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Women Deliver: Harnessing New Technologies to Improve Women’s Lives

June 8, 2010


The Women Deliver conference (www.womendeliver.org), is running June 7-9 2010 and the GAB team is present! It is a global meeting on maternal and reproductive health and the advancement of women and girls. Tune in today, tomorrow, and Wednesday for live updates directly from the conference floor.

Moderator: Our very own Jessica Mack!

Speakers will discuss how and why innovative technologies can shape the lives of women, especially in the developing world. Speakers will discuss new innovations and technologies in the “pipeline” that could dramatically shift the health and futures of women.

Opening remarks:

Nafis Sadik, Special Advisor to the UN Secretary-General on HIV/AIDS in Asia and the Pacific: When the pill was introduced fifty years ago, women saw how technology could be introduced to help their lives. Women’s control over contraception in developing countries is still not there—just having the technology is not enough. The key is to give undeniable access (they need to be able to control the decision making process) in all of the countries in the developing world. Research and development is taking place, but it is still extremely slow. There is still a huge need for women controlled contraceptive technology that is safe and accessible.

Zeda Rosenberg, Chief Executive Officer, International Partnership for Microbicides (IPM): Researchers are looking at NPTs (HIV prevention technologies). The HIV vaccine field has been reinvigorated but a vaccine is still a ways away. Having a variety of contraceptive methods provides women more options and ensures that they will at least use one of them. One of these new technologies is called the vaginal ring—it is popular in the US because it is safe and long lasting.

Régine Sitruk-Ware, Executive Director of Research and DevelopmentPopulation Council: There is a dual protection in that we aim to prevent sexually transmitted diseases as well as pregnancy. Preventing and decreasing maternal mortality is important if we have effective contraceptives—easier to use, affordable, easy to access. The advantage of the ring is that it’s a user controlled method—the woman herself can put it in without a doctor’s assistance. Another new technology that is in the pipeline is the invisible gel method—it’s delivered through a small system and is rubbed on the arm or the belly—it can stay on for 72 hours. Advantages: it’s invisible, discreet, easy to apply. There are also contraceptive implants being developed for men (probably within the next decade)—one incentive is that it prevents baldness.

Mikkel Vestergaard Frandsen, CEO, Vestergaard Frandsen: One of the major health hurdles of our time was not getting enough people tested for HIV. So we tried giving away a free bed net in exchange for an HIV test. We developed a carepack (bed net, water filter) in order to better reach and inform people in Kenya on HIV prevention, health education, and contraceptives—we managed to reach 80% of our target. It was an eye opening experience because we were able to meet a couple of the MDGs. And the cost saving methods of integration was massive. The potential for using public health tools as an incentive to break stigma is certainly there.

Photo via Women Deliver

Question: Which of these applications/technologies are available over the counter in the U.S.?

Régine: These technologies are not yet approved. The vaginal ring exists and implants for women are approved in the U.S. Our goal is to have them approved for use in the next few years. The male implant is currently in the prototype stage (will probably take 5-6 years).

Question: Men are scared that they might lose their potency, how do we get around this?

Régine: There has been a large survey of 9000 men and the men were asked whether they would use a method if it was available. 55% of the population would be willing to use this method if it were available with variation. The method they chose to use was based on what their partner would use (if the partner used a pill, they would want the pill etc)

Question: What was the impact of the carepack in Western Kenya?

Mikkel: Bed nets were highly used (90%–near record high) and the water filters were also highly used. Condom usage was low, sadly because teenagers were afraid to carry the condoms home.

Question: Are there side effects from the male contraception?

Réginee: The side effects are minimal. We had some aggressiveness that was recorded but these were extremely minimum and didn’t interrupt the treatment. This is a regular development but we respond by tailoring the treatment to have the best benefit ratio.

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