HIV/AIDS

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Sex workers still shun condoms in Lebanon

BEIRUT, 1 December 2009 (IRIN) - Four years ago, at 16, Rana's husband forced her into prostitution. Despite the risks of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), Rana, like many local sex workers - estimated to number at least 6,000 - often did not use condoms.

"It's up to the client," said Rana (not her real name). "I want to use condoms, but most of the clients don't." Asked why she ignores the risks of contracting HIV or STDs she simply says: "I don't want to lose the client."

Elie Aaraj, head of Lebanon's SIDC association, warns that the lack of condom use among local sex workers could soon become a public health issue.

"So far there are no recorded HIV cases among the country's surveyed sex workers," he said. "But once the virus gets into the community it could explode."

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Punitive drug laws, policing practices impede HIV/AIDS response

Human Rights Watch

(London) - Governments worldwide should take urgent action to reform punitive drug laws, disproportionate penalties, and harsh and discriminatory law enforcement practices as part of their efforts to address HIV among people who use drugs, Human Rights Watch and the International Harm Reduction Association said today, World AIDS Day. Current policies also cause needless suffering among people living with HIV/AIDS, the two groups said in a joint briefing note released today.

"The ‘war on drugs' is fueling HIV epidemics among people who use drugs around the world, and condemning millions of people with terminal cancer and with HIV/AIDS to needless suffering," said Professor Gerry Stimson, Executive Director of the International Harm Reduction Association.

In many countries, drug control efforts block lifesaving HIV services to people who use drugs, even where they are legal, Human Rights Watch and the International Harm Reduction Association said. Overly strict, complex drug laws and regulations block access to cheap, effective pain medications, like morphine, relegating hundreds of thousands of people living with HIV/AIDS, and millions with terminal cancer, to suffer severe pain.

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Start with a Girl: A New Agenda for Global Health

By Miriam Temin and Ruth Levine

"The health of adolescent girls is everyone's business. We all need to step up to the plate to embrace this ambitious agenda."—Melinda Gates

Improving the health of adolescent girls in the developing world is the key to improving maternal and child health, reducing the impact of HIV, and accelerating social and economic development.

Start with a Girl: A New Agenda for Global Health sheds light on the realities of girls' health and wellbeing in developing countries, on the links between the health of girls and the prospects for their families, and on the specific actions that will improve health prospects for millions.

This report describes the most prevalent and serious health problems adolescent girls face in developing countries, linking them to a combination of specific public-health risks and social determinants of health. It highlights the diverse ways in which governments and non-governmental organizations have sought—often successfully, albeit on small scale—to break vicious cycles of ill health.  Finally, and most importantly, the report lays out an ambitious yet feasible agenda for governments, donors, the private sector, and civil society organizations—complete with estimates of indicative costs.

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AIDS activists dare to go bare

MANILA, 1 December 2009 (PlusNews) - On 1 December, World AIDS Day, activists in the Philippines will be wearing nothing but the red AIDS ribbon in a campaign to raise awareness about the growing threat of HIV.

Some of the activists are HIV-positive, but they all hope the daring photographs will serve as a wake-up call while HIV prevalence in their country is still below one percent. UNAIDS estimated that 8,300 people were living with the virus in 2008, but the population is almost 90 million.

The "Dare to Bare Campaign" will be featured in a leading national daily newspaper and several online magazines until 5 December 2009. Every picture is accompanied by a personal story, because either that individual or someone they care about is living with the virus.

Shame and silence

Carlos Celdran, a performing artist and one of the "models" in the campaign, told IRIN/PlusNews that his youth was marked by living a carefree life in New York. "We may have been a bit promiscuous back then, but we were careful and always used condoms. Now, there is a whole new generation of young people who no longer see HIV/AIDS as a death sentence, and are more reckless."

According to the National AIDS Registry of the Department of Health, HIV cases among young people have been increasing at an unprecedented rate: newly reported cases in the 15-24 age group tripled from 41 in 2007 to 110 in 2008.

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Unprotected sex with multiple partners widespread - survey

NAIROBI, 26 November 2009 (PlusNews) - Kenyan men and women are continuing to have unprotected sex with multiple partners - despite numerous national media campaigns to sensitise the public to the dangers of sex without a condom and multiple partners.

According to the preliminary findings of the 2008/2009 Kenya Demographic and Health Survey, only 32 percent of women and 37 percent of men who reported having multiple sexual partners said they used a condom during their last sexual encounter.

"One of the biggest reasons for lack of condom use amongst people engaged in multiple partnering is the belief that they know those partners well and can therefore engage in unprotected sex with them, which is a misplaced belief," said Lucy Maikweki, deputy director, HIV and communications, at the reproductive health NGO, Population Services International (PSI).

PSI and the government are running a national "Wacha mpango wa kando; epuka ukimwi" - Swahili for "Stop relationships on the side; avoid HIV" - campaign.

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Poor scorecards on AIDS responses for women

JOHANNESBURG, 25 November 2009 (PlusNews) - That women and girls are particularly vulnerable to HIV and AIDS is well established, but a new report reveals how little we know about what countries are doing, or not doing, to address their vulnerability.

The Scorecard on Women, released on 23 November by non-profit organization AIDS Accountability International (AAI), assessed responses to the specific needs of women in the context of the AIDS epidemic, and the extent to which governments are meeting their commitment to report on those responses.

In 2001, UN member states unanimously adopted the Declaration of Commitment on HIV/AIDS, which included specific targets for prioritizing women in AIDS responses. However, the Scorecard finds that three-quarters of countries are failing to report basic information on HIV services for women and girls.

Globally, HIV is the leading cause of death in women of reproductive age. The 2009 AIDS Epidemic Update, released by UNAIDS this week, noted that women accounted for approximately 60 percent of new HIV infections in sub-Saharan Africa - the region worst-hit by the pandemic - with girls and young women at particularly high risk.

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HIV/AIDS Leading Cause of Death for Women of Reproductive Age

 
Voice of America reports that HIV/AIDS research and help promises around the globe have fallen short.
HIV/AIDS is the leading cause of death and disease for women of reproductive age, according to health officials. A new report says much needs to be done to reverse that trend.


“Through the Millennium Development Goals and the 2001 Declaration of commitment on HIV/AIDS, all United Nation member states have committed to a series of actions and concrete…targets to reverse the spread of HIV/AIDS,” he says.

However, the scorecard shows there’s much to be done to fulfill those commitments.

“There is widespread lack of accountability and transparency in national AIDS responses, meaning we do not have the information that we should about human and financial resources are being utilized and how well countries are meeting their agreed targets for the well-being of women and girls,” he says.

Economic downturn having an effect


“The current global financial crisis is affecting the will and ability of donors to sustain the high levels of funding that are necessary for an effective global response to AIDS,” he says.

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NAPPA wants justice in ‘forced sterilisation’ cases

WINDHOEK [New Era] – The Namibia Planned Parenthood Association (NAPPA) has said justice should be accorded to any woman whose rights have been violated as a result of forced sterilisation.

NAPPA’s statement, issued by its director Sam Ntelamo last week, follows a case in which 15 women that were sterilised at public health institutions without their informed consent are seeking redress in the High Court.

The case of three of the women was postponed until November 24, when three other women who have been sterilised because of their HIV status will also be heard.  The Legal Assistance Centre (LAC) is representing the women.

NAPPA said coerced sterilisation is the use of intimidation, fear, pressure duress or deception to get “consent” for the sterilisation procedure.

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Donors backtracking on funding AIDS treatment

By Phakamile Magamdela

Lives of AIDS patients in poor countries could be severely compromised if donors and rich nations continue reducing their funding commitments to AIDS programmes.

Independent humanitarian aid agency, Medicins Sans Frontieres (MSF), is urging major donors not to “wipe out gains” made by the roll out of anti-retrovirals (ARVs) by “retreating from their international funding commitments”.

In a report titled “Punishing success? Early Signs of a Retreat from Commitment to HIV/AIDS Care and Treatment”, which was published recently, the MSF singled out the US President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and the Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria as having reduced their funding commitments to the response to AIDS. These are two major organisations supporting crucial AIDS treatment programmes in the developing world. 

“We are told by the White House in the United States that the budget coming from the White House to Congress this month will have a flat funding of PEPFAR for 2011. This will have disastrous effects on the countries that are relying upon PEPFAR funds”, said Sharonann Lynch, MSF Policy Advisor.

The MSF also raised concern over the “funding deficit of the Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria (Global Fund)”.

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Disabled should claim rights in UN convention

NAIROBI, 12 November 2009 (PlusNews) - The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) should be used as a tool to improve access to HIV services for disabled people, who are often marginalized in national HIV policies, says a new report.

"PWDs experience all the risk factors associated with HIV, and are often at increased risk because of poverty, severely limited access to education and health care, lack of information and resources to facilitate 'safer sex', lack of legal protection, increased risk of violence and rape, vulnerability to substance abuse, and stigma," the authors noted in HIV/AIDS and Disability: Final Report of the 4th International Policy Dialogue.

HIV/AIDS was implicitly included in the CRPD under article 25a, where "State Parties shall provide PWDs with the same range, quality and standard of free, affordable health care and programmes as provided to other persons, including in the area of sexual and reproductive health and population-based public health programmes," the authors noted.

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