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MPT Field Investments & Collaborations are Assets for Global Sexual Health

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Fatima Riaz
Kathryn Stewart
Tuesday, September 4, 2018

This post first appeared on the Initiative for MPTs' blog.

Recently, on World Sexual Health Day, we at the IMPT reflect on how to work with partners to improve sexual health across the globe. There are many things that could be done, many different approaches, and many people we can work with towards this goal. Here, at the IMPT, we see multipurpose prevention technologies (MPTs) to be one such promising strategy with the potential to improve the sexual health – and lives – of women and their families across the globe.

Sexual and reproductive health risks, such as unintended pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections, including HIV, are intrinsically interlinked. Yet, the current mix of prevention options has fallen short in protecting the sexual health of millions of women. The innovative work being done to advance prevention science, including the development of MPTs, is essential to better meet sexual health needs and improve countless lives. The price of innovation is steep and the time horizon is long, but the end result has the potential to be game changing.

Sustained investment in prevention science is crucial for both the roll-out of existing prevention methods, as well as the development of new and effective technologies, like MPTs. The IMPT, led by the IMPT Secretariat, has partnered with the Resource Tracking for HIV Prevention R&D Working Group to monitor investments that support MPTs and the wider field of HIV prevention on an annual basis.

Since its inception in 2004, the Resource Tracking for HIV Prevention R&D Working Group, hereby referred to as the Working Group, has tracked US$17 billion of investments in biomedical HIV prevention research and analyzed funding trends across various prevention technologies, research stages, and sectors. This multi-tiered analysis of global investment flows is crucial for evaluating public policies, improving transparency, and furnishing facts for advocacy. As the HIV prevention toolbox has expanded, so has the mandate of the Working Group and the scope of our resource tracking efforts.

Substantial growth of the MPT pipeline coupled with an ever-present concern about the risk of STIs and unintended pregnancy in women, heralded the beginning of a partnership between the IMPT and the Working Group. From 2013 onwards, in a unique collaboration defined by a shared commitment to prevention science, knowledge and data-sharing, the IMPT and the Working Group have collated and analyzed close to US$142 million in funding for the advancement of MPT products. Expanding the scope of the Working Group’s original mandate, grants relevant to MPT R&D are also collected during the annual outreach to funders and implementers of HIV prevention science. This engenders a more efficient and streamlined method for data collection and the monitoring of field-wide investment trends.

Funding trends for MPT R&D reflect the rapid pace with which the field has grown – to cover two dozen new products and a 52 percent increase from 2013 levels when the resource tracking partnership began. While annual investments have averaged at US$37 million, overall funding dropped for the first time in 2016 by 14 percent to US$40 million. The US public sector remains the predominant funder of MPT research, primarily through the NIH and USAID, and accounting for 63 percent, 74 percent, and 67 percent of all overall investments in 2014, 2015, and 2016 respectively. Philanthropic investment in MPT research totaled US$4 million in 2016. Compared to the preceding year, private sector investment fell in 2016 and represented 10 percent of overall investment in MPT research.

The MPT field has seen a remarkable increase in investment in the last five years. However, the recent decrease in investment in prevention science, including MPTs, is concerning and should not be ignored. Advocates need to reinvigorate support for this important work and push for the investment needed to drive cutting edge and life changing science that will improve the sexual health of millions worldwide. The IMPT and the Working Group will continue to work together to monitor the progress of the fields and hope to see the needed resources committed to advancing prevention science and saving lives.

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Since 2000, the Resource Tracking for HIV Prevention R&D Working Group (formerly the HIV Vaccines & Microbicides Resource Tracking Working Group) has employed a comprehensive methodology to track trends in research and development (R&D) investments and expenditures for biomedical HIV prevention options. AVAC leads the secretariat of the Working Group, that also includes the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative (IAVI) and the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS).

More information about the growth and investment in the MPT field can be accessed in the 2017 IMPT Annual Report.

About the Authors
Fatima Riaz is the Program Coordinator for Research and Data Analytics at AVAC and has an MPH from Columbia University and a certification in Global Health Delivery from Harvard University. Her career started as a student health advocate in Pakistan where she founded and led a national polio advocacy campaign, and has since worked with the World Bank, the International Rescue Committee and UNICEF on diverse issues like WASH, violence prevention and maternal child health.

Kathryn Stewart is Deputy Director for CAMI/IMPT and has a Master's in Public Policy from UC Berkeley with a special focus on maternal and child health. She also holds a BA in Politics and International Relations from Scripps College. Kathryn applies her 20-year experience in sexual and reproductive health prevention, policy, and research to coordinate a spectrum of projects aimed to advance the development and introduction of multipurpose prevention technologies (MPTs).