Washington D.C. (February 29, 2016): With an outbreak of the Zika virus in Brazil, 107 travel-associated cases, and 39 cases in the U.S., many countries are recommending avoiding pregnancy through 2018 due to the high potential risk of babies being born with microcephaly.
“Thousands of DKT employees are working in-the-trenches to inform, educate, and provide contraceptives to those living in the most remote regions of the world to help prevent the Zika virus, unwanted pregnancies, maternal deaths and unsafe abortions,” says Chris Purdy, CEO of DKT International. “As access to digital and mobile technology and social media becomes more prevalent in the developing world, we now have efficient ways to reach rural, underserved, and generally hard-to-reach populations. The ability to communicate broadly with large numbers of people about the dangers of Zika and the importance of using condoms and where to get them has the power to significantly change the current reproductive health landscape.”
The following health initiatives are taking place around the world in an effort to educate and provide access to contraceptives:
- The Brazil Health Ministry advised Brazilians to delay their child conception plans during the Zika outbreak. In response, DKT Brazil donated 500,000 condoms and distributed them during Carnival. In addition, they launched a social media campaign to include a video on Zikaprevention featuring Jairo Bouer, MD, a sexual health educator influential among youth in Brazil.
- Use of social media this past month has allowed DKT to reach more than 850,000 people in countries like Mexico, Venezuela, Ecuador and Guatemala, providing accurate and timely information on how to identify a possible Zika infection, what actions to take and how to prevent and postpone pregnancy.
- DKT has donated 15,000 Intrauterine Devices (IUDs) to Mexico, focusing on the State of Chiapas, one of the most Zika affected areas. They are also supplying condoms to Chiapas to prevent pregnany.
- The Mexico City Ministry of Health and DKT are discussing a 7,000 IUD donation to the Community Health Centers that work closely with their main program, “The Doctor at Your Home,” among other services providing prenatal care to low-income women. DKT also provides educational materials for their prevention campaign that utilizes social workers dressed in DKT/Mexico City uniform at Metrobus to disseminate information about preventing teen pregnancy and promoting condom use.
“If Zika were to take hold in the U.S., it is the poor who be most at risk of infection. The U.S. already has one of the highest infant mortality rates among the 14 wealthiest countries in the world – a trend largely associated with economic inequality, poor housing developments, and toxic environments,” says Melissa Grant, Executive Director of Carafem Health in Chevy Chase, Maryland. “Add Zika into the mix and suddenly that trend expands to include microcephaly for those babies that do survive. Increased access to contraceptives provides the simplest solution to the complicated problems presented by Zika, and will make the biggest difference in preventing illnesses and improving quality of life.” Carafem provides free condoms as well as non-judgmental abortions. Grant has just published a blog entitled, Zika Virus Alters Catholic Church Policy on Contraception available on Huffington Post.
Since 1989, the nonprofit organization DKT International has been promoting family planning and HIV/AIDS prevention through social marketing. DKT is one of the largest private providers of family planning and reproductive health.