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Zika, Sex and Reproductive Health

With latest reports suggesting that the Zika virus could be transmitted through sexual relations,our working definition of reproductive health risk needs to be further expanded.

A few days ago, I wrote a blog on “Zika, Poverty and Reproductive Health” (http://unfoundationblog.org/
) in which I lamented the new assault on the reproductive health (RH) of poor women, with RH being defined more broadly to include the right to a healthy pregnancy and delivery and not just to contraceptive access to prevent unwanted pregnancies. I also argued that developing countries far from Central and South America need to be on the alert because many of them (including India) are already home to the aedes mosquito that can carry the Zika virus.

At the same time, the concern aroused by Zika might give us the perverse opportunity to take more seriously theefforts to provide women with universal access to contraception—an opportunity it will be unwise for the international RH community not to seize. This is especially important in the countries of South and Central America, in which religious strictures and docile or irresponsible governments have made it very difficult for women to control the timing and number of their pregnancies, in a converse parallel to other countries in which RH threatens to be only about reducing fertility and pushing birth control even on unwilling women.

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