“The United Nations has urged the Philippines to pass a bill that will allow the government to provide free contraceptives,” BBC News reports (8/5). “UNFPA country coordinator Ugochi Florence Daniels said the [reproductive health (RH)] bill is important for the Philippines to achieve its health-related targets in the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs),” including maternal health, HIV/AIDS and infant mortality, the Philippine Star writes (Crisostomo, 8/4). “The House of Representatives plans to decide Tuesday whether to end debate on the bill and put it to a vote,” the Associated Press/Seattle Times notes (Gomez, 8/5).
Family Planning & Reproductive Health
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton “expressed concern” over Uganda’s increasing number of HIV infections on a visit to the country last week, part of an 11-day trip to eight African nations, Uganda’s New Vision reports (Mukasa, 8/4). According to the Observer, Clinton “said while America recognizes the strides Uganda made in the 1990s when HIV prevalence dropped from 20 percent to seven percent, prevalence is now rising.” PEPFAR is the largest donor for HIV programs in the country, the newspaper notes, adding that “[t]he U.S. government recently committed $25 million to help Uganda eliminate mother-to-child HIV transmission and … [m]ore than 300,000 Ugandans are receiving treatment through PEPFAR” (Mwesigye, 8/5). “The reversal is particularly disappointing to health experts given the time and attention that have been focused on AIDS here, and the billions of dollars spent,” the New York Times writes (Kron, 8/2). “I am hoping that we can work together to make prevention the focus again. We are going to review our strategy because we want to emphasize what will work,” Clinton said, according to the Observer (8/5).
On the first stop of a 10-day tour of Africa, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton stopped at the Phillipe Maguilen Senghor Health Center in Dakar, Senegal, where Awa Marie Coll-Seck, the country’s minister of health, “explained to Secretary Clinton how these operational centers dramatically improve maternal and child health,” according to a post in USAID’s “IMPACTblog.” Coll-Seck “also noted that USAID-supported distribution of insecticide impregnated mosquito nets across the country had drastically reduced the incidence of malaria,” according to the blog, which adds that Clinton “was pleased to hear that the United States is playing a key role in helping meet one of its biggest challenges: decentralizing services so they are available at the village level throughout the country.” In an address several hours later, “Clinton invoked the Senghor center … saying she was highly impressed by the integrated nature of the facility” and that “[i]t was a successful model she hoped could be duplicated throughout Senegal and the entire West African region” (Taylor, 8/1).
IRIN Examines Conditional Cash Transfer Program Aimed At improving Maternal Health In The Philippines
“A nationwide conditional cash transfer program in the Philippines is slowly improving maternal health, but more is needed to reverse the climbing maternal mortality ratio, say women’s groups,” IRIN reports. “Known locally as ‘Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program’ (4Ps), five-year conditional cash transfers (CCTs) were first rolled out in 2007 as a pilot program to cut poverty,” the news service writes, adding, “Now, with a budget of $227 million, the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) aims to make CCTs available to 5.2 million eligible households by 2015.”
Access To Quality Health Care, Political Will Essential For Continued Progress In Reducing Maternal Mortality
In this Daily Beast opinion piece, Sarah Brown, an adjunct professor at the Institute for Global Health Innovations at Imperial College in London and global patron of the White Ribbon Alliance for Safe Motherhood, and Sabaratnam Arulkumaran, head of obstetrics and gynecology and deputy head of clinical sciences at St. George’s University of London, highlight the Global Health Policy Summit scheduled to take place in London on Wednesday. Led by Ara Darzi, former U.K. heath minister and chair of the World Economic Forum’s global health group, “this event is driving a new, dedicated approach to find radical answers and new collaborations,” they write, noting, “Our particular stake in the summit is the maternal health session that is specifically taking on an assessment of lessons learned and the next critical steps to take in order to reduce maternal mortality.”
Namibian High Court Rules HIV-Positive Women Were Improperly Counseled Before Sterilization Procedures, But Not Based On HIV Status
“The Namibian High Court has ruled that the human rights of three HIV-positive women were violated when they were coerced into being sterilized while they gave birth, but the judge dismissed claims that the sterilization amounted to discrimination based on their HIV status,” PlusNews reports (7/30). “The court ruled the three were sterilized without being adequately informed,” Reuters notes. “There should be unhurried counseling in a language that is clearly understood by the patient,” Windhoek High Court Judge Elton Hoff said, adding, “I am not convinced that informed consent was given,” the news service reports (7/30).
Noting “[a]pproximately 17 million women worldwide are currently living with HIV, with more than a million new infections in women of reproductive age each year,” Suzanne Ehlers, president and CEO of Population Action International (PAI), and Charles Lyons, president and CEO of the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation (EGPAF), write in this guest post in the Center for Global Health Policy’s “Science Speaks” blog that “family planning and HIV are inextricably linked, especially for HIV-positive women who are pregnant or may become pregnant.” They continue, “And while addressing unmet family planning needs is essential for all women, family planning services are particularly critical for HIV-positive women who want to postpone pregnancy due to HIV-related illness, or want to access medicines and services that will allow them to give birth to an HIV-negative child” (Barton, 7/24).
As part of the Guardian’s “Young people’s sexual health matters” series, Doortje Braeken, senior adviser on adolescents and youth at the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF), in an opinion piece reflects upon the recent London Summit on Family Planning, and says “the biggest hurdle is that many societies don’t recognize young people as sexual beings,” and “[o]ther challenges include policy, legal, economic, cultural, educational, service delivery and supply chain management,” as well as data collection. She says the community must “[d]evelop a comprehensive approach to young people’s mental and physical health and empowerment, recognize young people as sexual beings, provide comprehensive sexuality education for all …, train providers properly, and create easily accessible services.” She continues, “Perhaps it’s now time to create a comprehensive, commonly-agreed blueprint of components that are required to achieve the outcomes we all seek with regard to young people’s sexual and reproductive health, and again with components that can be phased in according to each community’s and nation’s need” (7/24).
The New York Times reports that “[r]ecent reports of women being coerced into late-term abortions by local officials have thrust China’s population control policy into the spotlight and ignited an outcry among policy advisers and scholars who are seeking to push central officials to fundamentally change or repeal a law that penalizes families for having more than one child.” According to the newspaper, “critics say that enforcement of the policy leads to widespread abuses, including forced abortions, because many local governments reward or penalize officials based on how well they keep down the population,” and “economists and business executives have expressed anxiety about the impact of a slowing population growth rate on the economy.” “While more debate may be under way, the family planning commission itself continues to stand behind the one-child policy,” the newspaper notes (Wong, 7/22).
GlobalPost’s “Global Pulse” blog features an interview with Zeda Rosenberg, CEO of the International Partnership for Microbicides (IPM), in which she discusses a study of a vaginal ring containing the antiretroviral (ARV) dapivirine. The study, which “has been launched in Africa, mark[s] a step forward in the development of HIV protection for and under control of women,” the blog notes. Rosenberg addresses the importance of finding a female-controlled HIV prevention option, why women are more susceptible to HIV infection, and her motivation for becoming involved in HIV research, among other issues, according to the blog (Judem, 7/18).