Yesterday, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) released new dollar figures on what the world should be spending to provide widespread access to contraception; for HIV/AIDS prevention, counseling and testing, care, and treatment; and to stop women from dying unnecessarily during childbirth and pregnancy. In short, the world needs to cough up just short of $65 billion next year for sexual and reproductive health, including family planning and maternal health. This may seem like a lot of money, but it is less than half of what the United States spent on the Iraq War last year.
Overall, the current 2010 projection is a three-fold increase over the initial 2010 projection from 1994. The jump is largely accounted for by the need to spend seven times more than predicted on basic research, data collection, and policy analysis, and 20 times more on HIV/AIDS.
The burden of ill health falls most heavily on the poorest countries, and UNFPA’s current projections require them to come up with two-thirds of the funds to address these problems. One might think this means the governments of developing countries, but in fact it means that the people: people like you and I, scrimping and saving to buy birth control, buy a condom, get prenatal care, or safely deliver a baby. For example, this year the governments of developing countries will spend nearly $8 billion on sexual and reproductive health, but the people living in these countries will spend over $12 billion.
Donor countries need to step up support for sexual and reproductive health in a big way. In 2006, they spent as estimated $7.3 billion, but they need to more than double that by 2010. Again, these are big numbers. But if all donor countries (of which there are about 40) spent $15 billion on keeping men and women safe and healthy and able to choose the size of their families, this would still be less than 2 percent of the U.S. defense budget. Yes, less than 2 percent!
It’s all a question of priorities, and clearly we value guns over health.