With the closure of the Global Health Initiative office and the establishment of the Office of Global Health Diplomacy within the State Department last week, “[t]he Obama administration made some quiet changes … that strengthen one of its most significant policy shifts: that global health and foreign assistance are critical components of diplomacy,” Serra Sippel, president of the Center for Health and Gender Equity (CHANGE), writes in the Huffington Post’s “Global Motherhood” blog. The new office “will implement the principles of the Global Health Initiative that make economic and humanitarian sense, namely a woman-centered approach, country ownership, and health sector integration,” she writes, adding, “The GHI’s principles have the potential to make real progress against the world’s greatest health challenges, and we have to pay meticulous attention to ensuring they are put into action.”
Family Planning & Reproductive Health
With the London Summit on Family Planning scheduled to take place this week, Melinda Gates writes in a post on the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s “Impatient Optimists” blog that family planning “can mean everything to so many of the women and families I meet.” She continues, “Providing family planning information and services to millions of women and girls in the poorest countries in the world gives them the opportunity to determine their own futures, and the best future for their children. As a woman and a mother, I can’t imagine anything more important.” Gates asks readers to watch and comment on a short video on the site (7/6).
In an interview with CNN on Sunday, Melinda Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, “tried to deflect controversy” surrounding the London Summit on Family Planning to take place this week, stating that “giving women better access to contraception had become her lifetime’s work,” the Guardian reports (McVeigh, 7/7). “On Wednesday, the Gates Foundation and the British government will convene a summit of world leaders in London with the goal of raising $4 billion to make contraceptives available to an additional 120 million women in the poorest countries,” the Seattle Times notes, adding, “The move puts the Gates Foundation on a collision course with the Catholic Church and elements of the religious right” (Doughton, 7/7). U.K. Minister for International Development Andrew Mitchell supported Gates, saying, “We have to focus on what we know there is widespread support for,” according to the Guardian.
The Financial Times examines efforts by “Ethiopian policymakers, faced with a rapidly expanding population and rising numbers of HIV/AIDS infections,” to integrate family planning into HIV counseling and testing programs in the country. “When counseling women on reproductive health or child immunization, family planning clinics can also discuss HIV testing and prevention, particularly condom use, as well as introducing pregnant women to mother-to-child HIV transmission prevention services,” the newspaper notes.
“A group of 15 prominent Chinese scholars issued an open letter on Thursday calling for a rethink of [the] country’s family planning laws, arguing that the law in its present form is incompatible with China’s increasing respect for human rights and need for sustainable economic development,” according to the Wall Street Journal’s “China Real Time Report.” “‘The birth approval system built on the idea of controlling population size as emphasized in the current ‘Population and Family Planning Law’ does not accord with provisions on the protection of human rights contained in the nation’s constitution,’ the authors of Thursday’s letter wrote, adding that a rewriting of the law was ‘imperative,'” the blog adds.
Ahead of July 11, World Population Day and the date of the London Summit on Family Planning, VOA News examines family planning efforts in Uganda, where the average woman will give birth to about seven children during her lifetime. “Access to family planning is not the only problem, says [Ministry of Health official Jennifer] Wanyana, who adds that many Ugandans oppose contraception for cultural reasons or they associate family planning with promiscuity,” VOA writes, adding, “Experts say that beliefs like this might be the most difficult challenge.” The article discusses efforts by the health ministry to educate the public and provide contraceptives and health care (Heuler, 7/5).
In the third post in a series by Marie Stopes International published on the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s “Impatient Optimists” blog, Mukanga Sindazi, the outreach team leader with Marie Stopes in Zambia, discusses his work traveling through the rural Central Province to educate women and men about family planning and provide modern contraceptives. “At the family planning summit in London next week, I hope world leaders will recognize the challenges facing rural women,” he writes, concluding, “So our hope is that we can all come together to remember the girls and women of the countryside. Our hope is that they can imagine a world where, however isolated your community, having contraception is a usual thing — and not a luxury” (7/5).
Ahead of the London Summit on Family Planning on July 11, Gary Darmstadt, head of the Family Health Division of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, examines barriers to contraceptive use in this post in the foundation’s “Impatient Optimists” blog. “Poor collaboration in recent years means that donors have not been aligned and, as such, there has been inadequate, inconsistent and unpredictable funding for family planning programs globally,” he states, adding, “The other recurring theme of existing barriers is the lack of information at all levels — global, national, and community level — about the health benefits of planning and spacing children and the available methods to do that.” He concludes, “[U]nderstanding the problem and barriers to planning a family is the first step in establishing an ambitious yet achievable goal and mobilizing the global community behind it” (7/5).
Exclusion Of Reproductive Rights From Rio+20 Agreement 'Backslide' On Women's Rights, Former Ireland President Robinson Says
“Women’s rights are under the greatest attack for almost 20 years after a failure of world leaders to continue to support reproductive rights, according to Mary Robinson, the first female president of Ireland,” the Guardian reports in its series “The Politics of Family Planning.” “Robinson joined campaigners criticizing the final agreement reached between 190 countries at the Rio+20 summit,” the news service writes, adding, “The former president accused global leaders of ‘backsliding on fundamental texts’ agreed at two summits subsequently lauded for protecting women and girls: Cairo in 1994 and Beijing in 1995.”
Philippines Experiencing Increasing Number Of New HIV Cases; Leaders Say Country Should Reconsider Policies
“At a time when many countries are seeing their HIV infection rates level off or decline,” health officials in the Philippines “have seen an unexpected surge in cases in the past several years, with a more than five-fold increase between 2007 and 2011, with 2,349 new cases last year,” the Wall Street Journal’s “Southeast Asia Real Time” blog reports, noting, “The total number of cases as of April 2012 is 9,396, compared to just 3,061 in 2007.” The blog continues, “Doctors are still trying to determine the cause of the unexpected increase. Either way, domestic and international HIV experts have been warning for a while that the Philippines has all the necessary ingredients for an HIV epidemic,” including low condom use, communities where multiple sexual partners or sex workers are widespread, and workers who travel overseas, “often in jobs or in regions that have relatively high rates of infection.”