Clinical trials are underway to test an azithromycin-based combination treatment for pregnant women, “which could tackle some of the leading preventable causes of death for babies in sub-Saharan Africa,” according to researchers from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM), who published a report on Wednesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) showing that “[a] large number of pregnant women in sub-Saharan Africa are infected with both malaria and sexually transmitted/reproductive tract infections (STIs/RTIs),” AlertNet reports (Mollins, 5/15). “The researchers looked at 171 studies from sub-Saharan Africa over a 20-year period, which showed whether women attending antenatal clinics were infected with malaria, or with a range of sexually transmitted and reproductive tract infections — syphilis, gonorrhea, chlamydia and bacterial and parasitic infections of the vagina,” IRIN writes, adding, “If left untreated, these can lead to miscarriages, stillbirths, premature births and low birthweight babies” (5/16).
Family Planning & Reproductive Health
Newly released “estimates of maternal mortality from the United Nations’ Maternal Mortality Estimation Inter-Agency Group (MMEIG) are good news — but not good enough,” Peter Byass, professor of global health at Umea University in Sweden and director of the Umea Centre for Global Health Research, writes in this post in the PLoS “Speaking of Medicine” blog. He briefly discusses the pros and cons of using “estimates” for maternal mortality data, and he concludes, “There is a risk involved for every woman who gets pregnant. But the global community has the knowledge and resources to manage those risks and minimize adverse consequences. Why can’t we stop mothers dying?” (5/16).
Maternal Deaths Drop By Nearly Half Worldwide Over 20 Years; Greater Progress Still Needed, U.N. Reports
“The number of women dying of pregnancy- and childbirth-related complications has almost halved in 20 years, according to new estimates released [on Wednesday] by the United Nations, which stressed that greater progress is still needed in significantly reducing maternal deaths,” the U.N. News Centre reports (5/16). “The report, ‘Trends in Maternal Mortality: 1990 to 2010,’ shows that from 1990 to 2010, the annual number of maternal deaths dropped from more than 543,000 to 287,000 — a decline of 47 percent,” a UNFPA press release states (5/16). However, “[w]hile substantial progress has been achieved in almost all regions, many countries, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, will fail to reach the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) target of reducing maternal death by 75 percent through 2015,” Inter Press Service writes (Deen, 5/16). “Countries in Eastern Asia have made [the] most progress on improving the health of expectant and new mothers, said the report,” Agence France-Presse adds (5/16).
Inter Press Service reports on the Fifth International Parliamentarians’ Conference on the Implementation of the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) program of action, taking place May 24-25 in Istanbul, Turkey. According to the news service, about 300 parliamentarians from six continents will meet to “discuss ‘the progress the world’s governments are making in their efforts to protect and empower women in their reproductive health and rights: a promise they made at the International Conference on Population and Development in 1994 in Cairo,’ says the European Parliamentary Forum (EPF), which is co-organizing the event.”
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, youth activist Cecilia Garcia Ruiz writes, “For six years we’ve worked to shine a spotlight on these key issues, but some people still disregard the importance of providing universal access to quality contraceptive services and information to prevent unplanned pregnancies, especially among young people.” She discusses barriers to accessing contraceptive methods and information, and continues, “These problems not only undermine our well-being, but also hinder our possibilities to develop our full potential. Therefore, young people’s access to contraceptive information and services becomes a human rights issue” (9/13).
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s “Impatient Optimists” blog continues its series, published in partnership with Women Deliver, to recognize World Contraception Day, observed annually on September 26. The following pieces were published recently:
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s “Impatient Optimists” blog, in partnership with Women Deliver, on Wednesday published two posts on youth perspectives to celebrate World Contraception Day, observed annually on September 26. In the first, Yemurai Nyoni, a 22 year old youth advocate for sexual and reproductive health from Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, writes, “[A]s a young person living in Africa, it is often difficult for us to realize our sexual and reproductive health and rights, especially when it comes to family planning,” adding, “As we celebrate World Contraception Day, I call upon African leaders to engage their conscience, apply adequate reason, and take urgent actions to facilitate increased access to and utilization of family planning services by sexually active young people” (9/12). In the second, Janna Oberdorf, a journalist and communications specialist at Women Deliver, writes, “Young people have the right to access accurate and unbiased information about contraception and safe sex, which they need to prevent unwanted pregnancies, sexually transmitted infections (STIs), and improve their lives in a number of ways. … Access to quality health services and supplies and accurate information is a basic right, and young people around the world are beginning to mobilize” (9/12).
In a post on IntraHealth’s “Global Health Blog,” Rebecca Kohler, senior vice president of corporate strategy and development at IntraHealth, writes about an event held last week on the sidelines of the Democratic National Convention (DNC) that “focused on the vital role of women’s health in foreign policy.” She writes, “I was encouraged by the level of commitment to a robust global family planning program on the part of our U.S. Congresswomen and the convention delegates. But I also was inspired by the effective role the U.N. Foundation plays in informing, mobilizing, and activating Americans across the country about critical health and development challenges.” Noting that the Kaiser Family Foundation’s 2012 Survey of Americans on the U.S. Role in Global Health “shows that the more informed the public is about global health issues, and how U.S. foreign assistance is saving lives, the more likely they are to support increased funding for health beyond this country’s borders,” Kohler concludes, “Informed and activated Americans are a driving force for change, and the DNC advocacy event was a great reminder that despite the hyper focus on domestic issues during this campaign, people can and do care about global issues” (9/10).
“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).
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).