It’s about choice. All women, no matter where they live, should have access to a range of contraceptive options that allows them to make an informed choice and meets their needs—for the sake of their own health and the health of their children and communities. Because when a woman finds the right contraceptive, it changes her life.
Today in Burkina Faso, in the heart of West Africa, a new form of contraceptive is being launched to do just that. Sayana Press, which PATH helped to develop, has the potential to reach tens of thousands of women who want the choice of an injectable contraceptive, but who live far from clinics where the injections are given.
Sayana Press combines a lower-dose formulation of the widely used contraceptive Depo-Provera® with the BD Uniject™ injection system. Uniject, which PATH developed, is a small, prefilled syringe that is easy to transport, easy to use, and designed to reach people wherever they live.
Meeting a need in family planning
Almost a quarter of married women in Burkina Faso want to use family planning to space their children or to stop having them altogether but don’t have access to a form of contraception that meets their needs. These women well understand the value of family planning.
They know that women are healthier when they can space and time births—and so are their children. In fact, family planning is lifesaving: if every woman in the world had access to contraceptives that would allow them to delay motherhood, space births, and prevent unintended pregnancies, up to one-third of all maternal deaths could be prevented.
What women want
Injectable contraceptives are particularly popular in Burkina Faso and other African countries because they’re convenient and discreet, and each injection lasts three months, so there is nothing to remember to do every day.
How much do women want them? Some years back I worked on a project that made Depo-Provera more widely available in Uganda. Women were so excited to have the product available to them through community midwives that they literally jumped up and down.
Our recent research shows that health care providers like Sayana Press, too. In acceptability studies conducted by PATH and our partners, well over 80 percent said that Sayana Press was easier to prepare, administer, and dispose of than traditional injections of Depo-Provera.
A commitment to family planning
Country governments that administer health care programs want improved access to injectable contraceptives as well. The Sayana Press initiative was prompted by the 2012 London Summit on Family Planning, where the First Lady of Burkina Faso, Chantal Campaoré, called on the global community to join Burkina Faso in a commitment to improve access to family planning to create “better prospects for millions of women and children.”
While PATH, the United Nations Population Fund, and other members of this collaborative effort helped Burkina Faso reach this day, the introduction is firmly led by the country’s Ministry of Health. Sayana Press will be delivered by health workers in four regions who already travel to villages for monthly vaccination campaigns, as well as through health clinics.
Today is the beginning
Preparing for this launch was tremendously complex, with governments, United Nations agencies, Pfizer, and large and small funders involved. Yet not one of us could have done it on our own. PATH has, in essence, conducted an orchestra of talented and committed players. It’s been a privilege for my team to play that role.
Before the year is out, Niger, Senegal, and Uganda will also introduce Sayana Press. For the next two years, we’ll monitor progress and help ministries of health decide whether and how to include Sayana Press in their family planning programs.
Today’s launch is the result of years of planning, but it’s only the beginning for women who deserve a new way to change their lives for the better.