Onsea House is supporting a special African development project which took off in Arusha.
During an Expert Meeting last weekend in Arusha with logistics, accommodation and dinners organized by Onsea House, Doctors discussed the plans to develop a low-cost version of “test-tube” baby technology, which helps tens of thousands of infertile couples each year in rich countries but is far too costly for the developing world, as reported on December 14 by Reuters (London):
More than 80 million couples suffer from infertility worldwide and the vast majority live in poor countries, where the issue is a crisis for millions.
The problem is particularly acute in Africa, where infections are a common cause of tubal blockages in women, leading to high rates of infertility and social isolation.
“The stigma of infertility in Africa is great — much more so than in the Western world,” Ian Cooke, emeritus professor at the University of Sheffield, told Reuters.
“It is often extreme because a woman may be divorced and then rejected by the community with no livelihood, and there are well-documented cases of suicide as a consequence.”
Africa as a region has the world’s highest fertility rate, which is often viewed as a problem, yet it also has the highest infertility rate, Cooke said.
Fertility experts have met in Arusha, Tanzania, this weekend under the auspices of the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology to discuss the challenges at the first conference on infertility in developing countries.
Together with Cooke, Onsea House hopes the meeting will kick-start a pilot project in Africa. The goal is to bring the cost of a cycle of IVF (in vitro fertilisation) down to just $100, by using far fewer drugs and cutting back on costly hospital equipment.
It is a huge drop from costs of around 3,000 pounds ($6,130) in Britain and $10,000 or more in the United States, but the example of HIV/AIDS treatment — where drug prices in Africa have plummeted in recent years — suggests it may be feasible.
“We need to find low-cost solutions for the low-resource economies of the world,” Cooke said.
He and others in the low-cost IVF task group hope pharmaceutical companies and medical equipment suppliers will be persuaded to offer big discounts for developing countries.
Even so, getting costs down to realistic levels will require a radical rethinking of treatment strategies, with the emphasis on much milder ovarian stimulation using fewer costly hormone injections.
Any future treatment programme will also need to go hand in hand with better prevention, experts believe.
Most cases of infertility in Africa are due to infectious disease like chlamydia, gonorrhoea or tuberculosis.
Also Willem Ombelet, Belgian professor Obstetrics & Gynaecology and organizer of the Expert Meeting, said this earlier in Nature, the renowned international weekly journal for science.
Next to the private support of the Onsea House owners, future Onsea House guests will be contributing to this interesting development project in the form of a donation to The Walking Egg, a new NGO which will be founded by Willem Ombelet and artist Koen Van Mechelen for this purpose.