Thursday, May 29, 2008

It would cost so little to do so much ...

... I'm currently in Mombasa for a meeting on building the capacity of local researchers and local research institutions, so that they are equal partners with US and European researchers in eveloping and implementing HIV prevention trials in developing countries like Kenya and Rwanda.

Although the jet lag is murder, as are the 11pm conference calls with colleagues back in DC, trips like this often give me the opportunity to catch up with all of the journal articles, news reports, and blog postings that have gone unread over the past couple of weeks.

In reviewing my RSS feeds, I was particularly struck by a recent post on The Root, looking at the often neglected problem of obstetric fistula in resource-poor regions of the world. Over 2 million women in the developing world suffer from obstetric fistula - a rupture of the tissue separating the vagina from the rectum or the bladder that occurs as a result of prolonged labor or sexual trauma. If uncorrected, this tear results in pain, incontinence and frequent genital tract infections. Affected women live in physical and psychological agony, and are frequently cast out of their homes and stigmatized within the larger community because of their inability to control the urine or feces that drip down their legs as a result of this condition.

Of course, the surgical procedure to repair a fistula has been around for over 100 years, and costs a mere $300 in a country like Kenya. That's less than the amount that most American taxpayers received as part of the recent economic stimulus package, and is much less than that Zegna Sport pullover I've been eying at Saks. But it's equivalent to the yearly income of most of the affected women in the developing world.

Just think of the positive impact on our dismal world standing if the US government was willing to set aside the necessary funds to provide treatment to all women suffering from fistula across the world: $600 million. Of course, that will never happen ... but individuals can still help by donating to groups like the Campaign to End Fistula.

Cost to repair a fistula: $300
Restoring a young woman's confidence and dignity: Priceless.

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