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Pacific Faces Condom And Contraceptive Crisis

Pacific Faces Condom And Contraceptive Crisis

The shortage of contraceptives and other family planning, maternity and sexual health supplies in the Pacific will be the focus of a high level meeting involving several Commonwealth and Pacific Health Ministers, Pacific policy makers and NGO’s in Auckland this week.

Organised by the Commonwealth Medical Association Trust, Commonwealth Secretariat and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), the meeting draws together policy and decision makers concerned with ensuring that reproductive health supplies like condoms, forceps and diagnostic kits are available.

New Zealand Minister of Health, Hon Annette King, who will open the three-day forum, says that without reproductive health supplies, there cannot be effective family planning programmes nor urgently needed programmes to stop the spread of HIV/AIDS.

“Access to these supplies is a basic human right and failure to make them available puts lives at risk – particularly considering significant and worrying rates of HIV infection in the Pacific.”

Ms King said other factors that increased the Pacific’s risk in relation to the shortages of supplies are a high rate of population growth in many Pacific countries, particularly where much of the population is aged under 15 years of age. There is also the additional challenge of delivery of services and supplies to people in isolated areas.

“We know from the rest of the world’s experience that the countries that have been most successful in reducing poverty have also done the most in reducing high levels of population growth by meeting reproductive health needs.”

Ms King said donors like UNFPA and the International Planned Parenthood Federation had provided over 40 percent of the total contraceptive requirements from 1992 to 1996. That support had declined since United States funding cuts and in 2000, donors met only 27 percent of the total estimated requirements.

“That shortfall needs to be met and I will be urging the delegates at this forum to take that message home to their respective governments, and for donor countries to remember the commitments that they have already given through the United Nations Declaration of Commitment on HIV/AIDS and the International Conference on Population and Development Programme of Action (Cairo agreement).”

Family Planning Association Executive Director, Dr Gill Greer, who is also participating in the forum said that without access to affordable, appropriate contraceptives such as condoms and other supplies in the Pacific Islands, women face the increased possibility of unplanned pregnancies and related health problems. There was also the very real risk of a dramatic increase in HIV infection and other sexually transmitted infections.

New Zealand and other Pacific countries renewed their commitment to the Cairo Plan of Action in Bangkok in December, committing themselves to addressing population and development issues like access to reproductive health services and supplies.

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