This post was written by IMPT Secretariat Project Coordinator, Kathreen Daria, to share a personal connection to this work. Names have been changed to ensure confidentiality.
“It finally happened! We had sex! And how romantic that it was on Valentine’s Day, right?” Jen, one of the first friends I made in college, could barely contain herself as she shared this news while walking with me to the university café. She then hesitated, “The only thing is, he didn’t have a condom. Do you think I’ll be okay?”
Valentine’s Day, not surprisingly, is a popular day to have sex. According to CNN’s Valentine’s Day, by the numbers, 85% of women and men claim that sex is an important part of the holiday. Moreover, according to Statista’s 2017 survey, 32% of respondents expressed “yes,” they will likely have sex on Valentine’s Day, and 25% percent of women and 40% of men stated they would “probably have sex” on the holiday. However, if Cupid’s arrow strikes, as it often does on February 14th all over the world, the reality is that many do so unprotected – whether it is due to lack of access or simply a dislike of product options. And with risks like HIV, other STIs, and unintended pregnancy, lack of protection can really put a damper on that sexy Valentine’s Day encounter.
While Jen did not say the actual words, I could see in her eyes that she feared getting an STI or facing a pregnancy that she was not ready for. Indeed, the risks of HIV, other STIs, and unintended pregnancy are ever-present worldwide, with young women being particularly vulnerable. And Jen is certainly not alone in her risk. A U.S. survey of 2,000 current and former college students revealed that 15% of respondents said they never use a condom. Furthermore, this same cohort reported having more sexual partners than those who stated that they always use protection.
Stories like Jen’s, and those of other girls and women living their own unique realities, are a reminder of the importance of accelerating research and development for a suite of MPT products that better addresses their sexual and reproductive health needs. This Valentine’s Day – and every other day – as people around the world are having sex, we recognize the global need for MPTs. With new comprehensive tools at their disposal, we can better ensure that women are empowered to protect themselves from the interlinked risks of HIV, other STIs, and unintended pregnancy. With an MPT, we can make Valentine’s Day even sexier – worry-free, and with women and girls in control.
Through this platform our staff will also share the very real stories and reasons they dedicate their lives to this work. Look out for our upcoming staff series!