“Though the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) has been touted as one of our nation’s most successful initiatives in global health (and certainly one of President George W. Bush’s most positive legacies) it continues to miss the mark” when it comes to family planning, global gender specialist and freelance writer Jessica Mack writes in KPLU 88.5’s “Humanosphere” blog. “The essential role of contraception, especially barrier methods, in preventing the spread of HIV/AIDS is intuitive, obvious, and also well documented,” she writes. “While earlier PEPFAR rules did not specifically dictate whether or not funding could be used for contraceptive supplies, the language over the last few years has become increasingly restrictive on this point,” she continues, noting that PEPFAR’s recently released 2013 country operational plan (COP) forbids the use of PEPFAR funds to purchase family planning commodities. Mack concludes, “PEPFAR is simply flying directly in the face of the Global Health Initiative’s vision and the stated objectives of the Obama Administration” (10/25).
Family Planning & Reproductive Health
Aissata Sall Yade, a communications assistant for the Senegal Urban Reproductive Health Initiative, part of IntraHealth International, writes in the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s “Impatient Optimists” blog about Aissatou Dia Fall, a head midwife at Senegal’s Gallo Dia Health Center in Yeumbeul, and her efforts to improve access to health care for women in the community. She has reached out to different organizations for monetary assistance for her clients, Yade notes, adding, “Strategies like Aissatou Dia Fall’s will help improve Senegal’s national contraceptive prevalence rate, which is currently only 12 percent. It will also help reduce one of the world’s highest maternal mortality rates (410 deaths per 100,000 live births) and reduce the fertility rate (an average of five children per woman)” (10/17).
Gender Action recently released a new report (.pdf), titled “Banking on Health: World Bank and African Development Bank Spending on Reproductive Health and HIV/AIDS in Sub-Saharan Africa,” according to the organization’s website. The report, based on fieldwork in Cameroon and Uganda, “reviews World Bank and AfDB projects to highlight how good quality matters as much as high quantity in reproductive and sexual health and HIV/AIDS spending,” the website notes. In addition to the report, Gender Action created a database (.xls) “containing comprehensive information about World Bank and AfDB investments (2000-2012) addressing reproductive health and HIV/AIDS in sub-Saharan African countries,” the website states (10/9).
“South Africa faces significant challenges when it comes to sexual health, and with the high prevalence of rape, teen pregnancy, and sexually transmitted diseases and infections, schools need to implement strong and informative programs on sexuality and contraceptive use,” Jos Dirkx, founder of Girls & Football SA, writes in this post in the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s “Impatient Optimists” blog, published in partnership with Women Deliver as part of a series on youth perspectives to recognize World Contraception Day, observed annually on September 26. She discusses some women’s personal experiences with contraception, and concludes, “Girls & Football SA strongly believes that by creating a safe space through our programming, we are able to present girls with the chance to ask questions, get accurate information and start a dialogue about their bodies, their health, and their sexuality” (9/18).
The U.N. on Wednesday “presented a plan to make life-saving health supplies more accessible, while a new report found that, despite impressive reductions in maternal and child mortality in the past decade in some countries, millions of women and children still die every year from preventable causes,” the U.N. News Centre reports. “With its new plan, the U.N. Commission on Life-Saving Commodities for Women and Children aims to improve access and use of essential medicines, medical devices and health supplies that effectively address causes of death during pregnancy, childbirth and into childhood,” the news service writes (9/26). “Prices for long-acting contraception will be halved for 27 million women in the developing world through [the] new partnership, former President Bill Clinton and other world leaders announced” on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly, the Associated Press writes. “The deal will help avoid almost 30 million unwanted pregnancies and save an estimated $250 million in health costs, the partnership said,” according to the AP (DePasquale, 9/26).
Teen Pregnancies Increasing In Philippines Because Of Lack Of Services, Reproductive Health Information, Experts Say
A “[l]ack of services and information about adolescent reproductive health [in the Philippines] is fueling the rise of teen pregnancies and hurting child survival rates, according to health experts,” IRIN reports. “‘Teenage pregnancy is becoming a great problem in the country. These young mothers are unable to give quality care to their babies, hence these babies usually are sickly and malnourished,’ Jacqueline Kitong, reproductive health adviser in the Philippines for the U.N. Population Fund (UNFPA), told IRIN,” according to the news service.
Inter Press Service examines gender discrimination and mortality in India, writing, “Global infant and child mortality rates have been on the decline in recent years, with a large portion of the world seeing young girls experiencing higher rates of survival than young boys; but India remains the exception to this positive trend.” A new report, “‘Sex Differentials in Childhood Mortality,’ a project of the U.N.’s Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA), reveals that a girl aged between one and five years is 75 percent more likely to die than a boy in India, marking the world’s most extreme gender disparity in child mortality,” according to the news service.
In this Huffington Post “Black Voices” opinion piece, Vanessa Cullins, vice president for external medical affairs at Planned Parenthood Federation of America, responds to an announcement by the WHO in February that the agency would not revise its contraception guidelines for women living with and at risk of HIV infection based on a “study suggesting that hormonal contraception increases women’s risk of [acquiring and] transmitting HIV to their partners.” A panel found “there was not enough evidence” to support women abandoning hormonal contraception and concluded there should be “no restrictions on hormonal contraception,” Cullins states.
“Africa has the highest maternal mortality rates in the world, with 48 percent of all global maternal deaths occurring in this region,” Jotham Musinguzi, regional director of the Partners in Population and Development Africa Regional Office in Kampala, Uganda, writes in an Independent opinion piece. But “[i]f we provide girls, women and their partners with family planning information and services we can empower them to decide the number, timing and spacing of their children — and whether they want to become pregnant at all,” he states, adding, “Intended pregnancies are safer and healthier pregnancies.”
U.S. Ambassador For Global Women’s Issues Speaks About GHI’s Support For Family Planning In CNN Interview
“[F]amily planning is one of the best public health interventions that can be made,” U.S. Ambassador for Global Women’s Issues Melanne Verveer said in an interview with Amar Bakshi, editor of CNN World’s “Global Public Square” (GPS) blog, adding, “It makes such a difference in a woman’s life for her to be able to have the wherewithal — the family planning contraceptives available so that she can decide the size and the spacing of her children.”