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Overview

MATRIX: A USAID Project to Advance the Research and Development of Innovative HIV Prevention Products for Women

The word matrix has as its roots the Latin word for mother, mater, and meant womb or uterus. In modern English, it means something within or from which something else originates, develops or takes form.

It’s a fitting name for an endeavor that seeks to leverage the expertise and contributions of nearly 20 partner organizations from the US and Africa with expertise in product development, clinical trials design and implementation, social and behavioral research, stakeholder engagement and market and business case development, working collaboratively to expedite the research and development of HIV prevention products for women, particularly women in sub-Saharan Africa, who continue to be the face of the epidemic in that region.  MATRIX (Microbicide R&D to Advance HIV Prevention Technologies through Responsive Innovation and eXcellence), which was established through the generous support of the American people through the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), is guided by the principle that all activities are grounded in North-South partnerships that aims to realize and strengthen the capacity of African investigators, health systems and the business sector to lead this work and ensure its sustainability into the future.

The mission of MATRIX is to develop a range of acceptable, affordable, scalable and deliverable products to meet the unmet needs of women at risk of HIV. Products being considered as part of MATRIX include long-term implants and injectables, short-acting and on-demand vaginal products that are low cost and may appeal to women who prefer not to use systemic products, and multi-purpose products that may protect against multiple diseases and/or pregnancy. 

Acceptability: MATRIX innovation includes planned integration of end-users and stakeholders’ feedback from the earliest stages of product development and the deliberate intention to conduct early-stage clinical trials in sub- Saharan Africa to gain important insight into the acceptability of different HIV prevention products in the populations that matter most, and to do so much earlier in the process than has been the practice.

Affordability: All products planned for inclusion in MATRIX have a strong focus on affordability. MATRIX employs several strategies to enhance affordability, including extending efficacy windows, reducing costs from clinic visits, exploring the use of non-ARV based options that would not require HIV testing and therefore reduce the cost and/or burden within health systems and leveraging scalable low-cost technologies.

Scalability: The MATRIX portfolio includes products that could feasibly be brought up to scale and manufactured locally and distributed directly to the communities where they are needed. Issues such as product stability, manufacturing complexity and cold chain requirements are among the considerations being examined.

Deliverability: While acceptability and affordability are crucial, delivery is only facilitated when products appeal to and are selected by Ministries of Health (MoH) and funders for inclusion in-country programs. MATRIX plans to engage with MoHs and other policy makers and key stakeholders regarding how the proposed products would fit into country HIV programming plans.

MATRIX activities are taking place in three countries: Kenya, South Africa and Zimbabwe.