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MPTs, the way to go for Sub-Saharan women


Multipurpose prevention technologies (MPTs) have been described as the best prevention for pregnancy, HIV and or Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) for women especially those in the Sub Saharan region.

MPTs are gels, intravaginal rings (IVRs), or barrier devices used with a gel or film that have a combination of contraceptive, microbicidal and/or anti-sexually transmitted infection (STI) properties with different mechanisms of action that act to prevent pregnancy, HIV and/or STIs.

The call to adopt MPTs surfaced at a Brown Bag event hosted by UNICEF Zimbabwe in the capital last week.

Speaking at the event, Dr Nyaradzo  Mgodi, Project Director at UZ-UCSF said women in Sub Saharan Africa are more vulnerable to the AIDS pandemic

Women are disproportionately affected by HIV/AIDS due to a combination of biology, gender inequality and socio-cultural norms. In sub-Saharan Africa, the epicenter of the AIDS epidemic, young women are twice as likely to become infected with HIV as young men,” she said.

Against this background of high HIV prevalence in Sub Saharan Africa, she urged women to adopt MPTs.

“Women in areas with high rates of HIV often have the greatest unmet need for contraception. New MPTs now being developed address these dual risks, and may give women tools they can use to protect their health and better their lives,” she said.

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She also said, “A significant number of women, especially in developing countries, need protection from STIs, in particular HIV/AIDS, as well as family planning methods to prevent unplanned pregnancies.”

In 2013, 24.7 million people in Sub Saharan Africa were living with HIV .Women account for about 60% of HIV infections, with the majority of infections transmitted via sexual intercourse.

She also applauded MPTs saying they allow people to avoid more than one adverse health income.

“Some prevention strategies have focused largely on single indications, namely, the prevention of unplanned pregnancy, prevention of STIs. This approach does not adequately recognise the intrinsic link between unplanned pregnancy and STIs. A woman at risk of an unplanned pregnancy is often simultaneously at risk for an STI, including HIV, or other RTI.

“Thus, there is a critical need for multipurpose prevention technologies that will allow people to avoid more than one adverse health outcome,” she said.

Meanwhile existing MPTs such as male and female condoms are extremely effective when they can be used; many women cannot negotiate condom use.

New MPTs including vaginal gels, long-acting rings and new types of barrier devices — could expand options for discreet, female-initiated prevention methods and  may also help promote increased integration in health care delivery.

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Journalist based in Harare

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