The ESHRE Task Force, which is led by gynecologist Dr Willem Ombelet, of Genk, Belgium, proposes three levels of treatment, but its cornerstone is the provision of affordable IVF. Currently, one cycle of IVF treatment in Europe or the USA costs between US$ 5000 and 10,000. A system of low-cost IVF now being pilot-studied in Khartoum and Cape Town (and shortly in Arusha, Tanzania) aims to provide one cycle of IVF for less than $200.
One of the instigators of the low-cost IVF scheme, Professor Luca Gianaroli from the SISMER Reproductive Medicine Unit, in Bologna, Italy, said: "It's a different approach to IVF. We will not be able to treat every type of infertility, but many women with tubal damage as a result of infection can be helped. We're looking at a low-cost scheme and low-cost baby." The scheme has been developed by The Low Cost IVF Foundation, which also aims to provide a complete start-up package of equipment for around $25,000.
The affordable IVF programme, as proposed by Gianaroli and the Foundation, represents level two of a three-level approach to treatment proposed by the task force: level one would offer investigation and IUI in a basic health setting (with semen analysis, hormone assays, follicular scanning and ovulation induction); level two would offer IVF (and diagnostic endoscopy) in a dedicated fertility clinic; and level three would offer ICSI in an advanced IVF unit (with cryopreservation). All three approaches would be developed around existing hospitals and clinics - as is now happening with the pilot schemes.
Said Ombelet: "A universally accessible treatment service is impossible in most developing countries, but a start can be made by integrating low cost treatments into existing family health services, where opportunities exist for contraception, health education, maternity and child care, prevention and treatment of STDs and HIV. We have to make a start, and this is how we're doing it."
|Contact: Sarah De Potter|
European Society for Human Reproduction and Embryology