Council Commentary

Multipurpose Prevention Technologies: The Future of HIV and STI Protection

Every day, more than 1 million people are newly infected with sexually transmitted infections (STIs) that can lead to morbidity, mortality, and an increased risk of HIV acquisition. Strategies including behavior change, condom promotion, and therapy have not reduced STIs worldwide, pointing to the need for novel approaches that prevent both HIV and STIs.

In a new paper published in Trends in Microbiology, the Population Council and partners explore the role of key STIs in increasing susceptibility to HIV; new biomedical prevention approaches including topical microbicides and multipurpose prevention technologies (MPTs); and the scientific and regulatory hurdles that must be overcome to make combination HIV/STI prevention a reality.

Council researchers are leveraging decades of experience in sexual and reproductive health to develop MPTs—new all-in-one tools designed to protect against STIs, including HIV, and in some cases, unintended pregnancy, with a single product. 

The need for novel combination prevention tools is matched only by the complexity of developing and licensing them.  MPTs must be carefully tested and developed to ensure they are safe and effective and meet the real life needs of the people who need them most. In addition, complex regulatory issues specific to these new technologies must be clarified and addressed to facilitate their regulatory approval, and access plans must be a part of the development pathway before combination prevention becomes a reality.

“Products that prevent sexually transmitted infections, including HIV must be a research and development priority,” said José Romero, a scientist at the Center for Biomedical Research at the Population Council and lead author of the paper. “Protecting the sexual health of women and men around the world will require ongoing efforts to develop accessible and user-friendly options to prevent the major threats to sexual health.”

Learn more about the Council’s efforts to develop MPTs: popcouncil.org/mpts