Asia Pacific Initiative on Reproduction (ASPIRE) 2022 Congress
SINGAPORE: Women living with infertility in many developing countries are victims of a systemic process of cultural and institutional exclusion from assisted reproductive treatment.
This view on access to and quality of infertility treatment services in the developing world will be presented at the 2022 Congress of the Asia Pacific Initiative on Reproduction (ASPIRE) which started today.
The four-day Congress in virtual format is linking scientists, clinicians, nurses and counsellors from more than 100 countries to address the obstacles facing couples striving for parenthood, and latest advances in infertility treatment.
Bangladesh fertility specialist, Professor Maruf Siddiqui, said access to quality, affordable assisted reproductive treatment in developing countries was not just a medical problem for individuals and couples, but also an urgent social and public health issue.
He said the World Health Organisation estimated 180 million couples in developing countries, including many in the Asia Pacific region, suffered from infertility, which is defined as the failure to conceive after 12 months of regular, unprotected sexual intercourse, or the inability to carry pregnancy to a live birth.
“The largest majority of childless couples are residents of developing countries,” Professor Siddiqui said. “In these countries, the 12 month infertility prevalence rate ranges from 6.9 per cent to 9.3 per cent with differences explained by environmental, cultural and socio-economic influences.
“Global access to infertility care should be seen as a fundamental human right irrespective of the countries in which people reside.
“However infertile women in particular are marginalised and excluded from health sector interventions in developing countries. The immense problem of childlessness in these countries requires greater attention at the national and global level for reasons of social justice and equity.”
It has been 43 years since the birth of the world’s first IVF baby. Professor Siddiqui said there had been spectacular advances in assisted reproductive treatment over that period, but he added that only a relatively small proportion of the world’s population benefits from this technology.
“This is not just an issue about IVF,” he said. “It includes psychological support for those experiencing infertility, education on the timing of intercourse, availability of basic diagnostic procedures, easy methods of ovarian stimulation and access to intrauterine insemination and reproductive surgery.
“The time has come to give equitable access to effective and safe infertility care in resource poor countries.”
The ASPIRE Congress will hear of growing concerns about the declining worldwide Total Fertility Rate (TFR), a trend that will have major social and economic ramifications this century.
Professor Siddiqui, Head of the Department of Infertility and Reproductive Medicine at Anwer Khan Modern Medical College in Dhaka, said despite downward trends in the global TFR, the minimum rate considered necessary to maintain population numbers, there were continuing concerns in many developing countries about over population and limited public health resources.
“Public health policy that focuses on family planning and population control is very rational,” he explained. “But even if infertility treatment could be made more accessible in developing countries, it would probably account for less than one per cent of all deliveries.
“Denying infertile couples access to infertility care is not a fair population restriction policy.”
Professor Siddiqui said only a global project to address socio-economic, cultural, ethical and political differences could be successful to convince those who believe over-population is still an absolute argument to deny the reproductive desire of many childless women in developing countries.
For more information on the ASPIRE 2022 Congress, go to www.aspire-2022.com
Professor Maruf Siddiqui is available for interview.
To arrange, please contact Trevor Gill, ASPIRE 2022 Congress Media Relations.
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