Monthly Archives: February 2016

Will climate change cause more complex effects on sexual and reproductive health?

Will climate change cause more complex effects on sexual and reproductive health?


 Published: February 4, 2016

The Zika viral epidemic represents a perfect storm of climate change, disease, sexuality and reproductive health. In 2009, I was deeply interested in the effects of climate change worldwide. I work for a regional organisation and I was studying trends which I thought would impact women’s health and rights.

Disasters – both natural and climate change induced were one of these trends. Three key events stood out in my memory; the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, the 2008 Cyclone Nargis in Myanmar and the 2010 Pakistan floods. These incidents affected the partners we work with on the ground, and many had rushed in to deliver aid. A number of partners talked about the need of access to comprehensive sexual and reproductive health services, occurrences of sexual violence, and of course the need for camps to be set up in a manner that suited the needs and realities of women. One of the activists in my circle told me that after the tsunami, women who had tubal ligation in Tamil Nadu, had fought for and won the right to reverse tubal ligation, because they had lost their children in the tsunami. I was often on the lookout for such interesting angles to sexual and reproductive issues during the times of disaster.

In 2009, I read an Oxfam briefing paper which posited that the greatest impact of climate change will be on people’s health. This seemed to reiterate all the experiences I had with partners. This paper also talked about a particular health challenge – the increase in water-borne, insect-borne, vector-borne diseases due to increases in temperature and rain, and the inability of health and municipal services to be able to plan and manage these changes.

In Malaysia, we have seen year-on-year drastic increases of dengue, and it helped me connect this issue with the larger, little explored connection with climate change. Even in my country, health personnel often attribute it to different things such as; newer, pesticide-resistant mosquitoes and lack of civic consciousness of citizens. However, this was an interesting angle, and of course I could also pick up on the regional stories of dengue and Chikungunya in the Philippines, Indonesia and India.

Naturally, when the first stories of Zika surfaced, these three connections came foremost to my mind.

The first stories revealed that the virus was first reported in May in Brazil, there was an increase in the births of babies with microcephaly – around 3700 to 4000 between October and now. Many were aghast because this spike of babies with microcephaly puts stress on health services, families and communities – and even on educational services. Since the Zika virus manifests itself in indiscernible ways, women may not know that they have contracted the virus, if pregnant – until they deliver. A week ago, I was sitting on a panel in an international conference – when the astonishing news broke that the solution El Salvador presented was that women must avoid pregnancy till 2018 due to the potentially dangerous Zika virus.

Just yesterday, the first case of the sexual transmission of Zika has been recorded in Texas. But in 2013 itself, the possibility of sexual transmission of Zika had been published in medical journals by looking at the case study of an infected person in Tahiti. Some attribute the fast spread of Zika due to dual transmission modes.

It is equally interesting to consider that the largest outbreak is occurring in a region, which has highly restrictive abortion laws and access to contraceptives including condoms is limited due to socio-religious norms.

Many years ago, I wrote a proposal which posited this hypothesis: an undue burden will be placed on women who live in countries which face climate change and have fundamentalist policies (influenced by religion, and do not recognise sexual and reproductive rights) because they will be denied access to essential services. This viral epidemic is one such example.

A comprehensive approach is needed to combat diseases such as these.


One, access to dual-protection methods (pregnancy prevention and safe sex) is essential.

Two, access to comprehensive maternal health services: ante-natal scans to enable early detection, access to pregnancy termination (as a choice), and safe delivery and neo-natal care (as a choice).

Three, understanding that as time goes by, climate change will only cause more complex effects on sexual and reproductive health, and in order to cater for this we need policy, programme and paradigm change, which enables individuals and couples to be able to make decisions about their bodies and lives.

In the longer run, in order to create more resilient societies, which can cope with the multifarious effects of climate change, it would be essential to recognise the rights and agency of individuals and couples. We must further ensure that community systems are built with this perspective in mind. To stop this now, we have to start this now.

Men urged to use a condom as sexual transmission of Zika detected

Men urged to use a condom as sexual transmission of Zika detected

Health officials have warned pregnant women to think twice about the lips they kiss and called on men to use condoms with pregnant partners if they have visited countries where Zika is present. “Because how can they ask those women not to become pregnant but also not offer them first information that is available, but the possibility to stop their pregnancies if they wish?”

Active transmission of Zika, a mosquito-borne virus, has occurred in more than two dozen countries and territories in the Americas and Caribbean.

Rockland health officials said she contracted the virus there, not in NY, where it is too cold for mosquito activity.

The new infections bring the number of Zika cases in Florida to nine.

The virus has been linked to the birth defect Microcephaly, which prevents fetus’ brains from developing properly. TheCDC had suggested testing only for those woman who were experiencing symptoms of infection.

Colombian health officials reported the deaths of a man and a women in second city, Medellin, on Thursday after they were confirmed to be carriers of Zika and showed symptoms of the Guillain-Barre syndrome.

Panama’s Health Ministry has reached out to an indigenous community to the northeast of the Central American nation following some 50 reported cases of Zika.

Garrett also said it is not a matter of if, but when, Zika starts to spread in North America. The CDC still is reviewing data on whether the virus can be transmitted through saliva and urine and is not making a recommendation related to those fluids at this time, according to Dr. Frieden.

Day and Ruppert said that there is no risk of transmission of the disease in the county, which causes low-grade fever, rashes, joint pain and conjunctivitis in most patients.

Gavel said more tests need to be carried out to definitively confirm the above-mentioned hypothesis.

The virus is thought to remain in an infected person’s blood for a week or less.

“This virus, which only recently arrived in Brazil and Latin America, no longer is a distant nightmare but a real threat to all Brazilians’ homes”, Rousseff said in a nationally televised message.

A High Red Meat Intake Could Hurt Male Fertility

A High Red Meat Intake Could Hurt Male Fertility


Attention carnivores—if you are trying to conceive with your partner lay off processed meat. A recent study found that those men who consumed a lot of processed, red meat such as sausage and bacon had poorer success rates than those who ate mostly poultry. The study does not prove causality merely that a link exists. Lots of other studies have illustrated a connection between diet and fertility. But it can be hard to isolate exactly how much each food item affects the male reproductive system.

shutterstock_216673552 (1)

President of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine Dr. Rebecca Sokol wrote a press release about this study. She said it suggests such meat makes it more difficult for fertilization to occur. Eating a healthy diet is not only best for reproductive health she wrote, but overall health as well. Other physicians are considering adding a ban on processed meat to the list of recommendations they give those patients desiring fatherhood. Other items include quitting smoking, decreasing alcohol consumption, exercising regularly, and losing weight.

Researchers at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, led by Dr. Wei Xia conducted the study. They followed the cases of 141 couples undergoing in-vitro fertilization (IVF) at Massachusetts General Hospital. The male partners filled out a questionnaire including questions about their diet, such as their weekly meat consumption and what kinds of meat they ate. There was no correlation between the total amount of meat consumption and the success of IVF. However, those men who ate the most fowl were 13% more successful than those who ate the least amount of poultry.

Some doctors say that it could be those who consumed more chicken may have an overall healthier diet than those who ate more processed meat. But today most doctors would agree that it is a good idea to avoid such meat when trying to conceive. Any couple trying for six months to a year without success should seek out a medical professional. 50% of the time the problem comes from the male side of the equation. Men who have been trying with their partner for this long or longer should speak with their doctor or an urologist. 

 Dr. Muhammad Mirza


The Zika Virus’ Unlikely Silver Lining

The Zika Virus’ Unlikely Silver Lining


ould a mosquito-borne illness that threatens to spread across the Americas actually push countries to change their restrictive approaches to women’s health care?

International reproductive rights experts hope so. After health officials in several countries affected by the Zika virus suggested women avoid pregnancy in order to avoid having children with the severe birth defects the illness is believed to cause, human rights groups are countering with their own asks. They see the focus the virus has brought to unwanted and unhealthy pregnancies as a way to galvanize around reforming some of the harshest abortion laws in the world.

“Women need to know that their governments aren’t prepared to stop the spread of the virus, but that’s not a complete solution,” Amanda Klasing of Human Rights Watch’s women division told ThinkProgess.

In a region where more than half of all pregnancies in the region are unplanned, she said, governments need to make contraception — and even abortion — accessible to women in order to prevent the most harmful impact of the untreatable virus.

Four of the six countries in the world that ban abortion in all instances have either already been affected by the Zika virus, or are in its current path. Officials with the World Health Organization have warned that virus is expected to expand its reach across the entire Western hemisphere, with four million cases projected to arise before the close of 2016.

While a few harrowing cases of women denied their reproductive rights — including an 11-year old girl who became pregnant after she was raped by her stepfather in Paraguay last year — have led to widespread demonstrations in some countries, the Zika virus poses a particularly widespread risk to maternal and fetal health.

That’s why some rights’ activists see an opportunity in the alarming illness that made its way from Western Africa to South America in 2014.

For Latin America’s vibrant pro-choice movement, there are some sights for hope, especially since socially conservative Brazil made reforms to its otherwise stringent abortion laws by the health risks posed by anecephaly, a rare condition that fatally damages skull and brain formation in fetuses. Although nearly 80 percent of Brazilians polled in 2014 were against legalizing abortion, they may make an exception in cases of the Zika virus, which can cause fetuses to developmicrocephaly, or an underdeveloped brain.

With a threat as widespread as the one posed by the Zika virus, Klasing and other human and reproductive rights’ advocates are hoping for a widespread shift in policy in a region where abortion is no-go issue for many politicians.

“I think it is a unique moment to talk about women’s reproductive health in the context of this very scary public health crises,” Klasing said. “It really demonstrates the heartbreaking impact of restrictions on abortion services for women and girls when you have this potential of birth defects.”

The virus might help shift the discussion from a matter to one of social values mired in religious beliefs into a matter of public health — and the risks Zika poses to the future of Latin America.

“I do think that it’s going to create more of a space for a conversation around reproductive rights, maybe with a little bit less of the stigma and shame that has been associated with those discussions in the past,” Klasing added.

Reproductive health and rights groups have already started to initiate some of those discussions. ThinkProgress reached out to three experts from around Latin America to talk about how an alarming illness could spark change in the region’s entrenched policies against abortion.