The rubbers may finally be hitting the road.
Used correctly, condoms can help prevent sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and pregnancy alike. But there’s a big problem, especially for women in the developing world: Men often refuse to wear them.
Women in the highest-risk populations don’t always have the capacity to successfully negotiate condom use.
That’s why a new generation of so-called multipurpose prevention technologies (MPTs) could spark a revolution. They would prevent pregnancy and STIs, and be largely in the control of women. MPTs could take various forms: a diaphragm sold together with an HIV prevention gel, an intravaginal ring that releases both pregnancy-preventing hormones and HIV-blocking drugs, and more.
MPTs could put women’s health back into their hands. “Women in the highest-risk populations don’t always have the capacity to successfully negotiate [condom] use with their partner,” says Joseph Romano, scientific adviser to the Coalition Advancing Multipurpose Innovations (CAMI). The implications could be huge. STI rates could fall, and women, untied from their wombs, might choose to have fewer children. That could dampen population growth and ramp up women’s participation in the economy and even school enrollment rates.