Kelej …As Merck Foundation seeks end to stigma By Chioma Obinna With 85 per cent of infertility caused by untreated infectious diseases in Africa, experts have stressed the need to end the stigma associated with female infertility as it affects both men and women equally.
Findings in Africa have shown that infertility remains a major cause of marital disharmony and exposes women especially to ostracisation, social discrimination and physical violence.
In her submission during the 2021 Merck Foundation Community Awareness Program: “Health Media Training” held virtually, the Chief Executive Officer of the Foundation, Senator Rasha Kelej stressed the need to break the stigma around female infertility
According to her, it takes a man and woman to have a child which equally makes it a shared responsibility.
She posited that if everything can be addressed and managed, infertility can also be prevented and managed.
She said there is a need for everyone in the community and society to know that there is no relationship between masculinity and sexual ability and infertility, “this can bring about a lot of relief.”
Kelej said Merck More Than a Mother’s movement was designed to empower infertile women through access to information, education and change of mindsets.
She said the Merck Foundation train the media to break the stigma of infertility and raise awareness on infertility on how to break the stigma of infertility, raise awareness about infertility prevention which can be prevented.
She said the 85 per cent of infertility cases due to untreated infectious disease results from child marriage, abortion, unsafe delivery, STDs, can be prevented.
She urged the media practitioners to disseminate information on the fact that: “If infertility happens it also can be managed if diagnosed early and secondly, women and men should go to the doctor and get tested to understand where the cause is coming from for possible treatment to achieve a happy family.
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“We are training doctors to be fertility specialist and reproductive health specialist, more than 350 are graduating and they are undergoing their training, this is very important because when you raise the awareness you need someone to help you at home, family level, and for couples to be able to make a happy family.
“We trained the first specialist biologist in many countries and in many countries when we started in 2015 there were so many countries that didn’t have one fertility specialist and biologist locally, sometimes the people can’t afford to go overseas for these treatments.
She further announced the Merck Foundation Media Award for 2021 and other awards in the other categories.
Corroborating her views in his presentation, the President of the Fertility Society of Ghana, Dr Edem Hiadzi insisted that infertility was not a stigma as it affects men and women equally.
Hiadzi he said in developing countries high level of infertility was due largely to consequences of reproductive tract infections which lead to blocked tunes and peritubal adhesions.
He said studies have shown higher levels of infectious organism in interfile women compared to fertile controls.
Listing causes of infertility, he regretted that only a few women in developing countries obtain care from trained personnel at delivery while the majority still rely on traditional birth attendants.
He said unsafe abortion causes tubal blockage while other causes of infertility include; Asherman’s syndrome produced by excessive curettage of the uterine endometrium during D&C etc.
He encouraged couples to share their treatment journey by getting the right information and support each other.
He said infertility is one of the commonest conditions affecting the reproductive age group between 20 and 45 years.
To prevent infertility, he said there is a need to recognise and aggressively treat sexually transmitted infection and where infertility is irreversible couple should accept their fate and consider options of adoption or fostering.
On her part, a Gynaecologist and IVF Specialist from Kenya in her presentation tagged: “Fertility Management Options: Messages for the Community: Dr Wanjiru Ndengwa said to fight against the stigma of women, there is a need for massive education at all levels and training for adults and young people.
She further called for the involvement of the media, civil society organisations among others in the campaign to end stigma against infertile women.
Vanguard News Nigeria