Roundup: STIs and HIV Continue to Wreak Havoc While the United States Congress Prepares to Battle…What? Abortion


New report from Centers for Disease Control reveal ongoing battle to contain sexually transmitted infections; hope for progress under health reform

New data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s annual sexually transmitted infection report shows that U.S. chlamydia and syphilis rates continued to rise in 2009, reports Medical News Today, but the gonorrhea rate reached its lowest level in almost 70 years.  These data are analyzed in an article by William Smith, executive director of the National Coalition of STD Directors, published on RHRC today.

USA Today reports CDC found that “large disparities” remain in STI rates across races and age groups, adding, “Some racial/ethnic minority groups have much higher [STI] rates than whites,” with young blacks “particularly hard-hit.”  Although chlamydia, syphilis and gonorrhea account for less than 10 percent of the 19 million STI cases in the U.S. each year, they are the only ones that physicians are required to report to CDC. All three STIs can be treated with antibiotics but can have serious consequences, including infertility and organ damage, if left untreated. Herpes and the human papillomavirus account for most of the remaining STIs in the U.S.  But Cheryl Wetzstein of the Washington Times notes that CDC officials believe the federal health reform law (PL 111-148) will improve access to STI screening and treatment as part of a preventive services provision that provides access to testing without copayments.

As the rate of HIV infections stabilizes, women and girls continue to be disproportionately affected by the epidemic:

While the United States continues to struggle with high rates of infections, an annual global analysis of HIV and AIDS finds that over the course of the nearly three decades of the AIDS pandemic, some 60 million people have been infected with HIV – “more than the combined populations of California and New York,” according to NPR.

Thirty million people have died – about the population of Venezuela. The number of people who will get infected with HIV this year almost equals the population of Chicago.

Where it has been effectively implemented, safer-sex education and widespread condom use have brought down the number of new infections by 19 percent, according to the annual state-of-the-pandemic report issued each year by UNAIDS in advance of World AIDS Day on December 1st. Nearly 20 percent fewer people are dying of AIDS than in 2004, largely because of new treatments. “But these gains are at risk in a world struggling with economic stagnation,” notes NPR‘s Richard Knox, who interviews Michel Sibidé, the head of UNAIDS.

Moreover, women and girls continue to represent a disproportionate share of new infections.  UNAIDS notes that women and young girls are 2.5 times more likely to be infected by HIV in any single act of intercourse compared to men, because women are “biologically, socially and economically more vulnerable to infection through unprotected and coercive sex.”  In Malaysia, for example, four percent of all infections in 1995 were found among women.  This had risen to 18 percent of all new infections in 2009.  In sub-Saharan Africa, women and girls make up 60 percent of all infections with HIV.

But we still face resistance to common sense approaches:

None of these or other preventable reproductive and sexual health issues are likely to be effectively addressed unless progressives mount an aggressive effort to gain traction on policy and funding streams, and simultaneously battle against the plans of ultra-conservatives in the United States and elsewhere to roll back–even eliminate–sexual and reproductive rights. 

In New Jersey, for example, progressive forces are trying to restore funding for family planning and reproductive health services cut dramatically by conservative Governor Chris Christie.  According to Medical News Today, The New Jersey Assembly on Monday passed two bills that would restore funding to family planning clinics and expand eligibility for Medicaid coverage of family planning services. The bills now go to the Senate for consideration in early December.  In June, Christie vetoed similar legislation that would have reversed state budget cuts to family planning clinics, and the Senate failed to override the measure on a party-line vote. Drawing from a report by the National Partnership for Women & Families, MNT notes that one of the bills (A 3274) would transfer $5 million in reserve funding to state family planning clinics and the other,
(A 3273), would require New Jersey to apply to the federal government to expand Medicaid coverage for family planning services to people with incomes between 133 percent and 200 percent of the federal poverty level, as allowed under the federal health reform law (PL 111-148). 

Meanwhile, both the Republican Party and some Tea Party groups are working to implement a radical conservative agenda in the U.S. Congress and at the state level. Republican Congressman Jerry Lewis (Calif), for example, is promising an effort to codify the Hyde Amendment in his camapaign to become chair of the appropriations committee.

Politico reports:

Appropriations chair hopeful Rep. Jerry Lewis (R-Calif.) is lobbying fellow members who oppose abortion, promising he’ll prevent government funding for abortions if he gets the gavel. Lewis told members of the Pro-Life Caucus in a letter late last week that he wants to pass a law that prevents any government funds from going to abortions. He said a statutory fix would stop abortion funding more thoroughly than amendments to appropriations bills that only temporarily address the issue.

“This comprehensive approach will reduce the need for the numerous and separate abortion funding restrictions on annual appropriations bills, ensuring that no program or agency is exempt from this important safeguard,” he wrote. “In the meantime, you have my ironclad commitment to preserving the Hyde Amendment, Weldon Amendment and other important life-affirming language in all House appropriations bills.”

I’m guessing his “comprehensive approach” means eliminating any funding to assist poor women who are the victims of rape or incest or whose lives are endangered by a pregnancy in gaining access to an abortion.

Meanwhile, an arm of the Tea Party the media loves to claim “is not interested in social issues” has called on Congress to dismantle the “liberal-political complex,” (whatever that means) in a letter, addressed to Sen. Mitch McConnell and Speaker-elect John Boehner, that also calls for “dismantling ObamaCare and its abortion-funding provisions” (of which there are none, but, hey, don’t let that stop you) and de-funding Planned Parenthood.

This letter, signed by 185 Tea Party activists was written in response sent last week by  a dozen other self-identified Tea Party activists calling on Congress to abandon social issues and focus exclusively on economic matters. The letter was sponsored by the homosexual rights advocacy group GOProud.

Nov 23

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