Wednesday, 25 September 2019
September 26 is World Contraception Day, and there is no better time to celebrate the importance of family planning in the lives of people around the world. In recent decades, there have been significant advancements in access and technology that have expanded individuals’ ability to make decisions about their own sexual and reproductive health. It is critical that advocates, policymakers, and other stakeholders work to maintain these hard-fought gains and drive new ones.
One proven way to do this is to invest in research and development (R&D) of sexual and reproductive health interventions, including in particular for innovative technologies that simultaneously offer pregnancy, HIV, and other STI prevention. Such R&D support would impact the lives of millions of people here and abroad. Key areas that could and should be improved through R&D are:
The need for innovation is urgent. There are 214 million women of reproductive age around the world who want to avoid a pregnancy and are not using a modern contraceptive method. Globally, unintended pregnancies contribute to poor maternal and child health and can carry steep social and economic costs for women in their families. In the United States, just under half of all pregnancies—some 2.8 million—are unintended. HIV/AIDS also plays a significant role in the lives of women and girls around the world.
There are 19.6 million women and girls living with HIV, including 240,000 in the United States. This group accounts for one in five new HIV infections in the United States, with notable disparities by race, ethnicity, and age. It is estimated that more than a million cases of STIs are acquired every day around the world, and in the United States the prevalence of chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis have been increasing rapidly in recent years. STIs can lead to cervical cancer, infertility, poor pregnancy and birth outcomes, and increased risk of acquiring new or transmitting existing STIs, including HIV. Given the prevalence and risks of STIs, effective and varied prevention strategies are crucial.
Multipurpose prevention technologies (MPTs) are products that simultaneously offer pregnancy, HIV, and other STI prevention. Right now, women’s only options for simultaneous protection against unintended pregnancy, HIV, and other STIs are external and internal condoms, which depend on the cooperation of a male partner. These two options are likely not meeting all women’s needs or preferences. R&D supports the development of multiple types of MPTs that, together, could better address individuals’ needs and preferences.
Although there has been significant progress in the development of new prevention methods in recent years, continued support for R&D is critical. National governments have an important role to play in developing innovative and complex technologies, as the profit potential of these drugs is uncertain and few pharmaceutical companies are developing them. Going forward, it is critical that the United States and other governments continue to support R&D in sexual and reproductive health in order to ensure continued progress advancing the health and rights of women everywhere.
This is a guest post from The Guttmacher Institute, a leading research and policy organization committed to advancing sexual and reproductive health and rights in the United States and globally. We envision a world in which all people are able to exercise their rights and responsibilities regarding sexual behavior and reproduction freely and with dignity. Connect through Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.
Heather D. Boonstra is the Director of Public Policy at the Guttmacher Institute. She oversees the Institute’s advocacy efforts to advance sexual and reproductive health and rights, which are designed to bring evidence to bear on policy and program development in the United States and globally. Ms. Boonstra is also the Editor-in-Chief of the Institute’s policy journal, the Guttmacher Policy Review.
Leah H. Keller is the Senior Policy Editorial Assistant at the Guttmacher Institute. She provides research and editorial assistance for materials and projects that analyze legislative, regulatory and judicial actions on a range of sexual and reproductive health and rights policy issues at the federal level. Ms. Keller also provides editorial assistance to the Guttmacher Policy Review.