STIs cause infertility, social stigma in sub-Saharan Africa

Sexually transmitted infections are the main cause of infertility in sub-Saharan Africa, where the condition often brings stigma and social consequences to women who do not have children, according to Helen Pilcher, author of a article published in the Aug. 31 issue of the journal Nature, PRI's "The World" -- a production of BBC World Service, PRI and WGBH Boston -- reports.

Although fertility rates in sub-Saharan Africa are among the highest in the world -- it is not uncommon in some countries for women to give birth to up to seven infants -- as many as one-third of all couples in the region are unable to conceive, according to PRI.

Gonorrhea and chlamydia, which are common in the region, can cause scarring that blocks the reproductive system and prevents fertility, Pilcher said.

The cost of fertility treatments can be prohibitive, and for women in sub-Saharan Africa who cannot conceive, the "social stigma is really so severe that people do whatever they feel they can to conceive a child," Pilcher said.

In addition, "adoption isn't really seen as an option" for women who cannot conceive because of a cultural emphasis on blood relationships, Pilcher said.

Pilcher in the interview also discussed the case of Betty Chishava, a woman in Hirare, Zimbabwe, who founded the Chipo Chedu Society, which provides assistance to women who do not have children by interceding with relatives and village elders who shun them and by connecting women with physicians who will provide Western fertility treatments (Mullins, "The World," PRI, 8/30).

The complete segment is available online in Windows Media.


Kaiser Health NewsThis article was reprinted from khn.org with permission from the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. Kaiser Health News, an editorially independent news service, is a program of the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonpartisan health care policy research organization unaffiliated with Kaiser Permanente.

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