MPTs 101: Why Youth Providers Need To Know This Term

This is a guest post from The Initiative for Multipurpose Prevention Technologies (IMPT), which is a project of CAMI Health, an organization dedicated to women’s reproductive health and empowerment. CAMI Health is housed at the Public Health Institute (PHI).

If you are an advocate for youth health and wellbeing, you need to know about multipurpose prevention technologies (MPTs) – innovative tools on the horizon to address a gap in the sexual and reproductive health of women and girls. It’s a long name, but there’s a reason behind that. First, these tools are called multipurpose prevention because they simultaneously protect against various combinations of HIV, other sexually transmitted infections (STIs) AND unintended pregnancy. Second, the add-on of technologies illustrates that the field is developing a range of product types that deliver prevention in innovative ways. This includes intravaginal rings, vaginal inserts, films and patches, vaginal gels combined with barrier methods, implants, oral tablets, long-acting injectables…the list goes on!

Sounds cool, right? So now that you know what MPTs are, here are the three reasons why you should care about these products:

1. The Power and Significance of Choice

Everyone has heard of the only MPTs currently available on the market: male and female condoms. While condoms meet the sexual and reproductive health needs of many people, they are currently the only over the counter comprehensive prevention option out there. This is a problem for many, especially among young people who face barriers to their correct and consistent use, like difficulties negotiating their use with partners or disliking their feel during sex. The MPT field aims to address this issue by developing a suite of products that will enable users to choose what method of MPT works best for them, based on their own personal circumstances over the course of their life or as their needs change. Need to use a product discretely? There will be an MPT for that. Having trouble making it to the doctor’s office regularly to fill a prescription? There will be an MPT for that. Trying to start a family but still looking for protection from STIs? There will be an MPT for that, and so on. Thus, MPTs expand choices and options available, making protection more accessible for all.

2. Putting Users at the Center

Fundamental to the principle of ‘choice’ is the idea that people are more likely to use products if they are specifically tailored to their needs, desires, and circumstances. To achieve this, MPT developers need to iteratively collect information based on these factors and integrate it into their design, development, and introduction processes. This approach is standard in many fields, like tech, but has been a less common (and less resourced) practice in the global health space – particularly in sexual and reproductive health. However, for many in this field, the urgent need for such an approach was emblematized in recent microbicide trials by the lack of product adherence among young women. For some trial participants, the products just did not seem to fit into the daily realities of their lives. This experience has added to the momentum felt across the entire sexual and reproductive health field to prioritize and invest in putting users at the center of product development. This approach is well underway for the MPT field.

3. MPTs are the Future

Once available, which some estimate may take five years or longer, MPTs currently in development will be an important part of the sexual and reproductive health prevention arsenal, particularly for young people. All product development, not just that of MPTs, is a long process and sustained commitment is central. In the meantime, the field will rely heavily on advocates like you to champion innovative new MPTs, educate providers and potential users on MPT product options, and keep the momentum going so that creative product development is adequately resourced and sustainable. You can get started today by reading up on the latest developments in the MPT field, integrating a slide on MPTs into a presentation, or even joining the movement!