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AFRO-NETS> New reproductive technologies and infertility treatment in Africa (2)

New reproductive technologies and infertility treatment in Africa (2)
Infertility treatment in Africa - current knowledge
Comprehensive Treatment for infertility does not reach the poor, 
while rich people have access to increasingly sophisticated and 
controversial techniques. This is a North/South issue, but also 
an issue within poorer countries. Care in the private sector is 
most often only for the rich, and infertility affects also poor 
people due to poor protection from conventional STD, malnutrition 
and other infections. Infertile people at many places in Africa 
are at high risk of HIV/AIDS, they risk divorce or abandonment, 
and it is a social disaster for some. Infertility care is one of 
the most unfairly distributed health care packages in the world!
I am part of a large research network or team that have been try-
ing to look at various issues regarding infertility in Africa and 
developing countries for some time. Dr. Okonofua - the author of 
the referred editorial is part of this team. His conclusions are 
sad, but true.
But the new technologies are tempting for desperate patients who 
may use all their savings to utilize this form or treatment. We 
had an international conference in India last year that confirmed 
that patients seem to use a lot of money on unsuccessful treat-
ments. The proceedings may be accessed through Dr. Sayed Unisa, 
Indian Population Institute:
One additional problem of the issue is of course that even ele-
mentary, cheap and simple interventions at the primary care level 
have not really been addressed. And nobody seems to really want 
to fund such research. Some of us had planned to do research to 
develop a basic infertility package within reproductive health 
approaches. But we could not find a funder. For instance, in the 
most recent call from EU's research program INCO, the topic was 
reproductive health, but the spelled out issues were maternal 
health, unsafe abortion, and contraceptive use. They are also im-
portant, but so is infertility, especially for those affected. So 
our research group, who had formulated an EU application, could 
not apply.
If someone is interested in further reading about the issue from 
a global perspective, I would recommend a few books:
Inhorn & van Balen: Infertility around the globe, Univ. of Cali-
fornia Press 2002.
Boerma & Mgalla: Women and Infertility in sub-saharan Africa (KIT 
press, 2001). 
Balen, Gerrits & Inhorn: Social Science research on childlessness 
in a global perspective (Univ of Amsterdam 2000). 
Dr. Johanne Sundby
Ass. Prof., OB/GYN

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