Medicine
2 min

Keith Martin talks about contraception and HIV in the developing world

I spoke with Liberal MP Dr. Keith Martin today after Question Period as part of this article on the IAVI cuts, but I wasn't able to get everything into the piece. Nevertheless, I thought some of the exchange was particularly relevant to both the topic at hand and in the news lately, so I thought I'd post those parts here.

Q: I know you’ve mentioned in the past few weeks on how the contraception issue is related to the spread of HIV in the third world.
A: It’s the missing picture in this. If the government goes ahead and does not pursue access to a full array of family planning options, this will be the most disastrous public health decision this country has ever seen and will result in the deaths of thousands if not millions of people. Not only that, but to not pursue family planning as part of the G8 will clearly be the most disastrous, misguided, offensive, appalling decision by the government in the battle against HIV and AIDS.

Q: It seemed to me when I was going over these particular cuts, they were trying to shift the funds to their own initiative with the Gates Foundation – but that’s now on hold because they’ve quashed the vaccine production facility. What does that say to you about all of these pieces of the puzzle we’ve seen?
A: I think we need to separate a few things out. I think we need to separate the vaccine issue out, because the government has a responsibility to put the limited public resources into that which it can make the most profound impact, and there are other places to make the most profound impact to reduce the spread of HIV. I mentioned what they are. However, the government, in the maternal and infant morality issue, has taken a blatantly ideological approach that flies in the face of science and good medical practice. They in fact will be committing manslaughter if they choose not to allow family planning to get onto the table. They can square this frankly – and I have a piece in The Mark about this – they can get the job done is they can get family planning and child health on the agenda. Each G8 country should take the lead on each of the inputs required to reduce maternal and child mortality – health care workers, diagnostics, meds, water, power, nutrition, and of course access to a full range of family planning options. One country can take a lead on each of those areas, and in doing so we can get the job done. But that is the way that the Canadian government can have an effective, implanted plan to improve the population health of the world’s poorest. And that’s what I’m proposing that they do.
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