The following are summaries of several opinion pieces published in recognition of Mother’s Day, observed May 13.
Access to Health Services
International Community Should Unite To Ensure Adequate Family Planning Services For Women In West Africa, Globally
“For many years, in large parts of West Africa, the percentage of women who use contraception has stalled at less than 10 percent, leading many to declare that there is very little or no demand for family planning (FP) in the region. This couldn’t be farther from the truth,” Catharine McKaig, project director of family planning at the Maternal and Child Health Integrated Program (MCHIP), the USAID Bureau for Global Health’s flagship maternal, neonatal and child health program, writes in a post in the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s “Impatient Optimists” blog. “Among women — young and old, those who have had many children and those who have had few or none — there is a sea-change happening. These women are expressing their desire for family planning methods, and our approach towards integrating maternal and child health care services with FP is producing results,” she writes, concluding, “It is an optimal moment to unite as a community supporting women’s health worldwide to ensure adequate supply and minimal cost for family planning services to the hundreds of thousands of women in West Africa who are seeking care” (5/10).
“In a move that could lead to a new milestone for treatment in the evolution of the worldwide AIDS epidemic,” a Food and Drug Administration (FDA) panel on Thursday recommended Gilead Sciences’ antiretroviral drug Truvada be approved for pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) to prevent HIV among healthy people at risk of contracting the virus, Reuters reports, noting the drug is already approved to treat HIV infection (Morgan, 5/10). “The panel voted 19-3 to approve the drug for use in gay men and 19-2, with one member abstaining, for heterosexual couples in which one person is HIV-negative,” according to the Wall Street Journal (Dooren, 5/10). “The recommendation is the first time that government advisers have advocated giving antiviral medicine to healthy people who might be exposed through sexual activity to the virus that causes AIDS,” the New York Times writes (Grady, 5/10). Though the FDA is not required to follow the panel’s advice, it usually does, and “[a] final decision is expected by June 15,” the Associated Press/Fox News reports (5/11).
Leading up to Mother’s Day on May 13, the Huffington Post’s “Global Motherhood” section, in partnership with Mothers Day Every Day, an initiative of the White Ribbon Alliance and CARE, is publishing opinion pieces from a diverse group of people. The following are summaries of two of those opinion pieces.
Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF), the largest provider of antiretroviral treatment (ART) in Burma, also known as Myanmar, are calling for the gap between the need for and access to ART in the country to be closed, the Guardian reports. Approximately 240,000 people live with HIV in Burma, and doctors say half are in need of “urgent” ART, but national data estimates less than 30,000 were receiving ART in 2010, the newspaper writes, adding, “In a country where nearly 33 percent of people live below the poverty line, thousands of Burmese are unlikely ever to be able to afford ART, which, according to [MSF], cost $30 a month.”
Ahead of Mother’s Day on May 13, UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibe writes in this post in the Huffington Post’s “Global Motherhood” blog, “Together we can go from 390,000 children becoming infected with HIV each year to zero,” and he highlights “three simple things we can all do to ensure babies everywhere can be born free from HIV.”
U.S. Ambassador to Nigeria Terence McCulley on Tuesday in Abuja, Nigeria, launched a five-year, $224 million USAID program, titled Strengthening Integrated Delivery of HIV/AIDS Services (SIDHAS), that aims to “increas[e] access to high-quality comprehensive HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis prevention, treatment, care and related services through improved efficiencies in service delivery,” the Daily Trust reports (Odeyemi/Odafor, 5/8).
The New York Times examines the Cuban network of sanitariums created to house and treat people living with HIV, “to keep the infected from having sex with anyone uninfected and to help them die comfortably.” Inside the facilities, patients received food, their former salaries, and care, but they could only leave with escorts, the newspaper notes. According to the New York Times, the sanitariums “were harshly criticized — Dr. Jonathan Mann, the first AIDS director at the World Health Organization, called them ‘pretty prisons’ — but they had a huge damping effect on the early epidemic. Fewer than 150 new cases were detected in the country each year through 1990.”
“Despite many gains in the fight against AIDS, children still lag far behind adults in access to important medical services, including HIV prevention, care, and treatment,” Jen Pollakusky, communications analyst at USAID’s Bureau of Global Health Office of HIV/AIDS, writes in USAID’s “IMPACTblog,” noting that Monday marked the 10th anniversary of World AIDS Orphan Day. “By partnering with national governments, communities, and other organizations, USAID is committed to improving the lives of children orphaned and made vulnerable by AIDS — a critical step in the path to achieving an AIDS-free generation,” she writes, adding “we need to step-up our early intervention efforts for children under five years old” and “work with families to help them become more economically stable so they can access essential services and better provide for their children” (5/7).
“If we don’t leverage the power of innovation to transform how health services are provided and utilized, efforts to stop new HIV infections and AIDS-related deaths can reach a stalemate,” UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibe writes in this opinion piece in the Huffington Post’s “Healthy Living” blog. “Many of the advances in HIV prevention and treatment have come through innovation and applying knowledge in new ways,” he continues, highlighting the protective benefits of male circumcision and the introduction of antiretroviral therapy (ART) for people living with HIV.