International Women's Day: Inspiring Ideas for Women's Health
by Dr. Zeda F. Rosenberg, CEO
Improving women’s health has become central to the global health and human rights agenda, reflecting the crucial role women play in supporting their families’ social, physical and economic well-being.
Nowhere is the need to accelerate progress more urgent than for HIV/AIDS and maternal mortality, which together constitute the two leading causes of death among women of reproductive age worldwide. Nearly 3,000 women and girls become newly infected with HIV each day, and the proportion of young women in sub-Saharan Africa infected with HIV is more than twice as high as that of young men. Every year, 86 million unintended pregnancies result in debilitating complications related to pregnancy and childbirth, including death. Many areas with the highest rates of HIV also have significant unmet need for contraception, creating dangerous dual risks.
When women and girls cannot protect their sexual and reproductive health and fall ill, it hinders their ability to complete an education, work and support their families, which can lead to cycles of illness and poverty.
On International Women’s Day, as the global community considers how best to inspire positive change for women, we highlight research that inspires us, and may soon expand women’s prevention options with tools they could use to manage their health.
Two promising HIV prevention options on the horizon for women include a vaginal gel used around the time of sex that contains the ARV drug tenofovir as well as a monthly vaginal ring developed by IPM that slowly releases the ARV dapivirine over the course of a month. If late-stage clinical trials now under way find these products safe and effective, they could transform the HIV prevention landscape.
Also in development are new integrated products that could offer women simultaneous protection against multiple threats to their sexual and reproductive health. A number of organizations, including CONRAD and the Population Council, as well as IPM, are developing multipurpose prevention technologies (MPTs) in the form of long-acting rings that would protect against unintended pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections, including HIV.
One of the best ways we can honor women – and advance global development – is to renew our commitment to providing women and girls with the new health technologies they need and deserve.