October 25, 2013 | The Editors

Access to family planning a human rights issue

A woman and four chldren sit on a bench in front of a railing.
Ethiopia’s Minister of Health writes this week of the desire of many women, including those in his country, for tools to help them plan when to have children. Photo: PATH/Carib Nelson.

It’s estimated that more than 200 million women worldwide who want products to help them plan their families lack access to contraceptives. In advance of the International Conference on Family Planning in Addis Ababa next month, Ethiopia’s Minister of Health Dr. Kesetebirhan Admasu writes this week about his country’s progress in providing access to family planning tools, the reasons behind the great demand for them, and the work yet to be done.

“As women learn about family planning, and where to get it, their demand for it rises,” Dr. Admasu writes on allAfrica. “In 1991, just 3 percent of women in Ethiopia were using modern contraception. By 2011, this had risen to 29 percent—still too low, but double the rate of just five years prior.”

Scandinavia study finds HPV vaccine safe

Reuters, October 23, 2013

In a large study of nearly a million girls in Denmark and Sweden, the human papillomavirus vaccine was not linked to short- or long-term health problems. . .”There were not really any concerns before our study and no new ones after,” Lisen Arnheim-Dahlström said. She led the study at Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm.

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A toddler remains HIV-free, raising hope for babies worldwide

NPR, October 23, 2013

A three-year-old girl born in Mississippi with HIV acquired from her mother during pregnancy remains free of detectable virus at least 18 months after she stopped taking antiviral pills. New results on this child, published online by the New England Journal of Medicine, appear to green-light a study in the advanced planning stages in which researchers around the world will try to replicate her successful treatment in other infected newborns.

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Be bold, do not shy away—girls and women have the right to access family planning services

allAfrica, October 22, 2013

“Unmet need,” in the context of family planning, is a rather mundane term that masks an urgent social justice and human rights issue. An estimated 220 million women in the world who want to manage their fertility, and plan their lives, cannot, because they lack access to contraceptives. Some wish to decide whether to have children, while others want to delay parenthood for months or years, or they want to space births for health and financial reasons.

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Why global health? Polio in Syria, Texas dengue, West Nile’s killer cousin

Humanosphere, October 21, 2013

Taken in isolation, the news reports that polio appears to have returned to Syria for the first time since the late 1990s, that dengue and yellow fever are showing up across the southern United States and that Texas has had its worst year ever for West Nile virus all seem like separate disease outbreaks. And they are. But taken together, they should also serve as a reminder that disease, especially infectious disease, doesn’t spread independent of human behavior—and bad behavior on the other side of the planet can kill here.

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