Lisa Correnti

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Govt loses bid to conceal documents showing AIDS-Depo Provera link

Lisa Correnti
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WASHINGTON, D.C., January 9, 2014 (C-FAM.org) - Lawyers for U.S. government agencies have failed in an initial attempt to force a watchdog group to remove leaked documents from the group’s website. The documents describe studies showing complications of a long-lasting contraceptive heavily backed by the agencies and the Gates Foundation for use by African women.

The U.S. agencies are accused of attempting to conceal their knowledge of studies showing women using the injectable contraceptive Depo Provera are at higher risk of getting HIV/AIDS.

Allowing The Rebecca Project to publish the information means “this issue of Depo Provera’s harm now has to be decided in a court of law, where a judge will review scientific and social research data,” Kwame Fosu, the group’s policy director, told the Friday Fax.

The US Agency of International Development (USAID) and the Gates Foundation have spent millions of dollars to increase injectable contraceptive use among women in high-HIV communities in sub-Sahara Africa.

Legal representatives for USAID and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) filed a copyright infringement complaint to force The Rebecca Project to remove classified documents from its website. The documents were used at a closed-door meeting in Geneva of the World Health Organization, USAID, CDC, and Gates officials.

The meeting convened shortly after the Lancet Infectious Diseases journal published a study by Dr. Renee Heffron. It indicated women using Depo Provera had an increased risk of contracting HIV/AIDS.

One of the two classified documents posted by Fosu details several studies examining the link between injectable contraceptives and HIV transmission. While 11 of 15 studies reported the same result as Dr. Heffron, the WHO nonetheless issued a “Technical Statement” that the research was “inconclusive.”

Fosu charges the WHO guidelines “provided cover” for USAID, Gates, International Planned Parenthood, Pfizer, and others to continue “as usual” and protect the millions allocated to making Depo available to African women.

Months later Melinda Gates launched a $4 billion partnership, which includes funding to produce and deliver the injectable Depo Provera.

The second classified document obtained by Fosu was authored by Chelsea Polis of USAID and Kathryn Curtis with CDC. It heavily influenced the WHO review staff to determine there was “insufficient reason” to withdraw Depo Provera and enforce mandatory warnings. Fosu claims the Polis and Curtis analysis “water[ed] down available evidence” by ignoring key research.

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Despite attempts to conceal the harmful side effects, more poor women are abandoning use of Depo Provera. Compared with other contraceptive methods, women in less developed countries are more likely to stop using Depo Provera within a year of their first dose due to associated side effects and health concerns. A Population Reference Bureau report on worldwide family planning also indicates the injectable contraceptive is not used by women in affluent countries.

Fosu successfully refuted the legal attack to remove the documents citing the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) exemption for human rights and educational organizations that are providing information to protect vulnerable populations.

“Considering the overwhelming evidence of Depo Provera’s harm,” said Fosu “it is incumbent on Health Ministers in targeted developing countries to restrict or ban Depo Provera as a family planning option – exactly what Israel did in 2013 to protect women.”

In Ghana, human rights expert Dr. Charlotte Abaka, the former Chair of the UN women’s treaty committee, now advocates ending or restricting Depo Provera.

Reprinted from C-FAM.org.

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