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    The first 40 years.

    FORUM. 1994 Jun; 10(1):36-41.

    1994 marks the 40th anniversary of the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF), Western Hemisphere Region (WHR). At its inception, the WHR had only 4 family planning (FP) associations (FPAs) outside of the US (in Jamaica, Barbados, Bermuda, and Puerto Rico). The WHR was unique among the 6 regions of the IPPF in that it was registered as a non-profit agency in New York and was organized with an independent Board of Directors. Early advocates of FP had to operate in a legal climate which held that promoting contraception would promote immorality. As social legitimization forced a change in the laws, scientific advancements made ever more reliable contraception methods available. The goal of the WHR from the start was to bring FP to Latin America. In 1960, a breakthrough made by the University of Chile in the collection of statistics about the incidence of illegal abortion confirmed the worst suspicions of the medical establishment. Further research in Uruguay revealed that the women of Montevideo had 3 abortions for every live birth. While the medical establishment wondered how to provide contraceptive services on a large enough scale to combat this problem in Catholic countries, Ofelia Mendoza, a staff member of the WHR, visited Dr. Hermogenes Alvarez in Uruguay to offer him the financial and moral support of the IPPF. Dr. Alvarez then opened the first IPPF affiliate in all of South America in 1961, even though he had to resign his position as Dean of the Medical School to do so. Ms. Mendoza also took the IPPF message to Chile where Dr. Benjamin Viel established the Chilean Association for Family Protection in 1962. In Chile, the government agreed to provide contraceptive services if the FPA provided information and education to support the program. Soon FPAs were established throughout Latin America. As governments changed, FPAs were closed in Argentina and Peru and later reopened. In Peru, Dr. Miguel Ramos was jailed briefly for defying a government order to cease offering services. Since all of the countries, except Chile, had laws which would obviate the FPAs, they kept a low profile and depended on word-of-mouth promotion of their activities. However, by 1970, PROFAMILIA, in Colombia, began to adopt aggressive promotion tactics. PROFAMILIA began a national radio advertising campaign which made the clinic in Bogota the busiest in the world. In order to reach distant populations, PROFAMILIA recruited and trained community-based distributors (CBDs) to sell contraceptives and make medical referrals. Then they applied the tactic to the urban slums. By 1972, BEMFAM in Brazil was enlisting the cooperation of states and municipalities in its programs. It set up the largest CBD system in the world. This tradition of innovation spread throughout the region. Today, the second regional director, Dr. Hernan Sanhueza, oversees a region which provides half of the FP services delivered worldwide by a third of the number of FPAs in the world. The challenge faced by the WHR today is to expand its donor base. Those who wish to see an excellent model of North-South integration can find it in the WHR of the IPPF.
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