including those at the International AIDS Conference, to dedicate the necessary political and financial resources to get safe and effective prevention technologies to women as soon as possible. In the centuries since the invention of the condom, modern technology has put a man on the moon and given us the Internet and the polio vaccine. We can certainly invent a simple and affordable product that allows Alicia – and millions of women across the world – to control how many children they have and to protect themselves from HIV. Let’s not keep them waiting much longer.
Originally published by San Francisco Chronicle