“Opponents of birth control don’t just want to limit access in the U.S., they want to slash U.S. support for international family planning programs. It’s a perennial debate, and it’s about to start all over again,” Chloe Cooney, director of global advocacy at Planned Parenthood Federation of America, writes in an RH Reality Check blog post. President Obama’s FY 2013 budget “demonstrates the value the administration places on family planning,” as “funding for international family planning programs is preserved,” she writes, noting Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s recent testimony to Congress about the budget proposal, in which “she consistently reiterated the importance of development as a key pillar of our foreign policy and national security strategy” and “the administration’s focus on women and girls as central to these goals.” Cooney concludes, “The president’s budget protects U.S. investments in family planning programs around the world. Now it’s up to Congress to make sure those funds remain intact” (3/5).
Family Planning & Reproductive Health
WHO Criticized For Not Efficiently Communicating Recommendations On HIV, Contraception To African Women, PlusNews Reports
“HIV organizations, researchers and activists have criticized the WHO and UNAIDS for not clearly communicating [guidelines on HIV and hormonal contraception] to African women, who remain the most affected by the continent’s high HIV prevalence rates,” PlusNews reports. In February, the WHO confirmed its existing recommendations after a study published last year suggested that using hormonal contraceptive injections might double the risk of women acquiring HIV or transmitting the virus to a male partner, according to the news service. “However, because the U.N. agency was unable to definitively rule out the possibility that progesterone-only birth-control shots like Depo-Provera posed no HIV risk, it is now strongly advising women at risk of or living with HIV to use condoms concurrently to prevent HIV infection or transmission,” PlusNews writes.
Inter Press Service examines gender discrimination and mortality in India, writing, “Global infant and child mortality rates have been on the decline in recent years, with a large portion of the world seeing young girls experiencing higher rates of survival than young boys; but India remains the exception to this positive trend.” A new report, “‘Sex Differentials in Childhood Mortality,’ a project of the U.N.’s Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA), reveals that a girl aged between one and five years is 75 percent more likely to die than a boy in India, marking the world’s most extreme gender disparity in child mortality,” according to the news service.
In this Huffington Post “Black Voices” opinion piece, Vanessa Cullins, vice president for external medical affairs at Planned Parenthood Federation of America, responds to an announcement by the WHO in February that the agency would not revise its contraception guidelines for women living with and at risk of HIV infection based on a “study suggesting that hormonal contraception increases women’s risk of [acquiring and] transmitting HIV to their partners.” A panel found “there was not enough evidence” to support women abandoning hormonal contraception and concluded there should be “no restrictions on hormonal contraception,” Cullins states.
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).
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).
According to an analysis published in the journal of Sexual Health, the incorrect use of male condoms has become a concern for public health officials worldwide, CBS News reports (DyBuncio, 2/24). Researchers from the Kinsey Institute Condom Use Research Team (CURT) reviewed 50 articles from 14 countries and found “errors in condom use — such as putting it on too late, or not using condoms throughout sex, or not leaving space at the tip — are common worldwide,” according to WebMD Health News.
Inter Press Service examines the effects of a global gender imbalance as a consequence of sex selection, particularly in Asia, on women. “Asia is now facing serious consequences from sex selection, a situation the West might have inadvertently helped create,” the news service writes and details a brief history of population control in developing countries. “Sex-selective abortion spread throughout countries like India and China,” and the “method was openly endorsed by Population Council President Bernard Berelson, German scientist Paul Ehrlich and even some women such as former U.S. Congresswoman Clare Boothe Luce,” according to the news service.
“A stakeholder consultation convened by the World Health Organization (WHO) in Geneva has reviewed recent epidemiological studies related to HIV transmission and acquisition by women using hormonal contraceptives,” a UNAIDS press statement reports (2/16). In a technical statement (.pdf), “[t]he Geneva-based United Nations health agency confirmed its existing recommendations [Thursday] after a study published last year found using contraceptive injections doubles the chance women will catch HIV and transmit it to a male partner,” Bloomberg Businessweek reports (Hallam, 2/16). The WHO “concluded that hormonal contraception — whether the pill or injection — was safe for women at risk of HIV to use if they wanted to prevent pregnancy,” the Guardian notes (Boseley, 2/16).
In this post in the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s “Impatient Optimists” blog, Jill Sheffield, founder and President of Women Deliver, responds to an opinion piece published in the Guardian’s “Poverty Matters Blog” on Friday in which Ofra Koffman — a Leverhulme postdoctoral fellow in the department for culture, media and creative industries at King’s College London — “questions the contributions that girls and young women can make to economies when they delay childbirth,” and argues “that the so-called ‘Girl Effect’ of delaying childbirth does not necessarily ‘stop poverty before it starts,’ as the Department for International Development (DFID) claims.” Sheffield writes, “The ability to choose if and when to have children is a huge piece of the puzzle to the ‘Girl Effect,’ but it is not the only piece. … The ‘Girl Effect’ is an amalgamation of exactly these three components: security, health, and power” (2/15).