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HIV/AIDS News Digest: March 10, 2011

March 10, 2011

Here is a quick look at a few HIV/AIDS stories recently reported in the media:

Survey Shows HIV-positive Women Suffer from Human Rights Violations (From The U.S. Positive Women's Network)

Right on time for the U.S. National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, the U.S. Positive Women's Network (PWN) launched a new Web site and released a survey report about the human right violations that women living with HIV in the U.S. encounter. Of the hundred-plus women surveyed, Diagnosis, Sexuality and Choice found some disturbing trends: Laws that make it a crime not to disclose one's HIV status to partners, even when using a condom, increase stigma against people living with HIV, may inhibit people from getting tested in the first place, and keep people from maintaining regular medical care if they are HIV positive.

In a press release PWN stated:

Other survey results demonstrated that many medical providers do not provide adequate information about and support for HIV-positive women's reproductive health, options and decisions. One survey respondent wrote, "I was told by several doctors to abort the pregnancy. I was almost in my 2nd trimester before I knew I was pregnant. I ran out of many a doctor's offices in tears after being told I was "selfish" or "if that were my wife, I'd make her have an abortion."

PWN is also calling for the factors that increase women's vulnerability to acquiring HIV -- poverty, homelessness, incarceration and violence -- to be addressed in policy making and HIV advocacy. For far too long, women's needs have taken a back seat. Hopefully, this report will open people's eyes to the issues and stigma that women living with HIV face and usher in some type of change.

More Teens Abstaining From Sex Says New Report (From The Washington Post)

According to a new U.S. federal government study, there is an increase in younger people abstaining from sex. The National Survey of Family Growth found that more than one quarter of people interviewed in their late teens and early 20s had never had sex. It also found that while oral sex may be a gateway to vaginal sex, for some teens it is a stopping point.

The Washington Post reported:

"The public's general perception is that when it comes to young people and sex, the news is bad and likely to get worse," said Bill Albert, chief program officer of the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, an advocacy organization in Washington.

The seventh and latest round of the survey, first done in 1973, provides a corrective to that view.

"Many, many young people have been very receptive to the message of delaying sexual activity," Albert said. "There's no doubt about it." He added that the nearly 40 percent reduction in teen pregnancy since the 1990s -- which experts attribute to both increased condom use and increased abstinence -- represents "extraordinary progress on a social issue that many once considered intractable."

While it's encouraging to know that teen pregnancy is down, teen pregnancy is not the only consequence of unprotected sex. Given the rising rates of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and HIV rates among teens -- 1 in 4 teenage girls has an STD -- it's very premature for the federal government to be patting themselves on the back for any type of success. Teens -- gay, straight and bisexual -- are still having sex and are still not equipped with the knowledge that they need to protect themselves and their partners.

Do Mississippi's Policies Fuel the State's HIV Epidemic? (From The Huffington Post)

The Human Rights Watch recently released a report that highlights how the state of Mississippi does very little to provide information about HIV prevention and then in turn provides no funding for housing, transportation, or prescription drug programs for people living with HIV. According to Rights at Risk: State Response to HIV in Mississippi, in Mississippi, half of the people testing HIV positive are not receiving treatment, a rate comparable to that in Botswana, Ethiopia and Rwanda.

The Huffington Post reported:

Mississippi is among the poorest of all U.S. states, which entitles it to substantial federal funds that could support HIV/AIDS housing and health care services. Yet it has consistently failed to take full advantage of these funds. The state recently sued to block national health care reform legislation that would expand Medicaid eligibility for many people living with HIV, with the cost borne primarily by the federal government. According to the report, Mississippi's unwillingness to accept federal support for its residents with HIV contributes to death rates from AIDS that are far higher than the national average.

Mississippi also clings to failed approaches to sex and HIV education, Human Rights Watch said. Mississippi has some of the nation's highest rates of chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis, sexually transmitted diseases that can significantly increase an individual's risk of becoming infected with HIV. Yet the state legislature has repeatedly refused to approve programs that provide complete, accurate information about HIV and pregnancy prevention, insisting on ineffective abstinence-only curricula in the public schools. The result, Human Rights Watch said, is the denial of potentially life-saving information to adolescents, putting them at unnecessary risk of HIV infection.

View a video of Sandra S. discussing the stigma she has faced living in Greenwood, Miss.

Kellee Terrell is the former news editor for and

Copyright © 2011 The HealthCentral Network, Inc. All rights reserved.

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