Most Sexual & Reproductive Health Research Financing Comes From 3 Major Donors – And COVID-19 Could Further Shrink Funding
A doctor explains contraceptives to a young girl at the Sukhbaatar District Health Center, Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia.

Funding for research into sexual and reproductive health issues, ranging from HIV/AIDs to pregnancy prevention, comes from only three major donors, and the global recession caused by COVID-19 may shrink the funding landscape further.

“There’s a clear gap in investment to research and develop new products to meet people’s needs in low-resource settings. With a few funders stepping in to fill this gap, there are missed opportunities to make a real impact on the lives of people in LMICs,” said Nick Chapman, CEO of Policy Cures Research, the group that produces the annual G-FINDER reports.

“Looking to the future, not only are unprecedented funding levels being funneled towards COVID-19, but an impending global recession will undoubtedly have an impact on future development funding commitments and available funding to address other global health issues, like SRH,” added Chapman, in a press release.

The new G-FINDER Sexual & Reproductive Health report released Thursday also found that in 2018, US $1.4 billion of the US $1.7 billion invested in the area went towards HIV/AIDS research, dwarfing the paltry US $71 million that went towards all other sexually transmitted infection research worldwide.

“Strong global advocacy” and “sustained investment” have helped HIV/AIDS stay high on funders’ radars, said Maya Goldstein, lead author on the report.

But issues such as human papillomavirus (HPV) and HPV-related cervical cancer, the fourth most common cancer in the world, received just $52m in R&D funding in 2018. Maternal killers such as postpartum haemorrhage (PPH) and pre-eclampsia, a dangerous hypertensive disorder in pregnancy, received only US $4.4 million and US $12 million respectively in 2018.

The United States National Institutes for Health (NIH), the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and the pharmaceutical industry represent the most significant donors to sexual and reproductive health research. The US NIH funded about two-thirds of the US $1.7 billion total investment.

“There’s a clear need and opportunity for more private and public sector investors to contribute,” said Goldstein. “The magnitude of [the top funders’] investments compared with others signals perhaps too heavy a reliance on a few organisations to support SRH innovation.”



Image Credits: UNFPA/Andrew Cullen.

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