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Europe Urged to
Increase Sexual Health Funding

Europe Urged to
Increase Sexual Health Funding

German experts are urging European leaders to beef up reproductive health supervision alongside HIV/AIDS funding.

Europe needs to reverse a decline in aid for sexual and reproductive health in developing nations, where a woman dies almost every minute in pregnancy or childbirth, population experts said Tuesday.

A woman in Sweden has a 1 in 30,000 chance of dying as a result of pregnancy or childbirth, while the risk is 1 in 7 for women in Sierra Leone or Afghanistan, the German Foundation for World Population estimated in report released at a conference on reproductive health.

According to the study, European Commission aid allotted for sexual and reproductive health decreased from $25 million per year between 2003 and 2006 to $17 million per year earmarked for 2007 to 2013.

''Europe is not delivering,'' said Anne van Lancker, a Belgian Socialist member of the European parliament.

Sexual health-related aid from Europe was geared only toward HIV and AIDS this year, said Karen Hoehn, European affairs director of the foundation, which is known by its German acronym DSW. She said that help was imperative but that cash was also needed for family planning and reproductive health.

Europe accounts for nearly 65% of world development aid, but the DSW said support for reproductive health represented just 1.8% of total European Union aid in 2004, down from 2.8% in 2002.

European Commission officials declined to immediately comment on the report, saying they had not had time to study its findings.

This study comes when the largest youth population ever enters its childbearing years. Sietske Steneker, a United Nations Population Fund spokeswoman, said that with 3 billion women and girls approaching childbearing age, the demand for reproductive health services will increase 40% in the next 15 years.

Hoehn cited the example of Uganda, saying many girls as young as 12 report being sexually active -- by choice or not. Fewer than 20% of sexually active youth in Africa use contraceptives, the DSW report said.

The leading cause of maternal death is hemorrhage, often caused by lack of skilled medical personnel present at childbirth. (AP)

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