'Please make fertility treatment affordable in Africa'

12 July 2018 - 15:18 By Naledi Shange In Nairobi
There was a plea at the conference for governments to offer affordable treatment for infertility.
There was a plea at the conference for governments to offer affordable treatment for infertility.
Image: Gallo Images/Thinkstock

Governments should provide affordable treatment for infertility‚ just like it has done with treatment for HIV/Aids. This is the emotional call of a 36-year-old Namibian woman‚ who is battling to fall pregnant.

Linda Hiaduwa called for state-funded screening centres‚ clear policies on infertility and changes in policy to ensure affordable treatment‚ “just like HIV treatment”.

She took to the stage at a conference in Nairobi‚ Kenya‚ this week to advocate for women like her who can’t afford to seek assistance. “I cannot wait to hold my baby in my arms‚” she sobbed.

The conference was hosted by the Merck Foundation‚ a German-based non-profit organisation working in the healthcare sector.

Sharing her story at the conference‚ Hiaduwa said she felt the shame and stigma of being unable to have children. Although her husband was understanding and supportive‚ she said criticism from society about her inability to conceive was unbearable.

South African film director and producer‚ Molatelo Mainetje-Bossman, was honoured at the conference for her 90-minute documentary‚ When the Babies Don’t Come‚ as well as a shorter film‚ Womb-man‚ both of which detail her 12-year attempt to become pregnant. She has had three unsuccessful cycles of infertility treatment.

Speaking to TimesLIVE‚ Mainetje-Bossman said she had spent over R120‚000 in her efforts to conceive.

She endorsed Hiaduwa’s plea for governments to offer affordable treatment for infertility. “That is a ‘must do’ by government‚” she said.

The conference also shone a spotlight on male infertility. “There is an accepted fact that men are core to reproduction‚ but they can be core to infertility too‚” said Kenyan Professor Koigo Kamau.

Speaking under the topic #MenToo‚ Kamau explained that research has revealed that among couples struggling to conceive‚ 50% of cases were due to the infertility issues of the male partner.

Kamau said causes of male infertility range from exposure to industrial and environmental toxins (like certain paints and petrochemicals)‚ high temperatures (excessive riding of motorbikes‚ hot baths‚ etc)‚ obesity‚ drugs and alcohol.

Dr Rasha Kelej‚ CEO of the Merck Foundation‚ said almost all types of male infertility could be treated. “It is also much easier to treat male infertility than female infertility — and remember that it only takes one good‚ healthy sperm to create a pregnancy‚” she said.

Kelej said in some African countries‚ there is not a single fertility specialist. The foundation is currently training doctors who will be deployed to give treatment in these countries.

In South Africa‚ three centres offering affordable fertility treatment already exist. They operate from the Steve Biko Academic Hospital in Pretoria and the Tygerberg and Groote Schuur hospitals in Cape Town. These centres have managed to cut the costs of assisted reproductive treatment in South Africa by changing some of the treatment processes and in some cases lowering the doses of medication.

Among the other speakers at the conference was South African journalist Mathatha Tsedu‚ who currently sits on the board of the SABC. Tsedu took to the podium to discuss how South Africa’s stance on reporting on sensitive topics such as HIV/Aids could be adopted to reporting on the stigma of infertility.

  • Naledi Shange was a guest of the Merck Foundation at the conference in Kenya