December 17, 2007
Increasing the availability of contraception for women in Africa could prevent tens of thousands more pediatric HIV cases at a lower cost than providing antiretroviral treatment to pregnant women, some researchers have said recently, the Washington Post reports. Although antiretroviral drugs can reduce rates of mother-to-child HIV transmission by more than 50%, studies indicate that about one in 10 HIV-positive African pregnant women have access to the drugs. According to Family Health International, programs providing antiretroviral drugs to pregnant women prevented 101,000 cases of pediatric HIV between 1999 and 2006. Contraception prevents the births of 173,000 HIV-positive infants annually, the group says. According to Ward Cates, head of research for FHI, contraception also "tends to be the best kept secret in HIV prevention." Surveys conducted among women who are aware of their HIV-positive status indicate that most do not want to become pregnant again because they think they could transmit the virus to their infants, the Post reports.
Despite growing research about the effectiveness of contraception in fighting pediatric HIV, U.S. and other international funding for birth control programs has continued to decline, the Post reports. Washington, D.C.-based Population Action International found that when adjusted for inflation, President Bush's proposed fiscal year 2008 budget includes funding levels for contraception that are less than one-third the amount spent in 1995.
According to the Post, U.S. funding for contraception began to decrease in 1996, when Republicans took control of Congress, and money that was provided came with "new restrictions." Bush in January 2001 banned funding to groups that provided or promoted abortion services overseas. The policy affected Family Health Options Kenya and Marie Stopes Kenya -- two of the largest distributors of birth control in Kenya -- which did not provide abortions but were affiliated with London-based organizations whose members helped provide them in other countries. The two groups were forced to close five family planning clinics after losing the U.S. funding.
Reprinted with permission from kaisernetwork.org. You can view the entire Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, search the archives, or sign up for email delivery at www.kaisernetwork.org/dailyreports/hiv. The Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report is published for kaisernetwork.org, a free service of the Kaiser Family Foundation, by The Advisory Board Company. © 2007 by The Advisory Board Company and Kaiser Family Foundation. All rights reserved.