Microbicides & Improving Maternal Health

HIV/AIDS is the leading cause of death among women of reproductive age (15-44) in the world. 

HIV/AIDS & Maternal Health & Mortality

HIV/AIDS is also one of the leading causes of death for pregnant women and mothers, and is a major barrier to global efforts to reduce maternal mortality. 

HIV worsens during pregnancy

Unfortunately, women in developing countries often do not learn they are infected with HIV until they are pregnant and are tested as part of their antenatal visit. Research suggests that pregnant, HIV-positive women see the disease worsen during their pregnancies.

Reducing maternal mortality is difficult in countries hit hard by HIV

In fact, without HIV, the maternal mortality ratio in sub-Saharan Africa would fall an estimated 4 percent.1

Current strategies are not protecting women and families

Microbicides could support efforts to reduce maternal and child mortality, and help turn these statistics around:

  • One-quarter of all pregnancy-related deaths in sub-Saharan Africa can be linked to HIV, according to a 2013 article in the journal AIDS.2
  • Pregnancy-related mortality is an estimated eight times higher in HIV-positive women than in HIV-negative women, according to the same study.2
  • Young women are especially at risk. For example, in South Africa, nearly 45 percent of pregnant women ages 23-24 are infected with HIV.3
  • About 650 children are infected with HIV every day, and over 90 percent of the world’s pediatric AIDS cases are in sub-Saharan Africa, according to UNAIDS.4

How can microbicides help?

A safe and effective microbicide could provide women with a powerful and urgently needed new tool to protect themselves from HIV without limiting their choices to bear children. 

Current HIV prevention methods such as condoms and abstinence are not realistic options for women who want to have families or who cannot persuade their partners to remain faithful or use condoms.

Microbicides would measurably improve global efforts to fight maternal and child mortality, and help create a safer, healthier world for women, children and families.



1 Trends in Maternal Mortality: 1990 to 2013. Estimates by WHO, UNICEF, UNFPA, The World Bank and the United Nations Population Devision.
2  Calvert C and C Ronsmans. “The contribution of HIV to pregnancy-related mortality: a systematic review and meta-analysis," AIDS 27 (2013): 1631-39
3 Karim SA. "State of the Art: Epidemiology and Access." Presented at International AIDS Conference 2014 .
4 UNAIDS, The Gap Report, 2014