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Viewpoint: Medical infertility care in low income countries: the case for concern in policy and practice

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Based on published, ‘grey’ and anecdotal information, this paper explores some aspects of infertility, its medical treatment and their burden in poor countries. Many cases of infertility result from sexually transmitted infections (STI) and unsafe abortion and there is no doubt that their prevention and adequate treatment are of utmost importance, especially as effective infertility treatment, if any, comes at a high price for the consumer, materially as well as physically. Medical infertility interventions are apt to fail a free market of provision because of major information asymmetry. This renders patients in low-resource countries prone to exploitation, potentially damaging practices and waste of their savings. The authors argue that in countries struggling with limited funds and a range of pressing public health problems, public investment in infertility treatment should not have priority. But governments should take an active role in quality control and regulation of treatment practice, as well as invest in counseling skills for lower-level reproductive health staff to achieve rational referral of patients.
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Keywords: consumer interests; exploitation; infertility; infertility treatment; policy

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Department of Gynaecology and Obstetrics, Pasteur Hospital, Oosterhout, The Netherlands 2: International Health Department, Royal Tropical Institute, Amsterdam, The Netherlands 3: Medical Anthropology Unit, University of Amsterdam, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Publication date: 2001-07-01

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