“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).
Family Planning & Reproductive Health
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).
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).
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.
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.
U.N. SG Says Eliminating Discrimination, Providing Nutrition, Health Care Will Help Women Care For Families
“Highlighting the role in women in producing much of the world’s food and caring for the environment, [U.N.] Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, in his message marking the International Day of Rural Women, [Monday] said that eliminating discrimination that prevents rural women from realizing their full potential is crucial to ending global hunger and poverty,” the U.N. News Centre reports (10/15). “In his message, Ban said rural women typically live without the guarantee of basic nutrition, health services, and necessities such as clean water and sanitation,” UPI writes. “When food and nutrition security are improved, rural women have more opportunities to find decent work and provide for the education and health of their children,” Ban said, according to UPI (10/15). VOA News reports on an initiative launched recently by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), the World Food Programme (WFP), and U.N. Women, which aims “to speed economic empowerment and gender equality of rural women,” according to the news service (DeCapua, 10/15).
UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibe “on Wednesday hailed the efforts of the Republic of Congo government in the fight against HIV/AIDS in general, and particularly in the reduction of transmission from mother to child,” Xinhua reports. After meeting with Congolese Health Minister Francois Ibovi, Sidibe said, “The Republic of Congo is one of the African countries that have demonstrated that we can control this infection and that we can significantly reduce the number of new infections. It’s one of the countries that have reduced the rate of new infections by 22 percent and we believe that by 2015, we shall have between two to three percent infections by maximum, something which will be an enormous progress,” according to the news service. He said UNAIDS will support the government’s efforts to prevent mother-to-child transmission and provide treatment to people living with HIV/AIDS in the country, Xinhua notes (10/11).
“If [Republican presidential nominee Gov.] Mitt Romney and his vice-presidential running mate, Representative Paul Ryan, were to win next month’s election, the harm to women’s reproductive rights would extend far beyond the borders of the United States,” a New York Times editorial says. In the U.S., “they would support the recriminalization of abortion with the overturning of Roe v. Wade, and they would limit access to contraception and other services,” according to the editorial, which adds “they have also promised to promote policies abroad that would affect millions of women in the world’s poorest countries, where lack of access to contraception, prenatal care and competent help at childbirth often results in serious illness and thousands of deaths yearly.”
“Between 1970 and 2010, most emerging countries achieved impressive gains in contraceptive coverage,” but, “[b]y contrast, many sub-Saharan African (SSA) countries … have started their contraceptive revolution very late and progress to date has been minimal,” John May, a visiting fellow at the Center for Global Development (CGD), and Jean-Pierre Guengant, researcher emeritus at the Research Institute for Development (IRD) in Marseille, France, write in CGD’s “Global Health Policy” blog. “The widespread belief in SSA that ‘development was the best contraceptive’ has been the major reason why countries did not launch organized family planning programs,” they write, adding, “By and large, the lack of progress in contraceptive coverage has precluded significant decreases in fertility in the region” (10/11).
“Women working as female health care volunteers [FHCVs] often provide a vital service for the poorest in mountainous Nepal, and have contributed to a steady improvement in maternal and neonatal survival rates,” IRIN reports. In Nepal, 52,000 FHCVs work nationwide, often in remote regions, to refer women and children to health centers and help raise money for their trips, according to the news service. Many experts believe the FHCVs have played a key role in reducing Nepal’s maternal mortality ratio and increasing the proportion of births attended by a skilled birth attendant or that take place in a health facility, IRIN notes. “The FCHV program was launched in 1988 in 19 districts in the mid-west (Nepal’s poorest region), with the purpose of improving maternal and neonatal care, according to the Health Ministry,” IRIN writes, adding, “Despite being regarded as key to the state’s public health program, the government provides them with virtually no support” (10/5).