Key Messages That We Can All Get Behind
When discussing the value of NPTs, we need to avoid over-simplifications of their (potential) link to "women's empowerment." Although NPTs may empower some women in some situations, they won't bring about universal sexual empowerment.
NPTs should not be seen as a "quick fix" solution nor should they distract attention from the need for social change and multi-level interventions that address gender inequality, poverty, and other forms of discrimination that make women more vulnerable.8,10 It is clear that NPTs will not have an impact unless the underlying social, economic, political and cultural conditions that make women more vulnerable in the first place are tackled. Addressing these conditions will also help remove the barriers that prevent women from using these new prevention options.
Therefore, NPTs must be offered within a comprehensive approach to HIV prevention -- one that balances structural changes (such as poverty reduction and gender equality), expanding and strengthening existing prevention strategies (such as behavioural interventions and the distribution of male and female condoms) and NPTs (such as PrEP and microbicides).
Frontline service providers and policy-makers need to understand the potential gender dynamics that will influence if and how women will use NPTs as they become available. Clearly, biomedical tools cannot replace women's sexual and reproductive autonomy, but they could provide the means by which women exercise such autonomy.
San Patten is a health research and evaluation consultant who has worked extensively on issues relating to injection drug use, the sex trade, and new HIV prevention technologies. San completed a master's degree in Community Health Sciences at the University of Calgary, is an adjunct professor in Sociology at Mount Allison University (specializing in social policy and non-profit leadership), and is a co-investigator of the Centre for HIV Prevention Social Research at the University of Toronto.
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