International Roundup: News on Newborn Health and on HIV Prevention

A new, comprehensive report on child health from Save the Children draws attention to the simple yet unmet needs that make the difference between life and death in much of the developing world. Reporting in the International Herald Tribune highlights the report’s conclusion that the hours after birth are the most critical for protecting children. This report raises the nearly seamless issue of gaping needs for adequate maternal health care around the world. For more on that front, see our recent blog entry on maternal mortality.

Good news from UNAIDS chief Peter Piot about Africa: sexual behaviors are changing in many parts of the continent for the better, even leading to decreases in infection rates in some areas. He attributes this funding directly to increases in donor support from the US and the Global Fund, and describes the specific behavior changes: "Young people start later with their first sexual intercourse. Also there's a reduction in number of partners and condom use has gone up…” Looks like the outcome from comprehensive sexuality education, right? Then the world community might continue to ask about the increased funding for abstinence-only from the US.

A report with a similar tone comes from the Kaiser Family Foundation, whose new fact sheet on HIV/AIDS in the Caribbean—the region with the second-highest prevalence of infection in the world—notes that there are some positive signs in some areas of the region. Still, a significant need exists for ARV therapy and better prevention efforts.

Finally, Nick Kristof gives one of his few endorsements of the Bush Administration on the New York Times editorial page today. Why? Because to his mind, the Bush Administration has made landmark progress on combating human trafficking and slavery. Considering that most trafficking involves the sex trade and that forced prostitution is nearly a death sentence because of HIV, we’re glad progress is being made to prevent trafficking. Kristof does mention the Administration’s ban on funding groups without an anti-prostitution commitment. It might make sense in the case of trafficking, but this prevents groups that do important work on HIV prevention among sex workers from getting these funds. These last three stories reveal hopeful signs in the ongoing fight against HIV. It’s great to see hard work in so many arenas of this battle beginning to pay off.

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