Roundup: HIV Scare at Missouri High School, FRC Defends Rep. Bachmann

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Roundup: HIV Scare at Missouri High School, FRC Defends Rep. Bachmann

Brady Swenson

Students offered tests after HIV scare at Missouri High School; Family Research Council comes to defense of Rep. Bachmann; Catholic commentator warns against voting solely on abortion; Coping with depression during pregnancy; Text messages inform and encourage HIV testing in South Africa.

HIV Scare At Missouri High School

Lack of information is responsible for the nervous tone among students, faculty and parents of Normandy High School as they cope with news that as many as 50 teenagers might have been exposed to the virus that causes AIDS.  But so far officials have yet to release any details about how students might have been exposed:

Officials refused to give details on who the person was or how the
students at Normandy High School might have been exposed, but the
district is consulting with national AIDS organizations as it tries to
minimize the fallout and prevent the infection — and misinformation —
from spreading.

"There’s potential for stigma for all students
regardless of whether they’re positive or negative," Normandy School
District spokesman Doug Hochstedler said Thursday. "The board wants to
be sure all children are fully educated."

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Hochstedler said that as far as he knows, no other district has had to
handle a similar situation. Students at the school of 1,300 are being
tested voluntarily, and the district is getting advice on the best ways
to support kids in crisis.

The St. Louis County Health Department did comment on the situation:

The St. Louis County Health Department said last week that a positive
HIV test raised concern that students at Normandy might have been
exposed. The department is not saying whether the infected person was a
student or connected with the school, only that the person indicated as
many as 50 students may have been exposed.

An opposing football team initially balked at playing Normandy’s team this evening, though it appears the game will go on, and some students and their families have expressed a desire to leave the school district due to the lack of information:

Sophomore Tevin Baldwin said that many of his classmates in this
working-class city of about 5,000 residents want to transfer out of the
district, which encompasses other towns.

"Nobody knows what’s going on," he said. The district declined to respond to his assertion.

Yesterday the school began offering voluntary HIV tests for all students and faculty in the school’s gymnasium, administered by health workers:

Students are being tested at six stations in the high school
gymnasium, one class at a time. Only representatives from the Health
Department are with the students, who are offered educational materials
and a chance to ask questions before they are given an opportunity to
be tested with a mouth swab, Hochstedler said. They may decline.

They exit through a separate door, and no one in the school would know who did or did not get tested.

"It’s entirely up to the student," he said. "There’s a lot of stigma associated with this."


Family Research Council Comes to Defense of Rep. Bachmann

After Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann called for the media to "find out if [members of Congress] are pro-America or anti-America" donations poured into opponent Elwyn Tinklenberg’s campaign.  The National Republican Campaign Committee then pulled all of its advertising support from Bachman’s campaign.  Now, Right Wing Watch reports that the Family Research Council has threatened to shut down its fundraising efforts on behalf of the NRCC "until it starts supporting and fighting for conservative candidates in close races."  

FRC President Tony Perkins said in a letter to Cole, chairman of the
National Republican Campaign Committee (NRCC), that the committee "is
abandoning social conservative candidates" by pulling ads from the
reelection races of Reps. Marilyn Musgrave (R-Colo.) and Michelle
Bachmann (R-Minn.).

Perkins, an influential conservative leader, said in his letter that
he believes Cole, whose committee has been hemorrhaging money in an
uphill battle against Democratic congressional candidates, "made a
grave error in judgment" by pulling ads from Musgrave’s and Bachmann’s

"The left is attacking both of these outstanding women because they
are true conservatives," Perkins said. "They vote pro-life and

Perkins wrote that both candidates are in "winnable districts," and
that "pulling funds from their campaigns sends the wrong message to
their supporters and gives their opponents a chance to produce
headlines that the NRCC has undermined these campaigns."

"This is no time to cut and run from a fight," Perkins wrote.

He added that he will "urge supporters" of the FRC to stop
contributing to the NRCC "until it starts supporting and fighting for
conservative candidates in close races."


Catholic Commentator Warns Against Voting Solely on Abortion

Catholic commentary writer Marilou Johanek of Ohio newspaper the Toledo Blade, warns that Catholics who vote solely on the abortion issue have put George W. Bush in office for two terms and his administration "has done nothing to save the lives of the unborn
but much to destroy what we hold sacred in America, from civil rights
to liberty and justice for all."  

Single-issue abortion voters got a couple of
Supreme Court justices in the last eight years who may or may not favor
overturning Roe vs. Wade, should the decision ever be theirs to make.
Apparently for some, that makes their vote for supposedly "pro-life"
candidates worth casting a ballot with a blind eye toward other
culture-of-life problems that may be notoriously low on the priority
list of select politicians.

As long as these officeholders espouse the
"correct" anti-abortion-rights rhetoric and positions, they don’t have
to produce any practical life-affirming results that come from actually
fighting for something like a livable wage or universal health care. In
their political careers they can routinely ignore those living on the
margins of life and still count on the anti-abortion rights vote
election after election.

Johanek concludes with her prayer for the nearing election:

In this election, I pray that more Catholics than
not will vote with their eyes wide open and in good conscience for the
candidate who embraces the totality of their Catholic teaching – not
just the right answer on a wedge issue.


Gloucester High School Board Opts Out of Emergency Contraception

VIDEO: Emergency ContraceptionVIDEO: Emergency ContraceptionGloucester High School, which decided to offer reproductive health services at its school clinic after an extraordinary numner of students became pregnant last semester, has decided not to offer emergency contraception to students.  The decision was made because the issue of emergency contraception was not debated at public hearings during the summer and "some committee members felt it would be unfair to slip this option onto the enrollment form."  Which seems to leave the option open to discussion for next school year.


Coping With Depression During Pregnancy

Much is written about post-partum depression but pre-partum depression is also a serious health issue for many women. US News and World Report takes a close look at a problem that "not only causes mom to suffer; it can also pose health risks to the baby." 


Texts Tackle HIV in South Africa

A bold new effort is
using text messages to inform people about and encourage testing for
HIV in South Africa.  Project Masiluleke will send one million free
text messages a day to push people to be tested and treated:

Trials of the system showed that calls to counsellors at the
National Aids helpline in Johannesburg increased by 200% when messages
were broadcast.

"I think this is the largest ever use of mobile
phones for health information," said Gustav Praekelt, one of the
project’s originators.

"HIV testing is widely available …but only 5% have managed to test
for HIV," she said. "Most people only get a test when they are about to

Project Masiluleke was set up to try to counter this and encourage people to seek testing and treatment.

The initiative plans to broadcast millions of health messages every month to mobile phones across South Africa.

It is estimated that there are currently 43m handsets in a country of 49m people. Almost 95% of the phones are prepaid.

"There is near universal coverage," said Mr Praekelt. "And in
the absence of other services, the mobile phone has become the central
component for people to get access to information."