HARARE, Zimbabwe — The Registrar General of Zimbabwe created quite a stir after he advised women to stop using contraceptive methods, claiming the use of oral, hormone-based contraceptives is linked to increased cancer rates.
The Registrar General struck an alarmist tone when he claimed foreign contraception dispensers in the country possessed ulterior motives. The report stated that Western nations spearheaded the efforts to distribute contraceptives in Zimbabwe as a way of suppressing African populations.
In the face of these jingoistic claims, investigative journalism has debunked these outlandish ideas. Further probing into the issue has revealed the report lacks any substantial evidence to support a proposed ban on oral contraception methods.
The Registrar General refused to deliver the actual transcript of the report to Africa Check, a news organization dedicated to differentiating legitimate news developments from exaggerated propaganda. The Zimbabwean government official was also unable to provide any insight on his “extensive personal research” on the relationship between cancer, population growth and contraception.
Medical experts concede that oral contraception methods may increase the possibility of developing different types of cancer depending on the patient’s age, family history and previous medical issues. Doctors, not politicians, are the best resources to determine when prescribing oral contraceptive methods would be unsafe.
However, for a majority of women in Zimbabwe, oral contraception methods are a healthy, necessary option to foster sexual health. When prescribed responsibly, consistent use of the pill is an essential step toward reducing maternal mortality and combating overpopulation in the developing nation. In addition, women across the world should be afforded a safe method to plan pregnancies.
This is not the first time deceptive government intervention has spoiled legitimate health initiatives in the continent. Three states in Nigeria terminated the use of polio vaccinations after government officials suspected the vaccines were infecting citizens with HIV, — a long-standing myth that has been debunked by numerous studies conducted by Nature and Science Magazine.
Ideally, organizations such as Africa Check will continue to dispel these harmful myths to promote greater health across the continent.