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).
Family Planning & Reproductive Health
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).
In this post in the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s “Impatient Optimists” blog, Melinda Gates, co-chair of the foundation, reflects on the London Summit on Family Planning, which took place last week, writing, “I was humbled and thrilled by the world’s commitment to put women and girls back at the heart of the global health agenda. … Their enthusiasm shows that family planning is a high priority in the countries where many women and girls lack access, and that is the key to success in the long term” (7/18). In a related post on the blog, Gary Darmstadt, head of the Family Health Division at the foundation, writes, “At the Summit, the clear consensus among the participants was that responding to unmet need for family planning is a human right and we have an obligation to act. … Stakeholders agreed that women must be at the center of family planning decision-making at all levels” (7/18).
“Improving family planning to avoid unwanted pregnancies in developing countries, as well as assuring girls’ access to education, and women’s participation in the economy, are essential components of a sound development policy, according to Western experts and African activists,” Inter Press Service reports. The news service highlights last week’s summit on family planning in London, writing that it “underscored the importance of girls’ and women’s access to contraceptives as both a right and a transformational health and development priority.” IPS adds, “Simultaneously, gender activists attending the second African Women’s Economic Summit, which concluded on July 14 in Lagos, Nigeria, urged policymakers, corporate organizations, and political leaders to step up measures to promote women’s empowerment and remove barriers impeding their economic development.”
“In the build-up to the London Summit on Family Planning, there have been a lot of opinions expressed on blogs, in mainstream media coverage, in peer-reviewed journals, and even exchanges on the streets and at the water cooler,” Gary Darmstadt, head of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s Family Health Division, writes in this post in the foundation’s “Impatient Optimists” blog. “And it has been great to see the conversations happening, even with the criticisms and resistance that we have sometimes felt from both conservative and liberal sides of the issue while preparing for the Summit,” he continues. He adds, “I look forward to the exciting times to come as the Summit has concluded, commitments have been made, and now we put the conversations that have been building up for the last few months into action to bring contraceptives to 120 million new users in the next eight years” (7/16).
Gates Foundation's Efforts To Improve Access To Contraceptives Will Improve Health, Lives Of Women, Children
“Supporters of women’s health ought to cheer the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s plan” to provide $1 billion over eight years to increasing women’s access to contraceptives and family planning services because the “effort underscores the critical role of family planning in the international battle to reduce poverty and improve maternal health,” a Seattle Times editorial states. While “Catholic leaders” and “social conservatives” might not agree with the effort, “Bill and Melinda Gates are not looking for a political or religious fight over women’s rights; they’re looking to add their resources to efforts to improve the lives and health of women and children,” according to the editorial.
“High levels of unmet need for contraception around the world have a very negative impact on women’s and children’s health and survival as well as on the prosperity of communities and nations,” Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) writes in the Huffington Post’s “Global Motherhood” blog. “If these women had access to dependable voluntary contraception, unintended pregnancies would fall by more than 70 percent, 100,000 fewer women would die in childbirth, and nearly 600,000 fewer newborns would die each year,” she continues, adding, “If every woman had the option to leave a two-year gap between a birth and a subsequent pregnancy, deaths of children under five would fall by 13 percent.”
In this post on the Council of Foreign Relations’ “Asia Unbound” blog, Yanzhong Huang, a senior fellow for global health at the council, argues that China should abandon its so-called “one-child policy,” writing, “Despite the relaxation of the [law], China is increasingly suffering the consequences of a draconian policy that was put in place in the early 1980s.” Noting several reasons why the country should drop the law, including that it has “become a constant source of friction in China’s relations with the Western world” and is “undermining China’s international competitiveness,” Huang states, “Despite the huge social and international cost, it seems to be extremely difficult for the government to abandon the notorious policy” (7/12).