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Namibian High Court Rules HIV-Positive Women Were Improperly Counseled Before Sterilization Procedures, But Not Based On HIV Status

“The Namibian High Court has ruled that the human rights of three HIV-positive women were violated when they were coerced into being sterilized while they gave birth, but the judge dismissed claims that the sterilization amounted to discrimination based on their HIV status,” PlusNews reports (7/30). “The court ruled the three were sterilized without being adequately informed,” Reuters notes. “There should be unhurried counseling in a language that is clearly understood by the patient,” Windhoek High Court Judge Elton Hoff said, adding, “I am not convinced that informed consent was given,” the news service reports (7/30).

IPS Examines Efforts To Reduce Maternal Mortality Ratio In Laos

Inter Press Service examines efforts Laos is taking to improve its maternal mortality ratio (MMR) of 470 deaths per 100,000 live births, especially among rural populations that do not have access to health care services. “A majority of the country’s 6.5 million people live in rural communities scattered across this mountainous Southeast Asian nation, and over 80 percent of the women give birth at home, according to studies by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA),” the news service writes. “June saw 80 midwives graduate from a special program shaped by the ministry of health, international donors and the UNFPA, … add[ing] to the initial group of 140 midwives who qualified last year,” IPS notes. The news service continues, “And as the community midwives program forges ahead, focus is shifting to more professional care in isolated communities in the mountainous areas and rural lowlands,” with the goal of reaching the U.N. Millennium Development Goal of reducing MMR by 75 percent between 1990 and 2015 (Macan-Markar, 7/31).

Laura Bush Discusses Foreign Aid, Work On AIDS, Cervical Cancer In ABC Interview

ABC News’ “OTUS” blog features an interview with former first lady Laura Bush, who discusses the importance of foreign aid and how she and her husband, former President George W. Bush, “will be building off the success of [PEPFAR] and continuing to work to fight AIDS in Africa and worldwide,” including “help[ing] women in developing countries screen for cervical cancer” (Karl/Wolf, 7/25). Laura Bush is scheduled to speak at the XIX International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2012) on Thursday, and a webcast of the session, “Leadership in the AIDS Response for Women,” will be available online from the Kaiser Family Foundation (7/26).

OPINION: To Continue Momentum In AIDS Progress, Efforts Must Reach Women, Girls

“At the XIX International AIDS Conference this week in Washington, D.C., Americans should be proud of what we have done to fight HIV/AIDS around the world, and how, together, we are turning the tide against an epidemic once thought to be invincible,” CARE USA President and CEO Helene Gayle writes in this post in Huffington Post’s “Global Motherhood” blog. “At CARE, which fights global poverty by empowering women and girls, we have seen women — particularly young women — remain disproportionately at risk of contracting the disease,” she writes, noting, “The World Health Organization reports that women constitute 60 percent of people living with HIV in sub-Saharan Africa.” She concludes, “Continuing the momentum means staying ahead of the disease and reaching the most vulnerable populations such as the ultra-poor and, in too many places, women and girls” (7/24).

AIDS 2012 Plenary Speakers Call For Expanded Efforts To Provide HIV Treatment, Prevention To Women, Children

AIDS experts speaking at the XIX International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2012) on Wednesday called for an expansion of HIV care and treatment to all women instead of focusing only on those who are pregnant, the Associated Press reports. While many countries have programs to treat pregnant women with HIV infection with antiretroviral treatment (ART) to lessen the risk of mother-to-child HIV transmission, UNICEF Senior Programme Adviser Chewe Luo said at the plenary session that most countries do not continue providing ART after mothers wean their infants, the news service notes, adding, “She praised Malawi for starting to do just that” through a treatment initiative called Plan B+ (Neergaard, 7/25). According to the Guardian, the plan would add an additional $300 million to global treatment costs, but “people with HIV on treatment become far less likely to infect their partners, as well as their babies, so the additional outlay may be considered a good investment.” Luo said discussions with PEPFAR and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria about funding such programs are underway, the newspaper notes (Boseley, 7/25). In a satellite session on Tuesday, U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator Ambassador Eric Goosby and UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibe “commended countries and their international partners for recent progress in preventing new HIV infections among children and saving mothers’ lives,” health-e news reports (7/25).

RECENT RELEASE: HIV Epidemic, Family Planning 'Inextricably Linked'

Noting “[a]pproximately 17 million women worldwide are currently living with HIV, with more than a million new infections in women of reproductive age each year,” Suzanne Ehlers, president and CEO of Population Action International (PAI), and Charles Lyons, president and CEO of the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation (EGPAF), write in this guest post in the Center for Global Health Policy’s “Science Speaks” blog that “family planning and HIV are inextricably linked, especially for HIV-positive women who are pregnant or may become pregnant.” They continue, “And while addressing unmet family planning needs is essential for all women, family planning services are particularly critical for HIV-positive women who want to postpone pregnancy due to HIV-related illness, or want to access medicines and services that will allow them to give birth to an HIV-negative child” (Barton, 7/24).

OPINION: Time To Create Comprehensive Plan To Address Young People's Sexual Health

As part of the Guardian’s “Young people’s sexual health matters” series, Doortje Braeken, senior adviser on adolescents and youth at the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF), in an opinion piece reflects upon the recent London Summit on Family Planning, and says “the biggest hurdle is that many societies don’t recognize young people as sexual beings,” and “[o]ther challenges include policy, legal, economic, cultural, educational, service delivery and supply chain management,” as well as data collection. She says the community must “[d]evelop a comprehensive approach to young people’s mental and physical health and empowerment, recognize young people as sexual beings, provide comprehensive sexuality education for all …, train providers properly, and create easily accessible services.” She continues, “Perhaps it’s now time to create a comprehensive, commonly-agreed blueprint of components that are required to achieve the outcomes we all seek with regard to young people’s sexual and reproductive health, and again with components that can be phased in according to each community’s and nation’s need” (7/24).

Bill Gates Stresses Importance Of Investment In Both HIV Treatment And Research For Vaccines, Microbicides

In a symposium session on Monday at the XIX International AIDS Conference in Washington, D.C., politicians and public health experts joined Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Co-Chair Bill Gates for a discussion about improving effectiveness and efficiency in the HIV/AIDS response, the Washington Post reports (Brown/Botelho, 7/23). “Gates … reiterated the importance for nations and donors to support research, but also expressed support for ongoing treatment initiatives in the meantime,” according to Agence France-Presse. “No one should think that we have got the tools yet. We will get the tools but only if we stay the course in terms of the scientific investments,” Gates said, AFP notes (Sheridan, 7/23). The Washington Post adds that “[t]he main one lacking is a vaccine, but also important and missing are woman-controlled means to prevent infection, such as a vaginal microbicide” (7/23).

OPINION: Momentum In HIV/AIDS Fight Must Continue And Extend To Other Diseases

Noting the successes of PEPFAR and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, former President George W. Bush writes in a Washington Post opinion piece that “[a]n important byproduct of this massive effort on HIV/AIDS has been the improvement of African health systems,” which “has raised an exciting prospect: to extend the gains on AIDS to other diseases.” Bush also discusses his work with the Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon, a public-private partnership initiative spearheaded by the Bush Institute to save women from breast and cervical cancer. Over the past decade a “global effort” has saved millions of lives, he says, adding, “It would be a sad and terrible thing if the world chose this moment to lose its focus and will.” Bush concludes, “Other countries and local governments in Africa can do more in providing resources and increasing funding … [b]ut to continue the momentum in the fight against AIDS, America must continue to lead” (7/22).

New York Times Examines Debate Surrounding China's Family Planning Laws

The New York Times reports that “[r]ecent reports of women being coerced into late-term abortions by local officials have thrust China’s population control policy into the spotlight and ignited an outcry among policy advisers and scholars who are seeking to push central officials to fundamentally change or repeal a law that penalizes families for having more than one child.” According to the newspaper, “critics say that enforcement of the policy leads to widespread abuses, including forced abortions, because many local governments reward or penalize officials based on how well they keep down the population,” and “economists and business executives have expressed anxiety about the impact of a slowing population growth rate on the economy.” “While more debate may be under way, the family planning commission itself continues to stand behind the one-child policy,” the newspaper notes (Wong, 7/22).