“[I]n many countries, government policies, and societal practices do not uphold women’s right not to continue a pregnancy and women with unwanted pregnancies are forced into motherhood,” but “[f]ortunately for women, … [a]bortion with pills, also known as medical abortion (MA), provides a safe, low-cost and easy to use method…
Access to Health Services
“India has denied claims that it has exported large quantities of counterfeit medication to Africa, after the Guardian published a front-page exposÃ© on the phenomenon,” the Guardian reports in a follow-up article. The original article “cited experts and NGO reports as saying that up to a third of anti-malarial drugs in Uganda and Tanzania might be fake or substandard, and the majority of them were manufactured in China and India,” the newspaper writes, adding, “The fake medications have led to deaths, prolonged illness and increased drug resistance in parts of east Africa, the article said.” According to the Guardian, “The Indian health ministry launched a huge campaign last month to check the quality of medication manufactured across the country.” In addition, “Chinese officials also denied the charges made in the report,” the newspaper notes, citing another article published on December 28 (Burke, 1/2).
The New York Times profiles the Safe Abortion Hot Line in Chile, where abortion has been entirely illegal since 1989. Thirty volunteers throughout Chile operate the telephone hotline, which takes “tense calls from women seeking information about abortion every evening from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m.,” the newspaper writes, adding the volunteers have taken “more than 12,000 calls so far, and they continue rolling in at a steady clip.” The newspaper examines the history of abortion laws in Chile and several other countries in South America; says the country’s Ministry of Women began its own hotline to “answer calls from men or women looking for information or support when facing what the ministry calls an ‘abortion situation’ or ‘post-abortion syndrome'”; describes how the drug misoprostol, which “was taken off pharmacy shelves in Chile under Michelle Bachelet, the former president,” who now heads U.N. Women, is used for safe medical abortions; and discusses the establishment of abortion hotlines in Chile, Argentina, Ecuador, Peru, and Venezuela by the group Women on Waves (Nelsen, 1/3).
On average, 200 people are diagnosed with HIV every day in Russia, Al Jazeera reports. “Vadim Pokrovsky, the head of Russia’s AIDS research center, has said that instead of recognizing a crisis — the government is indifferent to the problem,” the news service writes, adding, “‘If we had 200 cases of diarrhea at a children’s pioneer camp, the country’s head sanitation doctor would fly out immediately to save them,’ Pokrovsky said.” Pokrovsky continued, “It would be frightening. Governors would run, helicopters would fly, the police would search for the source of infection, prosecutors would get to work. But here we are seeing that there is complete indifference to this situation,” according to the news service.
Thai Health Advocates Work To Protect Special Provisions On Medicines Under E.U. Free Trade Agreement
Thailand and the European Union (E.U.) are expected to begin talks on a free trade agreement early this year, and Thai public health advocates have sent a letter to Joao Aguiar Machado, deputy director general for trade at the European Commission, “call[ing] for the bloc to respect global trade rules’ special provisions for developing countries,” Inter Press Service reports. “‘We are worried that the E.U. negotiators will force Thailand to accept new conditions on patents that would make access to new generic drugs more difficult,’ says Chalermsak Kittitrakul, campaign officer at the AIDS Access Foundation,” the news service writes, adding, “Thai health activists are hoping that their record of mounting successful campaigns against pharmaceutical giants — even from the United States — to ensure a thriving generic drugs market for patients in the country and across the region remains intact” (Macan-Markar, 12/29).
In “an effort to advance highly lauded efforts to combat AIDS,” Brazil will require physicians to report cases of HIV, not just AIDS, to state and federal authorities, the Associated Press/Washington Post reports. Brazil’s national treatment program currently “reaches 223,000 people and costs the nation nearly $700 million a year,” but health authorities said they believe another 250,000 people are living with HIV and could benefit from early therapy, according to the news agency (12/27).
“Measles cases surged in Pakistan in 2012, and hundreds of children died from the disease, an international health body said Tuesday,” the Associated Press/CBS News reports. “A spokeswoman for the World Health Organization, Maryam Yunus, said that 306 children died in Pakistan of measles in 2012, compared to 64 the year before,” the news agency writes (1/2). “She added that most of the children who died were from districts affected by floods for the past three years, and that malnourishment was a major reason for the high rate of measles deaths in Sindh,” GlobalPost writes (Langlois, 1/1).
Jose “Oying” Rimon, deputy director of the Bill & Melinda Gates Institute for Population and Reproductive Health at the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health, and Ben de Leon, president of the Forum for Family Planning and Development, Inc., write in the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s “Impatient Optimists” blog that the many people who worked for 14 years to pass a reproductive health bill in the Philippines are “profiles in courage.” They continue, “This is the story of these courageous people but it’s also a story of resolution in staying the course, abiding with scientific evidence and facts, and the nobility of staying positive against on onslaught of insults and misinformation.” The bill represents “an unparalleled educational process in which common sense and science prevailed,” they conclude (1/2).
The Wall Street Journal examines efforts to fight tuberculosis (TB) in Europe, writing, “All along the edges of Western Europe, new and hard-to-defeat strains of tuberculosis are gaining a foothold, often moving beyond traditional victims — alcoholics, drug users, HIV patients — and into the wider population.” The article focuses on the efforts of Estonia to turn the tide against multidrug-resistant TB, saying the country’s success “offers one of the few bright spots globally as the ancient plague mutates into new and more deadly forms.” The newspaper continues, “Indeed, experts say the country, with half the population of Chicago, could be a model for others. But there is one catch: It takes years and some pricey treatments just to gain the upper hand” (Naik, 12/31).
“Thanks to a herculean effort by health advocates, 78 percent of children in low-income countries receive the basic set of childhood vaccines, covering diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, hepatitis B and haemophilus influenza,” a Bloomberg View editorial states. However, “[t]his campaign will be disrupted, and lives lost, if immunization critics win their latest battle for an international ban on a vaccine component” — thimerosal, a mercury-containing organic compound — “that has proved to be safe time and time again,” the editorial writes, noting, “Groups such as the Coalition for Mercury-Free Drugs and the Coalition for SafeMinds are pressing their case before the United Nations Environmental Program [UNEP] meets on Jan. 13 to prepare a global treaty reducing mercury use.”