On Wednesday 9th May, while Australia continued to dissect what the 2018 Federal budget meant for each of us, US-based research and policy body, The Guttmacher Institute and one of the world’s leading medical journals, The Lancet, released a comprehensive report on the progress of sexual and reproductive health and rights worldwide.
The report contains staggering statistics; almost 4.3 billion people of reproductive age on this planet will experience inadequate sexual and reproductive health services over the course of their lives.
You could easily dismiss the Guttmacher-Lancet report as yet another assessment of the Global South, or non-OECD nations (I refuse to use the term ‘developing’ ). However this is a global report and it is relevant to every nation and every person on this planet.
The report, for the first time, brings together a holistic picture of the state of sexual and reproductive health and rights across the board. It highlights the key issues that we face globally and the common barriers that block access to all of us attaining good sexual and reproductive health.
Most prominently the report highlights the issue of infertility, its wide-spread occurrence (up to 180 million couples are impacted worldwide) and its costly treatment. It mentions cervical cancer, an entirely preventable disease that claims the lives of 266,000 women each year. It highlights the need for greater responses to STIs other than HIV. It also broaches the issue of prostate cancer that kills 310,000 men a year.
Laws, policies, the economy and social norms are all, according to the report, key barriers to responding adequately. These issues and barriers to their resolution are just as relevant to Australia as they are to other nations.
The beauty of this report is that it clearly recommends what countries should support in order to provide adequate sexual and reproductive health and rights to its citizens. It recommends that governments focus on the traditional areas of sexual and reproductive health; contraception, maternal and new born care, and prevention and treatment of HIV/AIDs. However it also recommends that governments provide universal access to care for STIs other than HIV; comprehensive sexuality education; safe abortion care; prevention, detection, and counselling for gender-based violence; prevention, detection, and treatment of infertility and cervical cancer; and counselling and care for sexual health and wellbeing.