Ahead of the London Summit on Family Planning on July 11, Gary Darmstadt, head of the Family Health Division of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, examines barriers to contraceptive use in this post in the foundation’s “Impatient Optimists” blog. “Poor collaboration in recent years means that donors have not been aligned and, as such, there has been inadequate, inconsistent and unpredictable funding for family planning programs globally,” he states, adding, “The other recurring theme of existing barriers is the lack of information at all levels — global, national, and community level — about the health benefits of planning and spacing children and the available methods to do that.” He concludes, “[U]nderstanding the problem and barriers to planning a family is the first step in establishing an ambitious yet achievable goal and mobilizing the global community behind it” (7/5).
Access to Health Services
Noting that the Supreme Court last week upheld the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act, “mov[ing] the United States closer to the goal of health coverage for all,” Pulitzer Prize-winning author Tina Rosenberg reports on health care coverage in Rwanda in this post in the New York Times’ “Opinionator” blog. She writes, “The point is not that Americans should envy Rwanda’s health system,” but “Rwanda’s experience illustrates the value of universal health insurance.” “‘Its health gains in the last decade are among the most dramatic the world has seen in the last 50 years,’ said Peter Drobac, the director in Rwanda for the Boston-based Partners in Health, which works extensively with the Rwandan health system,” she continues, and she adds, “It couldn’t have happened without health insurance.”
NPR’s “All Things Considered” examines HIV/AIDS treatment progress in developing countries, where the high cost of the “triple-drug regimens that were routinely saving the lives of patients in wealthier countries,” and logistical issues, such as ensuring patients would take their medication on time, led some experts to say HIV treatment was “impossible” in the earlier years of the epidemic. “But in fact, in places like Uganda and Haiti, some intrepid doctors were showing that the then-costly AIDS drug cocktails could save lives there, too,” according to the program, which profiles Francois St. Ker, a 44-year-old AIDS patient in Haiti who “was on the brink of death from AIDS when the American doctor Paul Farmer started treating him with new HIV drugs” in 2001.
NPR’s “All Things Considered” on Tuesday featured an interview of U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator Ambassador Eric Goosby by host Robert Siegel. Goosby discusses PEPFAR’s success at treating people living with HIV/AIDS in other countries, including Haiti, Rwanda, and Botswana, as well as the cost of treatment. Goosby said, “[I]n the time that President Obama’s administration has taken over the helm of PEPFAR, we have gone from 1.7 million people on treatment to close to four million people on treatment. Our ability to identify, enter and retain these individuals in treatment programs is mapped out. We know where we’re going. We know what groups we have to increase our testing and outreach efforts in, and I am confident we will meet all of the World AIDS Day goals with the current budget setting.” A complete transcript and audio of the interview is available online (7/3).
VOA News profiles the recently established Vietnam Clinical HIV/AIDS Society (VCHAS), among the first professional medical organizations of any type in Vietnam. VCHAS “was set up with support from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control through the Harvard Medical School AIDS Initiative, as part of the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief,” VOA notes.
In this audio report in PRI’s “The World,” PRI anchor “Aaron Schachter talks to Agnes Odhiambo, a researcher on women’s rights in Africa for New York-based Human Rights Watch, about the terrible toll of teenage pregnancy and childbirth in Africa.” “Teenage pregnancy is an issue of pandemic proportions in Africa,” Odhiambo said, adding, “Teenage pregnancy is really an issue that has serious negative consequences for girls, for the development of communities and for the development of cultures.” She discussed progress toward reducing maternal deaths in various African countries and said that a number of factors contribute to maternal mortality, including a lack of sexual education for young girls, some traditional practices, such as early marriage, and the inadequate provision of health services (7/3).
Former President Bush In Zambia, Botswana To Promote Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon Initiative To Fight Cervical Cancer
Former President George W. Bush and former first lady Laura Bush are traveling in Zambia and Botswana this week to promote “the Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon initiative spearheaded by his foundation that seeks to expand cervical and breast cancer screening and treatment in sub-Saharan Africa,” CNN reports. In Kabwe, Zambia, Bush helped “refurbish a clinic used to screen, diagnose and treat cervical cancer,” and in the capital of Lusaka, he dedicated a cancer center at a university teaching hospital and met with government and health care leaders, according to the news service. On Wednesday, Bush will launch a similar clinic in Botswana, CNN notes (7/1). While in Kabwe, Bush told journalists that concerted efforts should be made to address cervical cancer, in a way similar to how HIV/AIDS is being addressed, the Times of Zambia reports (Namaiko, 7/3).
Annual Report On MDGs Shows Success In Some Areas, But Continued Lack Of Progress In Other Areas, Including Maternal Health
“An annual report card [.pdf] on the ambitious U.N.-led initiative known as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) says that in three areas — poverty, slums and water — the goals have been met ahead of the 2015 deadline, but persistent gaps remain, notably in the critical area of maternal health,” Inter Press Service reports (Cortes, 7/2). “The eight MDGs, agreed by world leaders at a U.N. summit in 2000, set specific targets on poverty alleviation, education, gender equality, child and maternal health, environmental stability, HIV/AIDS reduction, and a ‘Global Partnership for Development,'” the U.N. News Centre notes.
In the second post in a series titled “Imagine a World…,” posted on the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s “Impatient Optimists” blog, Faustina Fynn-Nyame, director of Marie Stopes International in Ghana, discusses reproductive health in Ghana, writing, “For some women here, choices about reproductive health are something they take for granted,” but “other women in Ghana — indeed most — are not able to do this.” She continues, “So, with our partners, we work hard to give more women equal access to contraception and sexual and reproductive health services, right here, with our own countrywomen,” and highlights several ways in which they are working to accomplish this goal (7/2).
The London Summit on Family Planning, co-sponsored by the U.K. government and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation with support from UNFPA and other partners, is scheduled to take place next week. The following blog posts address the summit and the issue of family planning.