An uncomfortable question

Toronto Sun | June 1, 2010

Is this condom to avoid pregnancy? Or is it to avoid HIV?

That’s the uncomfortable question representatives from the International Planned Parenthood Federation have sometimes had to ask in clinics in developing countries.

The question is a throwback to the George W. Bush-era rule that wouldn’t allow any US aid money to pay for contraceptives. US President Barack Obama quickly changed the policy when he took office.

“While this may sound ludicrous, IPPF has before been in the position where, in the clinic, we have to ask clients if they want they want the condom for pregnancy or STI prevention,” read Jolanta Scott-Parker in a statement written by IPPF.

“This is because the donor for the former was a European community and the latter was the United States government. Not only is this invasive and confusing for clients, but it also precludes dual protection if we run out of the family planning condoms.”

Scott-Parker, from the Canadian Federation for Sexual Health, was one of several international development group representatives who spoke about maternal and child health at the House Foreign Affairs Committee on Tuesday.  She read the statement for IPPF because IPPF spokesman Pierre LaRamée’s flight to Ottawa was cancelled.

LaRamée took aim at the shape he sees the G8 maternal and child health initiative taking. The only detail the government has so far released is the lack of abortion funding, so nobody really knows yet how it will look. But based on statements by International Cooperation Minister Bev Oda and Prime Minister Stephen Harper, La Ramée is guessing it will be a menu-style plan, where countries select the services they want to provide. He says that risks leaving critical areas of women’s health unfunded, undermining health systems and putting women’s lives at risk.

“Do we really want to see a maternal health initiative that provides a woman with clean water and better nutrition only to fail to provide the help she needs preventing an unwanted pregnancy or preventing a sexually-transmitted infection, including HIV?” he wrote.

IPPF is still waiting to hear whether CIDA will renew their funding for 2010-2012.

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