August 12, 2011
Here is a quick look at a few HIV/AIDS stories recently reported in the media:
Sex education in New York City has been done on a voluntary basis in public schools -- which left only 64 percent of the city's middle schools and somewhere between 40-80 percent of high schools teaching any type of sex education curriculum.
Well, this fall, that will not be the case. A new mandate handed down by Mayor Bloomberg states that 100 percent of public school students will receive age-appropriate, comprehensive sex education.
The program is part of a larger city measure, Mayor Michael Bloomberg's $127 million Young Men's Initiative, announced on Aug. 4, which seeks to improve the lives of young black and Latino men in the city (the initiative will also focus on job training, counseling for criminal offenders, and fatherhood classes).
City officials hope that the sex-ed mandate will reach teens of color, who have disproportionately high rates of unplanned pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections (STIs). "It's obviously something that applies to all boys and all girls," Linda I. Gibbs, the New York City's deputy mayor for health and human services told the New York Times. "But when we look at the biggest disadvantages that kids in our city face, it is blacks and Latinos that are most affected by the consequences of early sexual behavior and unprotected sex."
For many HIV and reproductive health advocates, this mandate is what they have been lobbying to have for years. In a press release, Tracie M. Gardner, state policy director at the Legal Action Center and the founder of WISH-NY, said, "While this new mandate is a start, we hope that it's not the final word from the city. As we all have been saying for years, meaningful, medically-sound health education needs to be a continuous process, and one semester is far from that."
YWCHAC Co-director Kymsha Henry added, "As advocates, we are so happy to hear this -- but it's not really time to celebrate until the rates of HIV and STIs among New York's young people decrease. Chancellor Walcott and Deputy Mayor Gibbs, let's make this happen now."
Op-Ed: Manhunt Is No Way to Deal With HIV-Positive Minor (From Edmonton Journal)
On Aug. 8, we reported that a 17-year-old teen living in Edmonton, Canada, was arrested and charged with two counts of aggravated sexual assault for having unprotected sex without disclosing her HIV status to her partners. Her arrest came days after the Edmonton Police Service issued a public safety warning that named her.
Some have questioned whether the police should have broadcasted the minor's face on the Internet and in the media. Did the crime warrant those actions? Is it even true that she is HIV positive? And did they receive a court order to release her information?
Edmonton Journal staff writer Paula Simons refers to the police's actions as a "manhunt" that essentially did more harm than good and shows a lack of compassion. Simons wrote:
Treating her like a dangerous criminal on the lam, rather than a sick, desperate and vulnerable minor, may not have been the most useful or appropriate strategy to dealing with a public health problem. Criminalize the disease, and you only add to the stigma and shame that keep people from disclosing their HIV status in the first place.
Simons also stated that the moral that HIV-negative people walk away with is that it's the job of the HIV-positive person to keep them negative when in fact both parties share the responsibility for their own health:
At least three men allegedly chose to have sex -- unprotected sex, it would seem -- with a 17-year-old homeless girl. Their sexual behavior was also irresponsible, perhaps even exploitative. Yet they're the victims whose identities are protected, while she is the accused criminal, pilloried in the virtual public square.
Sadly, it's far easier for the police to launch a successful media manhunt for one sick girl, than it is for our community to deal with the social woes that put her on the street, diseased and desperate, in the first place.
Federal Officials Work to End HIV Criminalization Laws (From The Michigan Messenger)
How Can We Close the Race Gap in HIV That's Affecting Black MSM? (From The New York Times)
Just last week, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released news that HIV rates have stabilized for much of the American population, yet rates among young African-American men are increasing alarmingly. In a recent installment of the feature "Room for Debate," The New York Times reached out to nine top HIV experts to get their take on what public health officials should do in order to close this racial gap.
Here's what two of the experts had to say:
HIV Treatment Outcomes Poorer in Adolescents and Young Adults (From AIDSmeds.com)
Will Obama Oppose Cuts to HIV/AIDS Programs in Deficit Reduction? (From Washington Blade)
Kellee Terrell is the former news editor for TheBody.com and TheBodyPRO.com.
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