In the news: health of women and girls

It’s a complicated question: What role should large pharmaceutical companies play in improving health in developing countries? In The Guardian this week, Rwandan health minister Agnes Binagwaho sorts through the pros and cons in her response to an earlier commentary by reporter Adam Green.

Girl in blue school uniform receives injection.

A girl in Uganda receives human papilloma virus vaccine. Photo: PATH/Robin Biellik.

Both authors refer to Rwanda’s partnership with Merck to provide universal access to the human papilloma virus vaccine for the prevention of cervical cancer. Green points out that some have questioned the company’s motives and asked whether other public health interventions are more worthy of Rwanda’s support. But Binagwaho’s rebuttal is hard to dismiss. “When Rwanda already had 90 percent or higher coverage for vaccines against ten other diseases, when cervical cancer now rivals HIV and maternal mortality as a leading killer of our women, and when GAVI’s budget grew 42 percent last year,” she writes, pointing out that the GAVI Alliance has added the vaccine to its supported portfolio, “it is difficult for me to see this as some kind of dangerous precedent.”

Rwandan health minister hits back at critics of drug company deal

The Guardian, May 21, 2013

A hero of mine wrote from prison that “human progress never rolls in on wheels of inevitability; without hard work, time itself becomes an ally of social stagnation.” Martin Luther King’s words have long resonated with Africa’s struggle against global cynicism in the fight against AIDS. King’s words came to mind again recently when I read a commentary in The Guardian on pharmaceutical company donations in Africa.

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Female condoms are _______

Girls’ Globe, May 20, 2013

When we talk about women’s reproductive health, we often talk about women being empowered to make the best decisions for our health, our families and our lives in general. When it comes to safe sex, women have many options to prevent pregnancy, but very few when it comes to taking charge of protection against STIs. The female condom is the only barrier method used by women that protects against pregnancy as well as sexually transmitted infections and HIV/AIDS.

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Poor countries lack modern contraception

Voice of America, May 20, 2013

A new study says little is being done to meet the growing demand for modern contraception methods in poor countries. The Guttmacher Institute says there’s an increasing desire for smaller families. Guttmacher says between 2003 and 2012 the number of women wanting to avoid pregnancy—and in need of modern contraception—rose from 716 million to 867 million. The sharpest increase was seen, it says, in the 69 poorest countries “where modern method use was already very low.”

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Breast cancer: One disease, three stories

PRI’s The World, May 17, 2013

Gertrude Nakigudde is an accountant in Kampala, Uganda. I’m a freelance reporter and journalism instructor in Seattle. Angelina Jolie is, well, Angelina Jolie. We’ve all had mastectomies, and we’ve all nursed parents through their final days with breast cancer. (In Gertrude’s case it was her father—men get breast cancer, too.)

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Posted in Cervical cancer, Family planning, HIV/AIDS, Maternal and child health, Noncommunicable disease, Reproductive health | Permalink

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