August 16, 2022
The spread of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and contraceptive access impact women’s lives, families, communities, and global health in countless ways.
1. Unintended pregnancies affect women and girls’ education access and economic opportunities and can endanger their health.
2. STIs don’t only spread through sexual contact – they can also be passed down from mother to child during pregnancy, childbirth, and breastfeeding.
3. Access to STI diagnostic testing and treatment in many places is limited due to political and/or socioeconomic issues, especially in low- and middle-income countries.
The HIV Burden on Women
In sub-Saharan Africa (the region with the highest HIV incidence rates in the world), women aged 15-49 are almost twice as likely to be living with HIV as men of the same age.
HIV Drug Resistance
In some countries surveyed in Africa, Asia, and Latin America in 2017, over 10% of people starting antiretroviral therapy had a strain of HIV that was resistant to some of the most widely used HIV medicines. People with HIV drug resistance may transmit drug-resistant viruses to others and if they don’t change treatment regimens, the HIV levels in their blood will increase, which could lead to AIDS.
Birth Control Access
53% of Ugandan women want to avoid pregnancy, and 43% want to prevent pregnancy but do not have sufficient access to contraception.
Stigma, Power, and Violence
While condoms can protect against STIs and unintended pregnancy, due to stigma, violence, and power imbalances, women often do not have control over whether or not a condom is used during sexual intercourse. Accessible, stealth solutions to STI protection and contraception are needed to ease STI and unintended pregnancy burden for women and girls throughout the world.
Multipurpose Prevention Technologies
Multipurpose Prevention Technologies (MPTs) are products that can simultaneously prevent STIs and unintended pregnancy. Some examples of MPTs that are in development are vaginal inserts, oral pills, and injections. The development and accessibility of MPTs is especially vital for people who are not always able to use or negotiate condoms, especially if they are afraid or unable to talk to their sexual partner about STI prevention.
STI Prevention to Combat Drug Resistance
In recent years, drug resistance has reduced the options for treatment of STIs such as gonorrhea. There were 82 million new cases of gonorrhea in 2020 and Africa bears a disproportionate share of the global disease burden. Prevention of gonorrhea and other STIs is an important component of the fight against drug resistance. Using STI prevention technologies lowers the overall burden of STIs, leading to a reduction in the transmission of resistant and susceptible pathogens. Mitigating infections means less need to consume drugs like antibiotics, thereby lessening the selection pressure for resistant pathogenic strains.