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).
Family Planning & Reproductive Health
“Opponents of birth control don’t just want to limit access in the U.S., they want to slash U.S. support for international family planning programs. It’s a perennial debate, and it’s about to start all over again,” Chloe Cooney, director of global advocacy at Planned Parenthood Federation of America, writes in an RH Reality Check blog post. President Obama’s FY 2013 budget “demonstrates the value the administration places on family planning,” as “funding for international family planning programs is preserved,” she writes, noting Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s recent testimony to Congress about the budget proposal, in which “she consistently reiterated the importance of development as a key pillar of our foreign policy and national security strategy” and “the administration’s focus on women and girls as central to these goals.” Cooney concludes, “The president’s budget protects U.S. investments in family planning programs around the world. Now it’s up to Congress to make sure those funds remain intact” (3/5).
“Women who are at risk of unplanned pregnancy are also at risk of HIV, and vice-versa so separation of these services no longer makes sense. The global health community must work to bring family planning and HIV services together — and quickly — to save women’s lives,” by Dana Hovig, chief executive of Marie Stopes International, and Alvaro Bermejo, executive director of the International HIV/AIDS Alliance, write in this RH Reality Check blog post marking International Women’s Day. The authors conclude, “We call on the public to urge leaders to support integration of services in the developing world. We encourage organizations working with us to support the integration of family planning and HIV services” (3/7).
Inter Press Service explores how patriarchal tradition, cultural values, low government health spending, and a lack of access to supplies and education pose challenges to women who wish to obtain family planning services in Cote d’Ivoire. In the West African country, “family planning is widely regarded as a ‘women’s issue’ that husbands do not have to concern themselves with,” therefore, “very few men use the small number of public services on offer, while women continue to struggle to realize their sexual and reproductive rights,” the news service writes. The article discusses a clinic “run by the non-governmental health organization Ivorian Association for Family Well-Being (AIBEF),” which is the “one clinic that offers family planning services free of charge” in Abidjan, the country’s commercial capital (Palitza, 3/15).
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.
USAID on Thursday published a Global Health E-News Mini March Edition in commemoration of International Women’s Day, which was celebrated on Thursday. Topics covered in the special issue include USAID’s new gender policy, launched last week at a White House event; the sixth International Women of Courage Awards, hosted by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, First Lady Michelle Obama, and Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues Melanne Verveer on Thursday; and the role of family planning to reduce poverty (3/8).
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.
WHO Criticized For Not Efficiently Communicating Recommendations On HIV, Contraception To African Women, PlusNews Reports
“HIV organizations, researchers and activists have criticized the WHO and UNAIDS for not clearly communicating [guidelines on HIV and hormonal contraception] to African women, who remain the most affected by the continent’s high HIV prevalence rates,” PlusNews reports. In February, the WHO confirmed its existing recommendations after a study published last year suggested that using hormonal contraceptive injections might double the risk of women acquiring HIV or transmitting the virus to a male partner, according to the news service. “However, because the U.N. agency was unable to definitively rule out the possibility that progesterone-only birth-control shots like Depo-Provera posed no HIV risk, it is now strongly advising women at risk of or living with HIV to use condoms concurrently to prevent HIV infection or transmission,” PlusNews writes.
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.
Political Instability, Humanitarian Crises Reversing Maternal Health Gains In Africa, Health Experts Warn
“Political instability, civil strife and humanitarian crises in Africa have over the past decades reversed countless maternal health development gains on the continent, health experts warn,” Inter Press Service reports. “‘African countries with good maternal health statistics are generally those that have long-term political stability. This shows that stability is a fundamental basis for development. If it doesn’t exist, other priorities overtake,’ Lucien Kouakou, regional director of the International Planned Parenthood Foundation (IPPF) in Africa, told IPS,” the news service writes.