Reproductive Health Redux

On September 2, 2008, in books, HIV/AIDS, reproductive health, by Karen Grepin

I am currently reading Fatal Misconception: The Struggle to Control World Population by Matthew Connelly. I would recommend this book to anyone interested in population control but also to anyone interested in global public health in general because not only does the book provide an overview of global movements to control population, but because I think there are a lot of parallels between the historical movements outlined in this book and the current movement to control HIV/AIDS.

The book provides a detailed account of how governmental and non-governmental actors interacted throughout the 20th century on the topic of population control. I thought it was fascinating how different groups, for example environmentalists and eugenicists, came together to back the same cause due to their realization that a certain outcome would be beneficial to all of their interests.

However, it was the challenges of implementation that most interested me. When population control programs were being rolled out throughout the developing world, the initiatives were oftentimes driven by the agendas of Foundations and Governments of Western countries. The impact of these initiatives on the recipient countries themselves was often given little forethought. There was a concern that there would not be enough domestic resources available to carry out all of the necessary interventions (e.g. sterilizations, IUD insertions) and therefore additional financial incentives were frequently given to these workers to meet the objectives of the population control initiatives, forcing them to abandon their other responsibilities.

I won’t spoil the ending for anyone who wants to read this, but the book basically tells the story of a movement that despite is power and influence, fails to deliver on its overall promises, largely due to a failure of implementation. I think HIV/AIDS should take a few lessons from this experience. Thanks to Matthew Connelly for this excellent contribution.

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