Roundup: Dybul’s Departure; Utah House Approves Anti-Abortion Legal Fund


Michelle Goldberg on Mark Dybul’s Departure
Michelle Goldberg offers a rich account of Mark Dybul’s departure from the Office of Global AIDS Coordinator on The American Prospect
Goldberg examines the differences between Secretary of State Hillary
Clinton’s and President Barack Obama’s leadership styles and how that could affect PEPFAR and the US’s stance on global HIV prevention:

 

Obama, after all, has, like Dybul, made working with faith-based groups
a major priority. He’s eager for bipartisan support, even if it means
sacrificing parts of his own agenda. Clinton, seared by many years of
ideological warfare, is less concerned with placating her opponents.
She thrilled feminists worldwide at the 1995 Beijing conference when
she proclaimed, "Women’s rights are human rights, once and for all." As
secretary of state, she’s promised to foreground women’s issues,
including sexual and reproductive health, which is one reason that,
while foreign-policy conservatives were sanguine about her
confirmation, social conservatives largely were not.

 

And:

The recent uproar over family-planning provisions in the stimulus
bill have shown how eager the right is to demagogue on sexual issues.
Should Clinton push forward with more effective prevention policies,
the consensus that has sustained the massive American commitment to
AIDS relief could fray. So far, though, keeping that consensus together
has come at the cost of some women’s lives.

 

Stem Cell Transplant Appears to Free Patient of HIV

CNN reports: "A 42-year-old HIV patient with leukemia appears to have no detectable
HIV in his blood and no symptoms after a stem cell transplant from a
donor carrying a gene mutation that confers natural resistance to the
virus that causes AIDS, according to a report published Wednesday in
the New England Journal of Medicine." 

Hutter and a team of medical professionals performed the stem cell
transplant on the patient, an American living in Germany, to treat the
man’s leukemia, not the HIV itself.

However, the team deliberately chose a compatible donor who has a
naturally occurring gene mutation that confers resistance to HIV. The
mutation cripples a receptor known as CCR5, which is normally found on
the surface of T cells, the type of immune system cells attacked by HIV.

 

But while successful, the treatment likely won’t be widely applicable:
"About a third of the people die [during such transplants], so it’s
just too much of a risk," Dr. Jay Levy, professor at UC San Francisco. "To perform a stem cell
transplant, doctors intentionally destroy a patient’s immune system,
leaving the patient vulnerable to infection, and then reintroduce a
donor’s stem cells (which are from either bone marrow or blood) in an
effort to establish a new, healthy immune system."

Condom Sales Going Up

On Slate,
William Saletan observes that condom sales are increasing, and he
theorizes that’s because Americans want to "control the family
payroll."  "I’d like to think that when times are tough, people become increasingly
rational and careful about limiting their financial commitments,
especially when the welfare of existing children is at stake," writes Saletan.  But: "the
part about condoms being a ‘relatively inexpensive form of birth
control’ worries me. Including a barrier method is generally a good
idea. But if people are cutting back on more foolproof contraception
and relying entirely on condoms, there’s always a risk that one
screw-up will lead to pregnancy."  True.  I wish Congresss and Obama had thought of that when the jettisoned the family planning
provision from the stimulus package.

Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships Inspires Skepticism

On The American Prospect, Sarah Posner is more than skeptical about the newly-reconstituted Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships:

Despite Obama’s own lip service to nonbelievers in his Inaugural
Address, the inclusion of leaders from nonreligious organizations on
this advisory council, and the presence of the word "neighborhood"
alongside "faith based" in his new partnership between government and
community, this is without a doubt a religious endeavor. Why else would
he have chosen the venue of the National Prayer Breakfast
— an event whose origins and true agenda Obama either chose to
overlook, doesn’t understand, or does understand but nonetheless
embraced in the long-standing spirit of phony bipartisanship that the
prayer breakfast represents — to make his first public announcement
about the office, followed by a private signing of the executive order
at the White House?

Posner adds:

[Obama] did not, as many had hoped he’d do, reverse two Bush-era executive
orders that permitted employment discrimination by federally funded
religious organizations and the direct funding of houses of worship.
Instead, the executive order he did sign authorizes the director of the
Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships and the advisory
council to refer particular cases to White House counsel and the
Department of Justice for legal review.

Utah House Approves Anti-Abortion Legal Fund

One of the reasons Utah lawmakers have not moved forward on an
abortion ban in the state has been awareness of the cost of defending
the ban in court.  Now, the House has approved a proposal that would
set up a "legal defense fund" to fund a challenge Roe with a state abortion ban, the AP reports.  "House Bill 114 would create a fund that
accepts private donations to help offset any legal fees the state would
incur if it were to pass an abortion ban by 2014. Defending a law that
bans abortion in most cases would likely cost the state millions of
dollars."  But the last similar efforts raised on $13,000.  The Senate votes next on the proposal.

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