“Although circumcision’s effect on protection against HIV is clear — three studies have shown a 60 percent reduction in risk to men — as a public health strategy, it is fraught with caveats,” the Washington Post reports. Though uncertainty exists about the degree of protection the procedure provides, especially for specific groups such as men who have sex with men, and “[m]any ethnic groups have strong cultural traditions against the procedure,” “many AIDS researchers and advocates view it as a strategy that needs far more promotion since it provides some protection to men having sex with infected women,” according to the newspaper. The article includes a summary of data and studies on circumcision (Brown, 7/25).
In this Washington Post opinion piece, Richard Stearns, president of World Vision U.S., examines the role that Christians have played in the global effort to eradicate AIDS, noting the XIX International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2012) is being held in Washington, D.C., this week. “Two decades ago, no one would have predicted that Christians would so quickly change their response to the HIV and AIDS epidemic from criticism to compassion,” he writes, and provides a history of the Christian response. He concludes, “As thousands gather for the International AIDS Conference this week, with the end of AIDS in sight, let’s focus on our role and responsibility as Christians in continuing this important work until we truly achieve an AIDS-free generation” (7/25).
In this post in The Hill’s “Congress Blog,” Eric Bond, managing editor of Bread for the World — a Christian anti-hunger organization — examines the role of PEPFAR in the global AIDS response, writing, “Progress against HIV/AIDS has been a remarkable achievement in which diverse communities worked together to apply political pressure, find funding, conduct research, and share tactics,” and “U.S. foreign assistance programs like [PEPFAR have] provided support to tens of millions of people through prevention, treatment, and care.” He continues, “As the International AIDS Conference continues this week in our nation’s capital, it is worth reflecting on the part that Bread for the World members have played in fighting AIDS through their support of U.S. foreign assistance programs like PEPFAR,” and “it provides a reminder of the importance of keeping such assistance in the federal budget” (7/25).
PRI’s “The World” examines the role of churches in the fight against HIV in Swaziland. The news service highlights several church-run HIV programs, writing, “Churches have long played an important role in caring for the sick, but in terms of HIV prevention they’ve been at odds with the public health community. It has often come down to one issue: until recently, Swazi church leaders publicly rejected the use of condoms by their congregants. But now you hear many comments that suggest a change in thinking.”
In the U.N. Foundation Blog, Gretchen King, director of the Lutheran Malaria Initiative (LMI), examines the efforts of LMI to “mobiliz[e] U.S. Lutherans in the global effort to end malaria deaths in Africa.” She writes, “While much of our campaign has focused on U.S. Lutherans, recently LMI held its first advocacy day on Capitol Hill,” adding, “We shared with several members of Congress and their staffs the work of LMI, the importance of continued U.S. bilateral funding for anti-malaria programs, and strong support for the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria” (12/11).
“Finally, after 14 years of debate and delay, lawmakers [in the Philippines] passed a bill that will provide free or subsidized birth control to poor people as well as require sex education in schools and mandate training in family planning for community health workers,” a Los Angeles Times editorial states. “For too long in the Philippine Congress, the priorities of the Roman Catholic Church took precedence over what most Filipinos wanted — and needed,” the editorial states. “The Philippines has one of the fastest-growing populations in Asia, and is also one of the most densely populated countries,” the editorial notes, adding, “It cannot produce enough food to feed its 96 million people.”
“The International AIDS Conference [AIDS 2012] was full of talk of hope and best practices, but no one was giving details on how to reach an ‘AIDS-free generation,'” GlobalPost correspondent John Donnelly writes in this post in the “Global Pulse” blog. “Still, this conference, like many before it, had several key moments when it was clear that the world of AIDS had changed,” he adds, and highlights a summit of faith groups organized by Rick and Kay Warren of Saddleback Church and held on the sidelines of the conference. “Saddleback’s work in Africa follows what it calls the PEACE Plan, which stands for planting churches that promote reconciliation; equipping servant leaders; assisting the poor; caring for the sick; and educating the next generation,” he notes.
“The last three countries where polio is still paralyzing children — Afghanistan, Pakistan and Nigeria — said on Thursday that they have enlisted Muslim women and religious leaders to allay fears of vaccination and wipe out the disease,” Reuters reports. According to Shahnaz Wazir Ali, a special assistant to Pakistan’s Prime Minister who is in charge of the polio eradication campaign, more than 20 leading Islamic scholars “have signed an endorsement of the polio eradication program, which is being used to persuade Pakistani parents” to allow their children to be vaccinated, the news agency writes. In Nigeria, the Federation of Muslim Women’s Associations is backing a polio immunization campaign there, Reuters notes. “It is not the first time that the world has come tantalizingly close to wiping out the crippling disease,” the news agency writes. “‘We’re so close, there is no time for complacency,’ Dr. Christopher Elias, head of global development at the [Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation], a major donor, told Reuters in Geneva,” Reuters adds (Nebehay, 5/24).
Reuters examines how Philippine President Benigno Aquino is supporting “a reproductive health bill that will, if passed by the two houses of Congress, guarantee access to free birth control and promote sex education,” despite the “country’s powerful Catholic church.” According to the news service, “The predominately Catholic country has one of Asia’s fastest-growing populations together with significant levels of chronic poverty,” which has stunted economic growth. “Economists say high population growth is a primary factor for that, but the church … says population growth is not a cause of poverty and that people need jobs, not contraception,” Reuters writes. “But despite the arguments of the church and political opponents who decry using state funds to finance contraception, a poll last year showed about 70 percent of people support the bill,” according to the news service, which notes, “Its backers want it passed during the term of this congress, which ends in June” (Lema, 10/2).
“Uruguay’s Congress voted narrowly on Wednesday to legalize abortions during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, a rare move in largely Catholic Latin America that underscores the country’s liberal leanings,” Reuters reports. “President Jose Mujica, a former leftist guerrilla fighter, has said he would sign the bill into law,” the news service notes (Castaldi, 10/17). “[T]he bill approved by Uruguay’s Senate came after a pointed debate among legislators, producing a compromise that disappointed both abortion-rights groups and opponents, who have vowed to carry out a referendum to overturn the legislation,” the New York Times writes, adding, “Legislators carefully worded the bill, describing it not as legalization of abortion but as a decriminalization measure.” The newspaper writes, “The bill effectively legalizes abortion in the first trimester, permits abortion through 14 weeks of pregnancy in cases of rape and allows later-term abortions when a woman’s health is at risk” (Romero et al., 10/17).