World Contraception Day: New Tools Could Pay Off for Women’s Health

By Dr. Zeda Rosenberg, CEO, International Partnership for Microbicides

As we observe this World Contraception Day, let us acknowledge two simple truths. First, women’s family planning needs are not an isolated aspect of their health but an integral part of their overall health.

The 225 million women in developing countries who want to plan their pregnancies but lack access to modern contraceptive methods face an extraordinary and avoidable high risk of maternal mortality – one of the leading causes of death among women of reproductive age.

The second truth: When women are empowered to stay healthy, their families and communities are far more likely to prosper. Over and over, we have seen that women who have greater control over their own health are better able to care for and educate their children, and to contribute to inclusive economies and sustainable communities.

As work to close the gap in women’s access to existing contraceptive methods continues, it remains equally crucial to respond to women’s unmet needs by investing in new technologies they can use to protect their health in innovative ways.

At the International Partnership for Microbicides (IPM), we are committed to developing life-saving products for women, including those designed to overcome two of the greatest threats to their sexual and reproductive health: unintended pregnancy and HIV. Because women in areas with high rates of HIV often also lack access to family planning methods, we and others in the field are developing multipurpose prevention tools to address both risks simultaneously.

Important progress was made this year when two large clinical trials showed that IPM’s monthly vaginal ring can reduce the risk of HIV in women. The ring, which releases an antiretroviral drug called dapivirine, is the first ring to show efficacy against HIV and serves as a platform technology for a dapivirine-contraceptive ring that could one day give women a way to protect themselves against dual threats to their health with one long-acting tool. IPM’s three-month dapivirine-contraceptive ring is scheduled to enter its first clinical study in early 2017, led by our clinical trial partner, the Microbicide Trials Network.

World Contraception Day is an opportunity to recognize the progress made for women and their families, and the work that lies ahead. As we also mark the first year of the Sustainable Development Goals, it is an important reminder that investing in women’s sexual and reproductive health not only advances their overall health but is central to any meaningful effort toward a thriving and sustainable world.