“The United Nations has urged the Philippines to pass a bill that will allow the government to provide free contraceptives,” BBC News reports (8/5). “UNFPA country coordinator Ugochi Florence Daniels said the [reproductive health (RH)] bill is important for the Philippines to achieve its health-related targets in the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs),” including maternal health, HIV/AIDS and infant mortality, the Philippine Star writes (Crisostomo, 8/4). “The House of Representatives plans to decide Tuesday whether to end debate on the bill and put it to a vote,” the Associated Press/Seattle Times notes (Gomez, 8/5).
Politico examines the Republican Party’s stance on abortion policy compared with abortion laws in other countries worldwide, stating, “No other nation in the Western world restricts abortion as severely as the Republican Party is calling for in its draft platform.” The article cites statistics regarding other nations’ abortion-related laws from the U.N. report “World Abortion Policies 2011.” According to Politico, “Mitt Romney, the presumed Republican nominee, says he does not support a ban on abortions under any circumstances. He has said it should be allowed in cases of rape or incest. But the Republican National Committee slapped him down.” The article continues, “‘This is the platform of the Republican Party,’ committee Chairman Reince Priebus told MSNBC on Tuesday. ‘It’s not the platform of Mitt Romney’” (Brinkley, 8/27).
“Every year, somewhere between $200 billion and $1 trillion are spent in ‘mandatory’ alms [zakat] and voluntary charity [sadaqa] across the Muslim world, Islamic financial analysts estimate,” IRIN reports, noting, “At the low end of the estimate, this is 15 times more than global humanitarian aid contributions in 2011.” The news service writes, “With aid from traditional Western donors decreasing in the wake of a global recession, and with about a quarter of the Muslim world living on less than $1.25 a day, this represents a huge pool of potential in the world of aid funding.”
John Campbell, Ralph Bunche senior fellow for Africa policy studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, writes in his “Africa in Transition” blog that “[t]he Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) reports eight new polio cases in Nigeria, bringing the total in that country to 70 for 2012,” with most of the cases occurring in the predominantly Muslim north. “Despite efforts by the Nigerian government and the international community, polio is far from being eradicated in Nigeria,” he states and discusses challenges to fighting the disease in the country (8/30).
“Preachers who promise divine healing have often been blamed for turning desperate HIV-positive people against their life-prolonging antiretroviral (ARV) medication and risking their health, but recent research suggests that religious beliefs may not be a barrier to treatment after all,” IRIN/Plus News reports. “A survey published in the medical journal HIV Medicine in June found that strong religious beliefs about faith and healing among black Africans living in London were unlikely to act as a barrier to accessing HIV testing and ARV treatment,” the news service writes, adding, “The 246 respondents described themselves as Christians, including Roman Catholics, and Muslims. Only 1.2 percent said they did not belong to a religion.” “The results reinforce previous African studies, which found that the decision to start treatment is usually based on the level of education and knowledge of ARVs, rather than religion,” the news service notes (8/22).
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).
“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).