The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s “Impatient Optimists” blog features two posts on maternal health in Ethiopia. In the first, Jennifer James, founder of Mom Bloggers for Social Good, writes about her trip to the country to “observe Save the Children’s work with frontline health workers.” She writes, “Ethiopia, a country of 84 million and one of the world’s poorest according to the World Bank, is working diligently to save the lives of women and children; and it’s doing it with the help of an army of thousands of women.” James notes, “The Ethiopian government has trained over 38,000 health extension workers (HEWs) since 2003 — all women” (12/11). In the second post, Tesfaye Arage, a nurse in Ethiopia with Marie Stopes International, notes the WHO recently released guidelines (.pdf) on tasksharing on maternal and newborn health care, and he describes how his team in Ethiopia is implementing tasksharing methods (12/11).
IntraHealth’s “Global Health Blog” notes, “In honor of this year’s 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence Campaign, the North Carolina-based Triangle Global Health Consortium ran a series of blog entries by local experts and activists on topics that span the globe.” The blog post includes links to the articles included in the series (Nathe, 12/11).
BBC News examines ongoing efforts to develop a female-controlled microbicide to prevent HIV infection. But so far, “efforts … have presented a great deal of frustration in the fight against this global epidemic,” the news service writes, detailing the history of some failed experiments. “According to the Microbicide Trials Network, there are currently nine different microbicide products in clinical trials,” BBC notes. Angela Obasi of the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine said, “In many parts of the world — especially in the parts of the world where HIV is most prevalent — there are gender status issues that make it very tricky for a woman to control the circumstances under which she is exposed to HIV. … So methods that are controlled by women give them a critically important power over the safety of their own bodies,” according to the news service (Gill, 12/8).
Noting the recognition of International Human Rights Day on December 9, Purnima Mane, president and CEO of Pathfinder International, writes in the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s “Impatient Optimists” blog, “[E]very person should be able to make decisions about her or his body,” making reproductive rights a human rights issue. “From the London Summit on Family Planning supported by Melinda Gates, where thousands gathered to commit future investments in family planning, to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s strong advocacy to ensure U.S. leadership in global health that includes reproductive rights as human rights, to the work that’s happening on the ground in myriad countries around the globe to provide contraception, improve maternal health, ensure HIV prevention and treatment, and much more — progress is happening,” Mane writes, noting some of the barriers and challenges that remain in “[e]stablishing reproductive rights as human rights for all” (12/9).
“In an effort to fight the human papillomavirus (HPV), the leading cause of cervical cancer, more than 30 million girls will be immunized against HPV by 2020 with GAVI support, the global health alliance announced on Thursday,” Xinhua/Global Times reports. “Rwanda and Uganda have been conducting HPV pilot projects through donations from vaccine manufacturers and are expected to roll out the vaccine nationwide with GAVI support in 2014,” the news service writes, adding, “By 2015, GAVI plans to immunize approximately one million girls with HPV vaccines and a large number of other countries are expected to run HPV pilot projects, and by 2020, more than 30 million girls will be immunized against HPV, [GAVI Alliance CEO Seth] Berkley said” (12/7).
The Lancet examines Indonesia’s efforts to reduce maternal mortality, one of the Millennium Development Goals President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has identified as a national priority. Indonesia’s risk of maternal death is one in 150, compared with one in 4,000 in developed nations, and the government has set a goal of reducing mortality to 102 for every 100,000 live births by 2015, one-quarter of the rate in 1990, according to the journal. Gita Maya Koemara Sakti, recently appointed as director of maternal health, explained the Ministry of Health “has adopted a four-step plan that starts with bolstered family planning campaigns,” the Lancet writes. Other efforts include providing free maternal health care through the national social assistance system, improving the national midwifery program, and providing more funding to rural health clinics, the journal notes. The Lancet includes quotes from other government officials and non-governmental organization representatives regarding these efforts and the challenges faced (Webster, 12/8).
IRIN examines the WHO’s ongoing efforts to synthesize and communicate guidance about the risk of HIV infection and transmission for women taking injectable hormonal contraception, including a meeting scheduled for this week in Geneva. The news service looks at the history of the issue, including “a February 2012 [WHO] statement standing by current guidelines allowing women living with or at high risk of HIV to use hormonal contraception” and advising women on injectable contraception to use condoms concurrently; reaction from representatives of non-governmental organizations and WHO officials; and efforts by researchers to “formulat[e] a concept note on a clinical trial that could be the world’s first to examine whether hormonal contraception does indeed increase HIV risk” (12/5).
Noting the theme of World AIDS Day this year is “Getting to Zero,” entertainer Alicia Keys, co-founder and global ambassador of the Keep a Child Alive Foundation, writes in the Skoll Foundation’s “World Forum,” “We want to get to that number so badly, and we fight for that goal day in and day out. But this year, I’d like to see us add what you might call a sub-theme — ‘Getting to Zero: With Women and Girls.'” She continues, “Women and girls have shouldered the burden of HIV for decades — as sisters, mothers, daughters, caregivers, and above all, as beacons of strength and resilience in the face of adversity,” adding, “When we’re offering our resources abroad and at home, we need to make sure women and girls are given the tools they need to eradicate HIV and stop the cycle of suffering it causes” (11/28).
“HIV is the leading cause of death of women of reproductive age,” and without HIV, “maternal mortality worldwide would be 20 percent lower,” Lucy Chesire, executive director and secretary to the Board of the TB ACTION Group, writes in the Huffington Post’s “The Big Push” blog. She says that women “often face barriers accessing HIV treatment and care,” adding she recently “was struck with the significant role the Global Fund [to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria] has played in reducing women’s barriers to treatment.”
“This week we launch the 16 Days of Activism for the Elimination of Gender Violence, which runs from November 25 to December 10,” Carla Koppell, senior coordinator for gender equality and women’s empowerment at USAID, writes in the agency’s “IMPACTblog.” Koppell provides statistics regarding gender-based violence (GBV) globally and continues, “Yet even as we contemplate the numbers, we must not forget the individuals, the victims of violence, as well as the incredible male and female leaders — some of whom are survivors — that lead the campaign to end the epidemic.” She states, “USAID is focused on consolidating gains for women’s rights and opportunity. … As our policies and strategies gain traction and implementation gains speed, we recognize a collective responsibility to ensure our mission translates into results around the world” (11/26).