Thursday, May 17, 2012

Putting Women Third on the Health Agenda

I'm pleased to hear that "a new report suggests that paying more attention to...mothers’ health, and focusing on certain damaging but treatable diseases, could be one key to tackling neonatal mortality". I'm just surprised that it took a new report to point out that if mothers suffer from poor health and live in terrible conditions, their children will probably also do so. Perhaps the report will go on to suggest that women are people in their own right and should be entitled to available health benefits whether they are pregnant or not.

A Canadian obstetrician working in Uganda writes about a woman who couldn't afford the $60 to pay for a cesarean, including "the gloves, medicine and anesthesia required to surgically deliver her baby". The health, even the lives, of both mother and baby were at stake. The obstetrician intervened by providing the money necessary and both mother and baby were fine after the operation.

However, there were 10 men waiting outside the same operating room for circumcisions, which are claimed to cost around $60 (though when you add in the real costs they are about double that). Yet the current circumcision program is free and well resourced because the operation is supposed to protect men from being infected with HIV during penile-vaginal sex.

Each cesarean performed has a good chance of saving both the mother and the child. This is despite the poor health conditions that might result in serious illness or death for both following, perhaps even as a result of, the operation. But it could take 75 or more circumcisions to avert one HIV infection, and that's something of a best case scenario. It appears that women don't come second on the health agenda, after men; they come third, after men and children.

[For more about non-sexual HIV transmission through unsafe health and cosmetic practices, see the Don't Get Stuck With HIV site.]


No comments: