Despite the international backlash against SRHR and an increasing anti-women’s rights sentiment entering our decision-making spaces both in Europe and across the Atlantic, the past year saw financial and political commitments solidified and support for SRHR championed by European donor countries in many global fora, including Belgium.
This year Belgium will preside the UNAIDS constituency with Portugal, Luxemburg and the Netherlands in the Programme Coordination Board (PCB) of UNAIDS, the governing board of the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV. The UNAIDS PCB sets the overall policies and priorities for UNAIDS and decides on the organisation’s planning and execution. Challenges discussed within the board include how to keep up international support for HIV response, but can also include discussions on the impact of big donor countries’ policies on the HIV/AIDS response, think of the detrimental effect of the reinstatement of the Mexico City Policy (or Global Gag Rule) by the US on integrated SRHR-HIV service delivery in countries in the Global South.
On 26 July 2018, UNAIDS published the latest statistics on the global HIV epidemic. In 2017, an estimated 36.9 million people were living with HIV. 21 million people have access to treatment, a record high. Consequently, the number of AIDS related deaths has dropped, to 940,000 in 2017. The biggest successes lay in Eastern and South-Eastern Africa, with a 42% decline in the number of AIDS related deaths since 2010. They reflect the successful scale-up of treatment in the region. Access to treatment also improved in most other regions, although (much) more modestly.
According to Professor in bio-ethics Peter Singer (DM, 7 July) population growth has become a taboo due to “a bizarre coalition of the Vatican, which has always been against anticonception and birth control, on the one hand, and radical feminists on the other, who gave priority to women’s freedom to choose how many children they want.” I choked in my coffee. Peter Singer is not an opponent of women’s rights, quite the contrary. And indeed, immediately after, the professor stated that these feminists “had a point, namely that family planning is a women’s right”. “But”, he continued, “at the level of the collective this leads to problems they forget to take into account, as an increase of young children equally increases the need for more schools, hospitals, jobs, etcetera.”
How to ensure medicines of good quality and much needed reproductive health supplies? On November 8, the Belgian development cooperation and Be-cause health, the Belgian platform on international health, organised a seminar on access to quality medicines and supplies for sexual reproductive health and rights. Some key take aways.
At the Family Planning Summit in London, donor governments, southern governments and philanthropic institutes promised to invest 5 billion dollars in sexual and reproductive health services in developing countries.
The Trump administration has proposed to cut all support for international family planning and reproductive health in its budget proposal for 2018. This amounts to a budget of $607.5 million. The budget cut is unprecedented.
During a meeting with the ‘Parliamentarians for the 2030 Agenda’, an informal parliamentary group following up the gender, health and rights dimensions of the 2030 Agenda, Deputy Prime Minister De Croo discussed his plans for She Decides, the global fundraising initiative in support of sexual and reproductive health and rights.
During a She Decides visit to Benin and Senegal, the Belgian Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Development Cooperation, Alexander De Croo announced an increase of his support to the UNFPA and International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF).
The Trump-Pence administration has decided to cease all support to the United Nations Population Fund UNFPA. In 2016 only US support to UNFPA helped to prevent 2.340 maternal deaths, 947.000 unplanned pregnancies and 295.000 unsafe abortions. It allowed an estimated 800.000 people to freely decide about their number of children. US support to UNFPA also reached no less than 9 million people in humanitarian emergencies and refugee camps, where the organization provides sexual and reproductive health services and tries to prevent genderbased violence.