U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton “expressed concern” over Uganda’s increasing number of HIV infections on a visit to the country last week, part of an 11-day trip to eight African nations, Uganda’s New Vision reports (Mukasa, 8/4). According to the Observer, Clinton “said while America recognizes the strides Uganda made in the 1990s when HIV prevalence dropped from 20 percent to seven percent, prevalence is now rising.” PEPFAR is the largest donor for HIV programs in the country, the newspaper notes, adding that “[t]he U.S. government recently committed $25 million to help Uganda eliminate mother-to-child HIV transmission and … [m]ore than 300,000 Ugandans are receiving treatment through PEPFAR” (Mwesigye, 8/5). “The reversal is particularly disappointing to health experts given the time and attention that have been focused on AIDS here, and the billions of dollars spent,” the New York Times writes (Kron, 8/2). “I am hoping that we can work together to make prevention the focus again. We are going to review our strategy because we want to emphasize what will work,” Clinton said, according to the Observer (8/5).
Family Planning & Reproductive Health
“The United Nations has urged the Philippines to pass a bill that will allow the government to provide free contraceptives,” BBC News reports (8/5). “UNFPA country coordinator Ugochi Florence Daniels said the [reproductive health (RH)] bill is important for the Philippines to achieve its health-related targets in the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs),” including maternal health, HIV/AIDS and infant mortality, the Philippine Star writes (Crisostomo, 8/4). “The House of Representatives plans to decide Tuesday whether to end debate on the bill and put it to a vote,” the Associated Press/Seattle Times notes (Gomez, 8/5).
As part of its monthly series Stories Behind the Statistics, “guest edited by FHI 360 on behalf of USAID’S IYWG, which provides technical leadership to improve the reproductive and sexual health of young people,” the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s “Impatient Optimists” blog features a story by Gaj Bahadur Gurung, program coordinator for the National Federation of Women Living with HIV and AIDS in Nepal, who discusses the impact of adolescent pregnancy on girls and young women in South Asia. He writes, “Policies and programs must both help prevent early and unintended pregnancy (for married and unmarried women) and mitigate the negative consequences for girls who do become pregnant. Programs should provide young women access to, control over, and informed choice of their sexual and maternal health services” (8/3).
IRIN Examines Conditional Cash Transfer Program Aimed At improving Maternal Health In The Philippines
“A nationwide conditional cash transfer program in the Philippines is slowly improving maternal health, but more is needed to reverse the climbing maternal mortality ratio, say women’s groups,” IRIN reports. “Known locally as ‘Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program’ (4Ps), five-year conditional cash transfers (CCTs) were first rolled out in 2007 as a pilot program to cut poverty,” the news service writes, adding, “Now, with a budget of $227 million, the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) aims to make CCTs available to 5.2 million eligible households by 2015.”
On the first stop of a 10-day tour of Africa, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton stopped at the Phillipe Maguilen Senghor Health Center in Dakar, Senegal, where Awa Marie Coll-Seck, the country’s minister of health, “explained to Secretary Clinton how these operational centers dramatically improve maternal and child health,” according to a post in USAID’s “IMPACTblog.” Coll-Seck “also noted that USAID-supported distribution of insecticide impregnated mosquito nets across the country had drastically reduced the incidence of malaria,” according to the blog, which adds that Clinton “was pleased to hear that the United States is playing a key role in helping meet one of its biggest challenges: decentralizing services so they are available at the village level throughout the country.” In an address several hours later, “Clinton invoked the Senghor center … saying she was highly impressed by the integrated nature of the facility” and that “[i]t was a successful model she hoped could be duplicated throughout Senegal and the entire West African region” (Taylor, 8/1).
“With one billion people chronically hungry and Earth’s population expected to increase by 50 percent before the end of the century, it’s time to get serious about family planning,” a Los Angeles Times editorial states. “At one point, the prevailing wisdom was that nations needed robust birthrates to protect their economic welfare, and that if only we could produce food more efficiently, feeding the Earth’s burgeoning population wouldn’t be a problem,” it continues, adding, “Now â€¦ we know better. Or we ought to.” The editorial continues, “No one has a good solution. That’s why family planning assistance is one of the most important forms of humanitarian aid that the United States and other developed nations can provide.” It concludes, “Without the necessary resources and an existing economy prepared to absorb large numbers of new workers, nations that promote high birthrates set themselves up for economic distress and political unrest” (8/10).
African Leaders, International Community Must Act On Commitments Made At London Family Planning Summit
In this UNFPA opinion piece, Babatunde Osotimehin, U.N. under-secretary-general and UNFPA executive director, and Sharon Camp, president and CEO of the Guttmacher Institute, reflect on last month’s London Summit on Family Planning, where “leaders from 18 African countries made unprecedented commitments — financially and politically — to strengthen their family planning programs,” and highlight “[a] new study by the Guttmacher Institute and UNFPA [that] shows there has been minimal progress in addressing the contraceptive needs of African women during the past four years.” They discuss uneven progress “in meeting the demand for contraceptive services” across the continent and write, “Now it is up to all of Africa’s leaders and the international community to do their part through a sustained commitment to improving the provision of contraceptive services” (8/7).
In a post in the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s “Impatient Optimists” blog, Perri Sutton, an associate program officer on the family planning team at foundation, discusses Senegal’s history of contraceptive stock-outs and Minister of Health Awa Marie Coll-Seck’s plan to “fix the problems that result in stock-outs and ensure that women have access to the full range of contraceptive options.” In pilot tests of an “informed push” model of contraceptive distribution, “[n]ot only have stock-outs been eliminated across the clinics involved, but the average weekly dispensing of a variety of contraceptives has increased dramatically,” Sutton says, adding, “As this system is rolled out across the country, Senegal will have confidence in national estimates of future demand for each product.” She concludes, “Every woman deserves the ability to decide whether, when and how many children she has. Senegal’s Minister of Health is taking bold action to provide the women of her nation with this life-saving opportunity” (8/8).
Politico examines the Republican Party’s stance on abortion policy compared with abortion laws in other countries worldwide, stating, “No other nation in the Western world restricts abortion as severely as the Republican Party is calling for in its draft platform.” The article cites statistics regarding other nations’ abortion-related laws from the U.N. report “World Abortion Policies 2011.” According to Politico, “Mitt Romney, the presumed Republican nominee, says he does not support a ban on abortions under any circumstances. He has said it should be allowed in cases of rape or incest. But the Republican National Committee slapped him down.” The article continues, “‘This is the platform of the Republican Party,’ committee Chairman Reince Priebus told MSNBC on Tuesday. ‘It’s not the platform of Mitt Romney'” (Brinkley, 8/27).
Bloomberg News examines family planning in the Philippines, where “[o]ne in five women of reproductive age … have an unmet family planning need, the U.N. Population Fund says, leading to unintended pregnancies and population growth twice the Asian average.” The article focuses on a reproductive health bill in the country’s congress that would allow for “free or subsidized contraception, especially for the poor.” The bill “has been re-filed and blocked in each three-year congressional term since it was introduced in legislature 14 years ago amid opposition from the Catholic Church,” according to Bloomberg. However, with support from President Benigno Aquino, the bill “may be put to a vote in congress in three months,” the news service notes (Khan/Aquino, 3/27).