Ten years ago, the field of multipurpose prevention technologies (MPTs) was born. This new field was conceptualized to build upon decades of foundational research in contraception and microbicides for HIV prevention in women; but 2009 marked a recognition of the urgent need to bridge the silos between the fields of contraception, HIV, and other STIs, while simultaneously leveraging resources and expertise, to prepare for a meaningful fieldwide push toward MPT development and introduction. What was previously just an idea to work toward creating a novel suite of products to help women protect themselves from HIV, other STIs and unintended pregnancy, became a reality.
MPTs are safe, effective, accessible, and acceptable tools for women that combine prevention of at least two sexual and reproductive health (SRH) risks, including HIV, other STIs, and unintended pregnancy. Despite important advances in the family planning, STI prevention, and HIV prevention fields, condoms were the only available method for comprehensive SRH protection at the founding of the MPT field in 2009, and remain a critical component of the method mix today. Taking a page from the family planning field, however, the MPT field was founded on the idea that a ‘suite’ of multipurpose prevention products would better meet a woman’s needs throughout her life course.
In the early days of the MPT field, it was acknowledged that developing such comprehensive products required reconciling technical challenges with the complex realities of women’s lives through a determined, well-coordinated effort. Launched in tandem with the MPT field, the Initiative for MPTs (IMPT) was founded in 2009 to facilitate this momentous effort. The product-neutral IMPT learning network continues to be a key driving force behind this nascent industry, with the IMPT Secretariat at its helm.
In order to jumpstart the field, in 2009 the IMPT Secretariat collaborated with a core group of network partners to write a brief entitled: “Saving Lives with Multipurpose Prevention Technologies: Turning Ideas into Solutions for Sexual and Reproductive Health” published in 2010. Reconciling the inherent complexities of combining prevention against multiple SRH indications into a single product with the promise of such products to improve the lives of women worldwide, the brief outlined the following recommendations for the MPT field:
- 1) Increase collaboration and resources across disciplines;
- 2) Plan deliberately and early; and
- 3) Increase awareness and support for MPTs.
With the IMPT leading the charge, the MPT field has seen tremendous progress in the past decade. This retrospective report will utilize each of the three recommendations from the “Saving Lives” brief–first published close to ten years ago–to reflect on the ways in which the IMPT has facilitated progress in the MPT field; bringing an innovative suite of MPTs continually closer to reality.
Today, thanks to the collaborative efforts of product developers, funders, researchers, and advocates, over two dozen MPTs are in development–including intravaginal rings, fast-dissolving vaginal films, gels, implants, IUDs, and co-encapsulated tablets. Through technical consultations and think tank meetings with partners in HIV and STI prevention as well as family planning, the IMPT remains committed to identifying and prioritizing key technical and market challenges as well as research gaps, while simultaneously garnering increased and sustainable financial support for the MPT field.