US UNGASS Delegation Raises a Few Questions

The Administration recently released the list of members for the US delegation to the UN General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS) on HIV/AIDS, and it raised some eyebrows – both for the fact that it is so large (with 26 Administration members and 11 from the private sector) and on account of some of those who were selected. For an Administration that has left us all questioning its commitment to evidence-based public health policies, several of these nominees have quite questionable backgrounds on HIV. It appears that ideology is again the most important credential to this Administration.

UN Special Session on HIV: Background on How Ideology Competes with Fact

HIV knows no borders, gender, culture, religion, or class. It is as complex an issue as the world has ever dealt with. This important backgrounder on the far right from Pam Chamberlain and Political Research Associates, points out that, sadly, the latest US export is our polarized politics from people who promote ideology over proven data. If you believe that the UN has an important role to play in finding real world soultions to complex issues, or if you are preparing to be at the UN meetings, this report is a must read.

Around The States: EC Knowledge Is Low, Ballot Initiatives Are Building

In a recent study involving emergency room patients and their knowledge of emergency contraception (EC), researchers found that while 60% of those surveyed did not know how to get the medication, nearly 1/3 of respondents had never heard of EC. The report also found 70% of those surveyed had sex within the last 2 months but fewer than half of the participants used birth control regularly. As the American College of Emergency Physicians convenes this week in Washington DC, we hope that the above information from the Society of Academic Emergency Medicine is shared and appropriate action taken to educate ER personnel.

How About Some New BC?

With news of so-called “new” birth control methods that block periods making headlines in the last several days, lack of research for and approved availability of truly new contraceptive methods can’t be overlooked.  According to Reproductive Health Technologies Project, “…more can and should be done to help close the gap between Americans’ reproductive health needs and the information, technology and services currently available to them.” 

Breaking News: WHO Chief Lee Jong-wook Dies

From Reuters: Lee Jong-wook died today two days after a blood clot was found on his brain. Lee, 61, was spearheading the organisation's fight against global threats from bird flu, AIDS and other infectious diseases. WHO director-general since 2003, Lee was his country's top international official.

United Nations' Secretary-General Kofi Annan called Lee's death "devastating" and noted his deep commitment to fighting scourges such as AIDS and malaria and preparing the world for a possible bird flu pandemic.

Pragamatic Solutions Produce Results on Abortion, HIV

In a time of heightened political rhetoric, it is always good to see real solutions producing real results to serious issues.

Noting that during her three years as Governor, abortions in Kansas declined 11 percent, funds for adoption and programs that counsel women on a variety of options are increasing, Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius vetoed a bill invading the privacy of women obtaining late-term abortions. "Privacy is a fundamental concern to all Kansans," Sebelius said.

Sebelius vetoed the bill against the backdrop of Attorney General Phil Kline's ongoing law suit seeking to obtain private medical records for women obtaining services at two clinics.

Both efforts typify what is happening across the country as progressives like Governor Sebelius can point to real success in reducing abortion thanks to pragmatic solutions while the opposition tries to score debating points by promoting bills that do nothing to reduce abortion and promote the erosion of civl liberties.

More practical solutions are being promoted to prevent HIV in African American communities in Illinois ...

HIV Prevention Efforts Failing Women: Will The World Respond?

Adrienne Germain is President of the International Women's Health Coalition.

In the next five minutes, another 25 women and girls will be infected with HIV. They are students, housewives, teachers, mothers, and more. HIV/AIDS programs have failed them, just as they have failed the 17 million women currently living with HIV/AIDS, and the countless others who have already died. We must do better.

Let’s take a look at the failure and its causes. In 2001, governments of the world declared that we would empower women and girls against the pandemic. When the world’s governments and civil society again convene at the United Nations next week they need to recognize that the situation is worse for women and girls today than it was five years ago. Infection rates among women and girls are rising in all regions, not only sub-Saharan Africa, because policies and funded programs to empower and protect them have not been a priority.

A Step Backward in Kenya

Following on the heels of coverage in the New York Times yesterday and Scott's post about it, we hear more today about the HIV epidemic in Kenya. First Lady Lucy Kibaki has made a strong statement against condom use:

"Those still in school and colleges have no business having access to condoms..."

Considering that the successes in lowering the infection rate in Kenya have been from comprehensive prevention campaigns, this statement could not have been a more obvious step backward.

The Rumor Mill: Kilpatrick Fighting for UNFPA

Rep. Carolyn C. Kilpatrick (D-MI) plans to stand up for UNFPA, the UN Population Fund, by introducing an amendment during House Appropriations Committee foreign operations mark up May 25. Recognizing that the Administration has stretched the law the past four years to find reason to not release the Congressionally-appropriated funds to UNFPA, Kilpatrick’s office is working around it. Her amendment says if the Administration wants to withhold the funds again, the $34 million in the bill for UNFPA will go specifically to obstetric fistula prevention and treatment. Stay tuned.

House Committee Restores Some Family Planning Funds

A House committee today rejected Bush’s request to cut international family planning programs by $79 million, by restoring $56 million of funding. This is still a cut from current levels of funding, and if this goes unchanged, means that women and men that are currently receiving services to help plan when and how many children to have, among other things, will be left without.

The subcommittee also included $34 million for UNFPA, the UN population fund, to provide reproductive health services. UNFPA programs reach countries the United States does not, so it is one more way for Americans to improve life in many parts of the world.

Americans have made a great difference in the health and well being of women and children around the world with our support of these programs. We can continue to be a leader, or we can let these cuts stand. We’ll have to see if opponents will go after these programs – and will be tracking this issue here. Next step: The full Appropriations Committee is scheduled to consider this bill Thursday, May 25.