In the first of a series titled “Imagine a world…,” posted on the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s “Impatient Optimists” blog, Paula Franklin, U.K. medical director for Marie Stopes International, writes, “For the most part, only people who really need or want something care much about it being available, and that’s why it can be hard to make people in the developed world tune in to the huge unmet need for contraception globally — 222 million people who want to use contraception can’t get it, at the last count.” She says that the upcoming London Summit on Family Planning is “perhaps the world’s best opportunity to agree together what we’re going to do to rectify the situation,” and she concludes by summarizing some of the upcoming posts in the series by Marie Stopes staff (6/25).
Family Planning & Reproductive Health
“Since Myanmar gained independence from the British in 1948, it has been wracked by armed conflicts and fragile ceasefires with civilians and ethnic rebels,” and “[t]he health of Myanmar’s women has been one of the biggest casualties,” GlobalPost reports. Though recent news coverage has focused on political reform in the nation, “little attention has been paid to a more immediate need: affordable, decent health care,” the news service states. The “military junta that ruled the country for a half century spent very little on health care,” little international aid has come into the country, and “the government restricts where and how aid organizations can operate, blocking the delivery of medical services,” the news service writes, adding, “The result has been a health care system that in conflict areas, does not exist, and in large cities, is too expensive for ordinary people, according to experts inside Myanmar and on the Thai border.”
In this post on RH Reality Check, Marianne Mollmann, senior policy adviser with Amnesty International, addresses an upcoming summit in London on family planning funding, which is being co-hosted by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the U.K. Department for International Development and supported by USAID and UNFPA. She says that poverty and “women’s ability to exercise her human rights, including the rights to quality health care, non-discrimination in education and health, and economic empowerment through job creation and protections for equality in the workplace,” are important drivers of maternal health and need to be addressed by governments (6/21).
“Progress in ensuring that women in poor countries have access to modern methods of contraception has stalled,” according to a new report (.pdf) by the United Nations Population Fund and the Guttmacher Institute, BMJ reports. The study “found that this year 645 million women of reproductive age (15 to 49 years) are using modern methods of contraception in the developing world, 42 million more than in 2008,” but “this rise is less than half the increase of 100 million between 2003 and 2008,” the journal writes.
U.S. Secretary Of State Clinton Defends Women's Reproductive Rights At Conclusion Of Rio+20 Conference
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton “took a stand for women’s reproductive rights during the Rio+20 United Nations conference on Friday, saying ‘women must be empowered to make decisions on whether and when to have children’ if the world is to attain agreed-upon sustainable development goals,” the Associated Press/ABC News reports. Clinton “spoke during the conference’s last day, applauding the final document’s endorsement of women’s sexual and reproductive health but making it clear that she objected to the omission of specific language on reproductive rights,” the news service writes. “‘While I am very pleased that this year’s outcome document endorses sexual and reproductive health and universal access to family planning, to reach our goals in sustainable development we also have to ensure women’s reproductive rights,’ Clinton said,” according to the AP (Barbassa, 6/22).
No Definitive Link Between Hormonal Contraceptives And Increased Link Of HIV Infection Among Women, CDC Says
“There is no clear link between the use of contraceptives such as the birth control pill or Depo-Provera shots and an increased risk that a woman will contract HIV, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said on Thursday,” Reuters reports, noting that the WHO came to the same conclusion in February. Following a review of recent studies suggesting women taking hormonal contraceptives might be at an increased risk of HIV infection, “the Atlanta-based CDC said, ‘the evidence does not suggest’ a link between oral contraceptives such as the birth control pill and increased HIV risk,” the news agency writes. CDC officials said though the evidence for injectable contraceptives is inconclusive, they too are safe, according to Reuters. “Women at risk for HIV infection or who already have the virus ‘can continue to use all hormonal contraceptive methods without restriction,’ the CDC said,” the news agency writes. However, “the CDC also said it was ‘strongly’ encouraging the use of condoms as a precaution against the virus that causes AIDS,” Reuters notes (Beasley, 6/21).
Women Discuss Intersection Of Sustainability, Environment And Empowerment, Reproductive Health At Rio+20 Side Event
In this post on the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s “Impatient Optimists” blog, Vicky Markham, founding director of the Center for Environment and Population (CEP), summarizes a Rio+20 side event that took place on Thursday, titled “Rio+20 and Women’s Lives: A Cross-General Dialogue.” The event, co-organized by Climate Wise Women, CEP, and Columbia University’s Coalition for Sustainable Development, “featured six outstanding global women activists of different generations (from Uganda, Nigeria, Cook Islands, Mississippi/U.S., Philippines, and Brazil) who shared their colorful personal narratives to help us understand the cross-cutting impacts of climate change and other environmental issues on their lives” and “discussed the importance of women’s empowerment and reproductive health, and new, innovative connections among women of all ages for practical implementation of the Rio+20 outcome and beyond,” she writes (6/21).
In this post in the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s “Impatient Optimists” blog, Megan Averill and Tricia Petruney, senior technical officers with FHI 360’s Global Health, Population and Nutrition Group, and Ward Cates, president emeritus at FHI 360, discuss the “domino effect” of family planning. “We’ll begin with a simple and intuitive causal relationship: voluntary use of contraception prevents unintended pregnancies,” they write, and highlight a number of benefits they say stem from this relationship. They conclude, “Until now, too few people have been aware and too few leaders willing to acknowledge the essential role that family planning plays in achieving sustainable development. Rio+20 is our chance to tip this pivotal domino piece forward, and witness the measurable cascade of progress it evokes” (6/18).
Representatives meeting at the U.N. Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) conference in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on Tuesday “announced that they have reached an agreement [.pdf] on the outcome document,” the U.N. News Centre reports. “The agreed outcome document spells out action points such as the need to establish sustainable development goals and mobilize financing for sustainable development, as well as the promotion of sustainable consumption and production,” according to the news service (6/19). The Guardian’s “Poverty Matters Blog” notes that “paragraph 145 reads: ‘We emphasize the need for the provision of universal access to reproductive health, including family planning and sexual health and the integration of reproductive health, in national strategies and programs'” (Ford, 6/20). The following summarizes an opinion piece and blog post addressing the outcome document.
“In the 1990s, when the U.S. shifted its aid policy away from family planning, and from Latin America, the Brazilian NGO Bemfam found itself with a yearly funding hole of $2 million,” the Guardian’s “Poverty Matters Blog” reports in a profile of the NGO and family planning in Brazil. But the organization, which focuses on family planning and sexual and reproductive health, used $3 million in drawback funding from USAID to “set up a not-for-profit condom and lubricant business, Prosex,” the newspaper writes. The company “has proved so successful that it generates around $4 million a year for the NGO — about 40 percent of its funding — and is the fifth most popular condom brand in Brazil,” according to the newspaper. Bemfam “provides sex education to young people, promotes sexual and reproductive rights, and provides family planning services and counseling,” the Guardian writes (Ford, 6/20).