Via The Lancet Global Health, an editorial:The right(s) approach to Zika. Excerpt:
Last month, The Lancet Global Health published WHO's interim guidance on pregnancy management in the context of Zika virus infection. The guidance includes recommendations for preventing and managing infection in pregnant women. Vector control is emphasised, as well as personal protection such as clothing, bednets, repellents, and safe sex.
Again these are sound recommendations, duly relayed by health authorities, but they certainly don't resonate in the poorest neighbourhoods of Brazil and other affected countries, where the availability, practicality, and affordability of protective items are doubtful and where safe sex is not always negotiable.
When prevention fails, women of reproductive age or who are pregnant are faced with terrifying uncertainties, for lack of information, lack of access to basic services and diagnostic tests, and most importantly a blatant lack of choice.
So in spite of the intensifying efforts of civil society, UN agencies, and national authorities to address these issues—controlling vectors, launching communication campaigns, planning for long-term child services—this is where poor women in Brazil, Colombia, El Salvador, and elsewhere have been let down by their governments. They are at the centre of the epidemics, they are scrutinised and lectured, but lack of access to basic reproductive services and restrictive abortion laws have stripped them of a choice when faced with the dire consequences of the virus on their health and that of their children.
This imbalance has been recognised and is being acted upon, in Brazil in particular where a group of lawyers, academics, and activists is bringing a case in front of the Supreme Court to request, among other things, access to information, to health services, and to safe abortions for victims of Zika.
In early April, the Pan American Health Organization issued a guidance document on the key ethical issues raised by the epidemic that echo those demands and include the duty of all governments to provide information, respect the right to choose, and provide access to comprehensive reproductive health care and social support to women affected by Zika and their children.
In many ways, Zika is the epitome of the interdependence of health and human rights. Controlling vectors is an essential step, but it will be ineffectual without a rights-centred approach.