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Fertility experts want stricter regulations for IVF practice by Prof. Oladapo Ashiru

Fertility Experts like the President, African Fertility Society (AFS) and Medical Director of Medical Art Centre (MART) and MART Detox Clinic, Ikeja, Lagos, Prof. Oladapo Ashiru, has urged governments across Africa to introduce stricter regulations for Assisted Reproductive Techniques (ART) and In Vitro Fertilisation (IVF) as well as laws to reduce stigma and discrimination against childless couples.

Ashiru, who is also the joint pioneer of IVF in Nigeria, while addressing of fertility experts at the first International Infertility Symposium in African held in Kampala, Uganda, said there are plans to de-stigmatise infertility, strengthen human capital in ART in Africa by training more clinical embryologists and empower brutalised infertile women who have passed the child bearing age.

Ashiru said a team of fertility experts raised by the World Health Organisation (WHO) had developed Fertility Guidelines especially on the practice of IVF/ARTs in Africa. Ashiru said: “The long awaited change in fertility mind set of the African will now begin to change for ever. The withering childless African woman blamed, for far too long, for the infertility of any cause should at last begin to expect an improved quality of life as the bravado men climb down and calm down in the face of evidence-based fertility recommendations made.”

The theme of the symposium is “Infertility awareness, Access, Capacity building and management in Sub-Saharan Africa for Happy families.” AFS, the International Federation of Fertility Societies (IFFS), the Uganda Ministry of Health and Uganda Fertility Society hosted the symposium.Uganda’s State Minister for Health, Sarah Opendi, said: “Infertility is a disease of the reproductive system defined by the failure to achieve a clinical pregnancy after 12 months or more of regular unprotected sexual intercourse. It is a reproductive disease that affects both men and women; with the WHO indicating that 50 per cent of infertility is as a result of the male factor.

“For the first time, an international conference of this magnitude is holding in sub-Saharan Africa. This provides a unique opportunity for Africa’s infertility care providers, trainers, researchers and policy makers to pool and share knowledge and experience with experts from across the world.” Opendi said government would this year introduce a law on fertility aimed at reducing stigma and discrimination against barren women and men.

“Currently, there is no law that regulates the fertility clinics that are in place in the country and yet the demand for fertility services is growing daily due to technology…We need to regulate this sector,” Opendi said. Opendi said the new law on fertility would include the issues of donor sperms, donor ovaries, surrogate mothers and others.“Before the end of this year, we shall have a draft law on fertility issues…presented to parliament for consideration,” she said.

Opendi said infertility has been a great issue in the country and many barren women are considered as useless and cursed.“I want to appeal to the public that there is a difference between womanhood and motherhood. So, my failure to become a mother doesn’t mean I am useless in society and there is nothing else that I can do. So, stop stigmatizing women and men who have not given birth because it’s not their choice. They should be given equal opportunities in our societies,” she said.

Infertility issues have been neglected not only in Uganda but also in the whole of Africa and other developing countries, but the developed world has gone ahead to handle the infertility issue.

“Although Uganda has a high fertility rate [about seven children per woman], there are a big number of couples who suffer from infertility. In Uganda, about 10 to 15 per cent of the couples cannot have children due to infertility, but 50 per cent is [dependent on males],” she said.She advised couples with infertility issues to always go to hospitals for help instead of going to witchdoctors or pastors.

“In women, causes of infertility include unsafe abortions, fibroids, blocked fallopian tubes due to untreated Sexually Transmitted Diseases, poor nutrition and others,” she said.The deputy speaker of Uganda parliament, Jacob Oulanyah, who opened the symposium on behalf of President Museveni, said the major cause of infertility issues in Uganda is due to untreated infections.“All couples are advised to seek early treatment on STDs to avoid infertility,” he said.