This paper presents the public health rationale for multipurpose prevention technologies (MPTs) for sexual and reproductive health (SRH) based on regional trends in demographic and SRH indicators. It then distils important lessons gleaned from the introduction of contraceptive and reproductive health products over the past several decades in order to inform the development and future introduction of MPTs for SRH.
A comparison of current demographic and public health regional data clearly revealed that the greatest confluence of women’s SRH concerns occurs in sub-Saharan Africa and South/West Asia. These regional overlaps of SRH risks and outcomes present a strong rationale for developing MPTs designed to simultaneously protect against unintended pregnancy, HIV and other STIs. Information from acceptability, marketing, and operations research on the female condom, emergency contraception, pills and intravaginal rings identified key product characteristics and socio-behavioral issues to be considered in the development and introduction of MPTs. Product characteristics such as formulation, duration of action, presence and magnitude of side effects, prescription status (over-the-counter vs. prescribed), provider type and training and user perspectives, all contributed in varying degrees to both provider and user bias, and subsequent uptake of these family planning methods. Underlying socio-behavioral issues, including risk perception, ambivalence, and social costs also contributed to demand and use. Early identification of target populations will be critical to market shaping, demand creation and defining appropriate service delivery channels for MPTs. Ultimately, knowledge, attitudes, perceptions and practices of users (and their partners) will drive the success- or failure- of product introduction.
MPTs provide a compelling response to the multiple and reinforcing SRH risks faced by women in key regions of the world, but specific product characteristics and their socio-behavioral correlates must be taken into account early in the development process. Successful introduction of new MPTs will require solid understanding of socio-behavioral correlates, effective demand generation, appropriate integration into health service delivery systems, quality counseling for proper use and active engagement of both public and private sectors. This article is based on a presentation at the “Product Development Workshop 2013: HIV and Multipurpose Prevention Technologies,” held in Arlington, Virginia on February 21-22, 2013. It forms part of a special supplement to Antiviral Research.