“Kenya has launched an investigation after researchers claimed HIV-positive women were being routinely sterilized without their consent in government hospitals,” the Guardian reports. The African Gender and Media Initiative issued a report “based on interviews with 40 women, suggest[ing] the practice was widespread and ongoing,” according to the newspaper. “The report also includes examples of coercive tactics used by medical staff to obtain consent — for instance, threatening to withhold antiretroviral medication or baby milk if the woman did not agree to the procedure,” the newspaper writes. “‘These allegations are very serious and the Kenya Medical Practitioners and Dentists Board is going to investigate them before appropriate action is taken,’ Shariff Shahnaz, the director of public health, told the Daily Nation newspaper,” the Guardian reports (Mojtehedzadeh, 9/4).
Family Planning & Reproductive Health
In the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s “Impatient Optimists” blog, Gary Darmstadt, Monica Kerrigan, and Wendy Prosser of the foundation discuss a new partnership announced on Wednesday at the U.N. to improve access to contraceptive implants for women in the developing world. The program, part of the FP2020 initiative to increase access to modern contraceptives, “will save the lives of hundreds of thousands of mothers and children and prevent millions of unwanted pregnancies by giving women access to information, supplies and services to delay, space and limit her births,” they write. “This new development puts the power in women’s hands with information, services and contraceptive methods they need and want,” they state, concluding, “Most importantly, though, it allows women in some of the poorest regions of the world the chance to make their own choices about how to plan their families” (9/27).
“Supplies — the essential medicines and medical equipment frontline health workers need to successfully do their jobs — are a vital part of the solution to saving the lives of mothers and newborns,” Catharine Taylor, a maternal health expert with PATH, writes in the Huffington Post’s “Global Motherhood” blog, adding, “And yet, they are frequently overlooked in the ongoing conversation about how to improve maternal health in the developing world.” She continues, “All the skilled health care workers in the world can’t deliver the care women need if a clinic’s stock is empty and the next round of supplies is weeks away. Reliable availability of maternal health medicines and supplies will ultimately strengthen health care systems and make frontline health workers more effective.”
“A report [.pdf] on Afghanistan backed by UNICEF shows the country still has leaps and bounds to go in the areas of maternal and child health and education,” GlobalPost’s “Rights” blog reports. “Nearly 46 percent of women between ages 20 and 24 gave birth to a child before their eighteenth birthday in the Western regions of Afghanistan, and one in four women in the country overall delivered a live birth before reaching adulthood,” the report states, according to the blog. “‘Alarmingly, two percent have had a live birth before the age of 15,’ says the report,” the blog writes, adding, “These women were child brides, sold or given to husbands before reaching maturity. The practice is illegal in Afghanistan, but the tradition remains firmly implanted in certain rural tribal regions of the country to the detriment of both mothers and children.”
Despite Uganda’s national HIV prevention campaign that endorses the “ABC-plus” model â€“ “which includes abstinence, being faithful and condom use, as well as measures to prevent the mother-to-child-transmission of HIV and, more recently, methods such as medical male circumcision” — many young Ugandans do not use condoms consistently during sex, “spurring new measures to promote the prophylactic,” PlusNews reports. “The country’s HIV prevention strategies have been called into question following a rise in HIV prevalence from 6.4 percent to 7.3 percent over the past five years,” the news service writes. The article discusses how many students are more fearful of pregnancy than sexually transmitted infections, including HIV, and use emergency hormonal contraception on a regular basis. PlusNews also highlights peer education campaigns aimed at improving condom use rates and knowledge about HIV prevention (9/21).
Melinda Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof continue to answer readers’ questions in this second installment on Kristof’s “On the Ground” blog. Gates and Kristof answer questions about corruption and contraception in Bangladesh, where Gates recently visited, and why more efforts are not being concentrated on children in the U.S. (1/11).
PBS NewsHour on Monday aired the second installment in its “Food for 9 Billion” series, in which “Sam Eaton of Homelands Productions goes to the fishing village of Humay-Humay” in the Philippines and “speaks with families about their concerns that future generations won’t enjoy the same access to fish as a food staple and way of life,” the PBS NewsHour blog “The Rundown” reports. The video report looks at how “one organization is making birth control more readily accessible to those wishing to keep their families small,” according to the blog.
A U.S. Embassy statement on Saturday said the U.S. would provide nearly $1 billion to Bangladesh over the next five years “towards alleviating poverty and malnutrition, as well as family planning and the fight against infectious diseases,” Reuters reports. “The funds will also be used to support research in improving farm productivity and deal with the impact of climate change,” the news service writes, adding, “As of 2011, the U.S. government has provided over $5.7 billion in development assistance to Bangladesh” (Quadir, 1/14).
Al Jazeera’s “101 East” reports on how, “[a]s China faces social dilemmas such as a widening gender imbalance, it is considering loosening its [so-called] one-child policy.” According to the 25-minute video program, “China’s fertility rate is below the replacement level, providing fewer workers to support a rapidly growing elderly population,” and “with a cultural preference for boys, China faces an alarming gender imbalance with projections of 30 million more men than women by 2020” (Nettleton, 1/5).
“After a period of substantial decline, the global abortion rate has stalled, according to new research from the Guttmacher Institute and the World Health Organization (WHO)” published in the Lancet on Wednesday, a Guttmacher press release reports. “Between 1995 and 2003, the overall number of abortions per 1,000 women of childbearing age (15-44 years) dropped from 35 to 29” but, “according to the new study, the global abortion rate in 2008 was virtually unchanged, at 28 per 1,000,” the press release states. “This plateau coincides with a slowdown, documented by the United Nations, in contraceptive uptake, which has been especially marked in developing countries,” according to the press release. “The researchers also found that nearly half of all abortions worldwide are unsafe, … almost all unsafe abortions occur in the developing world,” and “restrictive abortion laws are not associated with lower rates of abortion,” the press release adds (1/18).