I Stand With…the Right to Health

planned parenthoodBefore you keep reading, let’s be clear: this blog is about the universal human right to the highest attainable standard of health, the package of services it takes to be well—and the ability to afford it.  It’s also about the implications of the Susan G. Komen Foundation’s decision to stop providing grants to the Planned Parenthood Federation of America for breast cancer screening.  Because too often, women’s health falls victim to agendas that prevent women from exercising their human rights.  It’s about the big picture.

According to Planned Parenthood, the vast majority of its services are the provision of information and education about health, well-being and sexuality; prevention of and response to gender-based violence; prevention and treatment of sexually transmitted infections, including HIV/AIDS; and family planning counseling and supplies. These services are provided to both men and women, of all ages, of all income levels. They are part of basic health care.


Exciting Progress for Health Care Equality!

A mother holds her infant during a check-up at a clinic for low-income families. ©John Moore/Getty Images

As Amnesty International’s recent reports on maternal health  have highlighted, discrimination in health care in the United States is severe and pervasive. But recently introduced legislation would help end discrimination and improve the quality of health care in the United States.

Last month, Congresswoman Barbara Lee from California introduced the Health Equity and Accountability Act of 2011 (HEAA).  Passing this legislation will help eliminate disparities in access to health care and in health outcomes for communities of color. The HEAA ensures that a full range of culturally appropriate public health services are available and accessible to communities of color, and that services are available in the languages used by those communities.  The bill also provides training opportunities for health care workers to better address particular health issues facing marginalized communities.


Remembering 9/11

On September 11th, 2001, my wife and son were in Logan Airport waiting to board a flight to New York. I was almost 4,000 miles away working in Mostar, Bosnia.

At the time I was a war crimes investigator working for the United Nations and I was in Mostar to take a statement from a former Bosnian Prisoner of War who had been tortured by his captors.

When we finished for the day I went next door to a small café and my eye was drawn to the television in the corner, which was running footage of emergency crews responding to some kind of major disaster.

It took a few minutes for the full story of what had happened in New York to unfold and, as it did so, my blood ran cold.


Is Sierra Leone’s Free Healthcare Program for Pregnant Women and Children Working?

By Kim Lanegran, Amnesty USA Country Specialist for Sierra Leone

sierra leone mother and babyIt’s been a little over a year since the government of Sierra Leone launched its groundbreaking free healthcare program for children and pregnant women.

While we’re thrilled about the good news — more women now receive pre and post-natal health care, over 39,000 women delivered their babies in health care facilities, and many lives have been saved — there is still a lot to be done.

Amnesty International’s new report on the Free Health Policy finds that free adequate care is simply not being delivered.


Renowned Iranian HIV/AIDS Doctor Imprisoned For Doing His Job

Update 8/29/11: Dr. Arash Alaei has been released! Thank you to everyone who took action!

Dr. Arash Alaei teaching

Dr. Arash Alaei teaching © Physicians For Human Rights

Brothers Kamiar and Arash Alaei, both doctors, have dedicated their lives to helping some of the most marginalized and stigmatized groups in Iranian society—HIV-infected drug users and prison inmates. They established innovative and humane public health programs and became internationally recognized experts in the prevention and treatment of HIV/AIDS.

Their hard work brought rare favorable world attention to the Islamic Republic; the programs the brothers created were considered models by the international health community.


First Year of Sierra Leone’s Free Care Policy

By Kim Lanegran, Sierra Leone Country Specialist

Pregnant women at a maternity waiting house in Sierra Leone © AI

On April 27th, Sierra Leoneans celebrated two important anniversaries: 50 years of independence from Great Britain; one year of  free health care to children under five and pregnant and lactating women.

Since independence, Sierra Leone has struggled from crushing poverty, human rights atrocities and a decade of horrible civil war.  When the war ended in 2002, Sierra Leone faced many challenges, not the least of which was that it was among the very worst countries in the world to be a pregnant woman or a child.

Amnesty International played a pivotal role drawing attention to the human costs of inadequate maternal health care in Sierra Leone and helped Sierra Leoneans demand reforms from their government.  Amnesty’s work emphasizing that maternal health is a human right and that other human rights abuses, such as gender discrimination, exacerbate the failure of health care delivery was crucial.

This work continues in Sierra Leone, Africa and throughout the world. Join us in shining a light on maternal health this Mother’s Day.