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Group Requests More Research, Better Communication From WHO On Use Of Hormonal Contraceptives, HIV Risk

“The International Community of Women Living with HIV (ICW) expressed concern Monday over the World Health Organization’s (WHO’s) Technical Statement on Hormonal Contraceptives and HIV (.pdf) and its accompanying press release,” the Center for Global Health Policy’s “Science Speaks” blog reports. “WHO released the statement last week — concluding that women living with HIV or at high risk of HIV can safely continue to use hormonal contraceptives to prevent pregnancy,” the blog writes. According to the blog, “The ICW is pushing for more research on the subject and increased communication to explain the risks involved to potential users of hormonal contraceptives” and “‘urgently’ demanded that the WHO correct the note for media the WHO released along with the technical statement, calling it inconsistent with the findings of the technical review panel” (Mazzotta, 2/28).

China’s AIDS Action Plan Calls For Education, Condom Distribution To Stem Spread Of HIV

China’s State Council, or cabinet, on Wednesday “published the country’s AIDS Action Plan for the 12th Five-Year Program period (2011-2015) on the website of the Chinese government, http://www.gov.cn,”; Xinhua/China.org.cn reports (2/29). According to the plan, “China hopes to cap the number of people living with HIV/AIDS at 1.2 million by 2015, up from around 780,000 at present,” by promoting condom use, reducing stigma and discrimination, and educating urban and rural populations, as well as local officials, about the disease, Reuters notes (Blanchard, 2/29). In addition, the plan aims to implement interventions among people at higher risk of infection, such as drug users, and increase the rates of HIV testing and treatment, according to Xinhua (2/29).

China Considering Changes To ‘One-Child’ Family Planning Policy

Chinese officials are considering changing the country’s so-called “one-child policy,” according to a former family planning official, “with government advisory bodies drafting proposals in the face of a rapidly aging society in the world’s most populous nation,” Reuters reports. “Proposed changes would allow for urban couples to have a second child, even if one of the parents is themselves not an only child, the China Daily cited Zhang Weiqing, the former head of the National Population and Family Planning Commission, as saying on Wednesday,” according to Reuters, which adds, “Zhang said the commission and other population research institutes have submitted policy recommendations to the government.”

Demand Growing For Female Condoms Despite Myths

Mary Beth Hastings, vice president of the Center for Health and Gender Equality (CHANGE), writes in the Huffington Post’s “Impact” blog that despite “the pervasive myth that no one wants female condoms,” “[d]emand is increasing because female condoms provide men and women with something they want: more options when it comes to protecting themselves.” USAID officials “were surprised to hear evidence of an unmet demand for female condoms,” Hastings says, adding, “[W]hen presented with evidence to the contrary, USAID started talking with different institutions about meeting the demand.” She continues, “To its credit, the U.S. government is a global leader on female condoms. But there is still room for improvement.”

IPS Examines PEPFAR Guidance On Family Planning In Light Of New AIDS Blueprint

Noting the U.S. government on Thursday “unveiled a major new strategy for pushing towards achieving an ‘AIDS-free generation,'” Inter Press Service writes, “The far-reaching new blueprint for what’s known as the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) is being widely lauded, yet little attention has been given to a document, published in October, that stipulates how new PEPFAR funding can be used.” The news service notes, “[a]ccording to that guidance, ‘PEPFAR funds may not be used to purchase family planning commodities.'” “The language in the guidance was put there to make clear what exactly (PEPFAR) could and couldn’t pay for — that’s problematic,’ Mary Beth Hastings with the Center for Health and Gender Equity, a Washington advocacy group, told IPS,” the news service writes. An unnamed spokesperson from PEPFAR “told IPS … that ‘there are other entities, particularly USAID, that meet that need [for family planning]. We’re very interested in integrating our services,'” the news service writes (Biron, 11/29).

Keep Momentum Going To Pursue Innovation In Contraceptive Options

“[I]t has been a banner year for media attention, political will and global resources on family planning and women’s and girls’ rights and empowerment,” Ward Cates, president emeritus of FHI 360; Laneta Dorflinger, a scientist with FHI 360; and Kirsten Vogelsong, a senior program officer with the family planning division of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, write in the Huffington Post “Global Motherhood” blog, noting the London Summit on Family Planning, World Contraception Day, and the inaugural International Day of the Girl Child. “To achieve the ambitious goals set forth by these international initiatives, however, the global health and development community must act on the current political momentum and not lose sight of the challenges that remain,” they state. Though there are “many contraceptive choices available to prevent unintended pregnancy,” access to contraception is limited for many women and “the currently available methods do not always meet their needs, preferences or budgets,” they write.

Women Need Access To Family Planning Methods That Work For Them

“I spent most of my time this year advocating for better access to family planning around the world,” Melinda Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and a Foreign Policy 2012 Global Thinker, writes in this Foreign Policy opinion piece. “Early on, I told everybody who would listen that I wanted to help put contraceptives back on top of the global health and development agenda,” she states, adding, “Visiting women in developing countries, however, I realized that this framing didn’t quite capture my message. … What was missing were human beings, the women across the world who have told me over and over again that having access to birth control methods that work for them would change their futures.”

Family Planning Is ‘Global Priority’ To Be Recognized As Human Right

Improving access to family planning for the 222 million women who lack such services would bring many benefits, including helping to reduce maternal mortality and improve infant survival, UNFPA Executive Director Babatunde Osotimehin says in the Huffington Post’s “Global Motherhood” blog, citing the recently released State of the World Population 2012 report. However, “[i]n many poor countries, contraceptives may not be available or families may lack the money to buy them,” and “social barriers and family resistance are also powerful barriers,” he says, adding, “So too is the lack of proper health or distribution systems or trained workers to give confidential advice.” He continues, “This huge unmet need comes despite the fact that there is almost universal agreement that access to family planning is a human right. By denying this right, we are putting other basic rights at risk across the world.”

UNFPA Calls Family Planning An ‘Essential Human Right,’ Says Meeting Unmet Need Could Save More Than $11B Annually

In its annual State of the World Population 2012 report, the U.N. Population Fund (UNFPA) on Wednesday “called family planning an ‘essential human right’ and urged the world’s nations to help meet the needs of 222 million women in developing countries,” The Hill’s “Global Affairs” blog reports (Pecquet, 11/14). According to Inter Press Service, the report “says the huge unmet need for family planning persists, ‘despite international agreements and human rights treaties that promote individuals’ rights to make their own decisions about when and how often to have children'” (11/14). However, “[i]t is the first time the … annual report explicitly describes family planning as a human right,” the Associated Press notes, adding, “It effectively declares that legal, cultural, and financial barriers to accessing contraception and other family planning measures are an infringement of women’s rights” (11/14). “UNFPA insists that family planning is not optional; it is a fundamental right, and the obligation to fulfill it is a formal treaty obligation,” IRIN writes (11/14). But “[i]t is not binding and has no legal effect on national laws,” CBS News notes (11/14).