A tale of two causes: Family planning and AIDS

Mothers meeting in Uttar Pradesh, India. Donors will be meeting this month to discuss family planning and AIDS — two global health issues that have significant impact on mothers’ lives. Photo by: Gates Foundation / CC By-NC-ND

Donors attending this week’s summit in London are expected to pledge $4 billion to family planning, which has seen a considerable drop in funding over the years: from 55 percent of international population assistance in 1995 to a mere 6 percent in 2008.

Funding to roll out family planning initiatives, including making contraceptives available to women, is crucial, especially now that the surge in populations is putting a strain on resources and maternal mortality rates remain high.

Making contraceptives available to women has averted maternal deaths and has the potential to prevent 104,000 more deaths annually, according to a new study published in the Lancet and funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

But the family planning summit is being held on the same month as the 2012 AIDS conference, another global health issue that deserves attention. Unlike funding for family planning, which has dried up, international population assistance focused on HIV and AIDS soared from just 9 percent in 1995 to 74 percent in 2008, according to U.N. Population Fund figures published in The New York Times.

Family planning, the NYT reports, has been “overshadowed by efforts to combat AIDS” and other diseases. But one study says addressing the HIV problem is benefiting maternal health.

A study published in the Health Affairs journal says an increasing number of women in sub-Saharan Africa — even those who are not infected with HIV — are choosing to give birth in health facilities with HIV programs. It is not clear why these women would want to deliver their babies in these facilities, but Margaret Kruk, one of the study’s authors, points to “the perceived quality” of equipment as a possible reason.

“Visible upgrades—evident to all patients, not just those with HIV—may influence the decision to give birth in a health facility,” Kruk said, as reported by Medical Express.

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About the author

  • Jenny Lei Ravelo

    Jenny Lei Ravelo is a Devex Senior Reporter based in Manila. She covers global health, with a particular focus on the World Health Organization, and other development and humanitarian aid trends in Asia Pacific. Prior to Devex, she wrote for ABS-CBN, one of the largest broadcasting networks in the Philippines, and was a copy editor for various international scientific journals. She received her journalism degree from the University of Santo Tomas.

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