The EECO team hopes that targeted marketing and education will lead to an increased interest in female condom products, and thus more protected sex. Photo: PSI
Imagine a woman named Cynthia who lives in Malawi.
Cynthia’s boyfriend Ben doesn’t like to use condoms. And she doesn’t feel like she can insist on condom use. At 20 years old, Cynthia dreams of finishing her studies before having kids. She doesn’t want to get pregnant right now, or risk contracting HIV. Without the use of condoms, Cynthia feels she has few options.
Cynthia is an archetype, a fictional character typical of a broader group. Globally, there are many women like Cynthia who lack negotiating power within their relationship to insist on condom use. Women account for just over half of the 37 million people worldwide who are living with HIV or AIDS1. In sub-Saharan Africa, the rate of new infection disproportionately affects women, with the highest burden among young women ages 15-242. Condoms are a well-known method of preventing both sexually transmitted infections and unintended pregnancy, but for many women, this isn’t an option. Due to this gender-based inequality, there is a dire need for methods that are woman-initiated.
The idea of male contraception has been around for 60 years. Gregory Pincus, the co-inventor of the female contraceptive pill, tested the same hormonal approach on men in 1957, and various hormonal and non-hormonal methods have been explored since. Based on side effects and other research complications, there are still only two reliable, non-hormonal contraceptives on the market for men today: condoms and vasectomy.
FHI 360 | Distinguished Scientist and Director, Contraceptive Technology Innovation
As contraceptive product developers, we should support development of contraceptive options that rapidly and reliably eliminate bleeding to offer women a liberating choice.
This piece was originally published by the CTI Exchange blog, Exchanges.
Menarche—the onset of menstruation—is a rite of passage for young girls everywhere. In many cultures, this milestone of womanhood comes with celebrations steeped in tradition. But following the ritual comes the reality of having to manage this aspect of being female for 40 or more years.
Worldwide, women refer to menstruation in various ways, reflecting their many attitudes toward it. Where I grew up in northeastern Pennsylvania, my family and friends called it the “curse” (in my opinion, for good reason). And, as much as many women dread “Aunt Flo’s” monthly visit, they have come to rely on their “friend” as a confirmation they are not pregnant. Others see it as affirmation of womanhood or view it as a natural and necessary means of cleansing to remove accumulated blood.
Injectable contraceptives are used by more than 50 million women globally. In much of sub-Saharan Africa, they are the most commonly used family planning method. The most popular version, Depo-Provera (depot-medroxyprogesterone acetate, or DMPA), is administered intramuscularly (IM) or subcutaneously (SC) every three months. The SC form is marketed globally as Sayana® or Sayana® Press.
Injectable contraceptives appeal to many women because of their relatively long duration of action (one to three months depending on formulation), high effectiveness (>94%), and ease and discreet nature of administration.
After being embedded in reproductive health work for 15+ years, I’ve found myself intrigued by the novelty of male contraception. I accepted a position on the Board of Male Contraception Initiative (MCI) two years ago, and then stepped in during a leadership gap as Interim Executive Director at the end of 2017.
The time has come for innovation in the contraception space. Don’t get me wrong—I love the Pill and LARCs, but they all rely on interrupting female hormonal cycles. And think about it: There has been little to no innovation in contraception since the ‘50s, and it’s 2018.
After the Pill hit the market and sparked a virtual revolution in women’s lives, researchers invented new ways to deliver hormones, including injectables, implants, patches, and hormonal IUDs. Women now have an array of hormonal contraceptive choices with the ensuing side effects. Because this method of action—the interruption of the menstrual cycle using hormones—is so effective, there has been little research on non-hormonal contraception with fewer side effects for either men or women to date.