Roundup: Global AIDS Report Released

Brady Swenson

UNAIDS report indicates slight slowing of global infection rates; 17th annual International AIDS Conference set to begin this Sunday; Sex education and AIDS; Abortion providers becoming extinct in rural American West; Parental notification measure gains support in California.

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UNAIDS Program Announces Spread of HIV/AIDS Slowing … UNAIDS, a joint program of five UN agencies and 5 other international organizations, has released the 2008 version of its comprehensive annual report on the disease.  The Executive Summary (PDF) of the report is chock full of charts and the most important indicators including an estimated 33 million people living with HIV/AIDS in throughout the world.  Some good news contained in the report indicates that the infection rate is dropping slowly as education and prevention efforts receive more funding and attention.  The rate of infection fell from an estimated 3 million new infections in 2006 to an estimated 2.7 million in 2007.  The Guardian reports some encouraging trends in some of the most devestated countries of sub-Saharan Africa: 

In Rwanda and Zimbabwe, it finds, fewer people appear to be getting
infected, apparently as the dangers of careless sex become better

In Zimbabwe, a drop in infection among pregnant
women, from 26% in 2002 to 18% in 2006, is being linked to reports of
fewer people having casual sexual partners and fewer men paying for sex.

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use also appears to be increasing and in seven badly affected countries
– Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Ethiopia, Ghana, Malawi, Uganda and Zambia –
young people appear to be waiting longer before starting to have sex.
In Cameroon, the percentage of under-15 year-olds having sex fell from
35% to 14%.

While the annual UNAIDS report contained some good news indicating the fight against the disease is moving in the right direction it is also clear that more needs to be done. "The global HIV epidemic cannot be reversed, and gains in expanding
treatment access cannot be sustained, without greater progress in
reducing the rate of new HIV infections," the report says. Now is the time to invest more in fighting HIV/AIDS, with increased attention to prevention and slowing the rate of infection.  The recently approved PEPFAR legislation providing $48 billion over 5 years will help.

International AIDS Conference Set to Begin Next Week … The 17th Annual International AIDS Conference will be held in Mexico City beginning Sunday, August 3rd and run through the end of next week.  According to VOA News 25,000 people are expected to attend the conference:

The conference theme, "Universal Action Now," is
a renewed call to combat the viral pandemic that has gripped the world
for nearly 30 years.
The AIDS 2008 summit brings leading HIV
and AIDS researchers, community leaders, policy experts, activists and
delegations of young people from around the world to the first
International AIDS Conference ever held in Latin America. The region
is known for its human rights response to the HIV/AIDS pandemic, says
Craig McClure, executive director of the
International AIDS Society, the group that’s been planning the
biennial event in concert with the United Nations and other global

Be sure to check back with Rewire next week for extensive live coverage of the conference.

Comprehensive Sex Education for Youth Vital to Further Slowing Spread of AIDS … VOA News also reports that anti-poverty agency ActionAid will release a book at this years International AIDS Conference entitled Politics of Prevention – A Global Crisis in AIDS and Education:

It says tens of millions of young people are at risk due to a lack of
comprehensive sex education. David Archer, co-author of the book, spoke from
London to VOA English to Africa reporter Joe De Capua about what he means by
the politics of prevention.

field of HIV and AIDS is one where it is now become very clear that although we
cannot cure HIV and AIDS, it can be prevented very easily with basic
information (and) basic education. But unfortunately, large numbers of children
around the world aren’t able to access that education and that is as a result
of political elements in a number of ways," he says.

Abortion Providers Retire in the West, Leaving Their Posts Empty … Writing from Jackson Hole, Wyoming columnist Grace Hammond reports on a worrying trend for women living in the West.  Access to abortion care is becoming increasingly limited for women who live in the rural areas of the American West.  In Wyoming, the country’s least populated state, the number of abortion providers has dropped from a high of eight in 1985 to one known provider now.  Edward Boas, an abortion care provider in Idaho, believes no one will take his place when he retires later this year:

Unless there are abortion providers working under the radar in Idaho –
which Boas doubts, based on the cost of ultrasound and other equipment
– it could be the end of an era for the state.

New medical
school graduates don’t want “that bad connotation” of providing
abortion services, he said, and that’s why there isn’t anyone replacing
the retiring generation – yet.

“Guys like me, I started doing it
when I was about 50,” Boas said. By then, he was established in the
community and unconcerned about losing business by providing abortions
to women who wanted them.

Doctors who are just graduating from
medical school and creating their practices may more worried about what
people think, he said.

Also adding to the problem is a marked decline in the number of graduating medical students who go through school untrained on the procedure:

Even if medical students want to be trained in surgical abortion
procedures, some have little opportunity. Between 1978 and 1995, the
number of medical programs providing routine abortion training to
residents dropped from 26 percent to 12 percent, according to
Guttmacher data.

“Medical schools across the country just are
not teaching the service, so when people are presenting at emergency
rooms … they’re not providing abortion services,” said Katie Groke, a
field manager at Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains. “They don’t
know how.”

Boas said he believes “we’re seeing the last days of Roe v. Wade.”

if abortion remains legal, it could become inaccessible, he said. If
there are enough barriers placed between a woman and a doctor, like in
Julie’s case, the two may never connect.

anti-abortionists, they’ll chip away at it until it will eventually
collapse,” Boas said. “Finally the providers are going to say, ‘I’ve
had enough of this and I can’t do it anymore.’ I guess I’m glad I’m

Parental Notification Ballot Initiative Gains Support in California … California voters have twice rejected a parental notification law for minors.  This year’s version has some differences from versions that were rejected in the past:

The current version requires physicians to inform a family member 48
hours before performing an abortion on a minor and also includes
provisions that give alternative family contacts for minors living in
abusive families.

Opponents maintain that the real-world implications of the proposition
will ultimately defeat the measure. Kathy Kneer, President and CEO of
Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California, claims that young women
are unlikely to seek an abortion under Proposition 4 because it would
require physicians to file a police report documenting suspected abuse.
Kneer described the proposition as one that presents "a huge barrier
for doctors" as physicians could be sued for up to four years after the
abortion by the minor’s parents if the minor received the service
without parental consent, according to the National Partnership for Women and Families.



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