A United Nations report released Monday shows reductions in the number of people living with HIV/AIDS worldwide, as well as significant progress towards reaching the 2015 UN Millenium Development Goal on HIV.
The report by the Joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS finds that new HIV infections among adults and children were estimated at 2.3 million in 2012, a 33% reduction since 2001. Among only children, there was a 52% drop in new HIV infections. Part of this reduction can be attributed to programs, such as one in Ethiopia, that work to prevent transmission of the virus from HIV-positive mothers to their children, and train nurses and midwives on emergency obstetric and newborn care.
AIDS-related deaths have dropped by 30% since the peak in 2005, as the number of people accessing antiretroviral therapy has significantly increased. In 2005, only 1.3 million people in low- and middle- income countries were accessing antiretroviral therapy, while an estimated 9.7 million people were accessing treatment in 2012. Free treatment has helped with this increase in access, as shown in Zambia.
As little as 54% of all people eligible for HIV treatment worldwide actually receive it. Prevention efforts are also often stymied by persistent condom stockouts, particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa, where 69% of all people affected by HIV live. This problem is especially acute for women and girls. Women make up 58% of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the region, and young women ages 15-24 are as much as eight times more likely than men to be HIV positive. More than 90% of pregnant women living with HIV reside in Sub-Saharan Africa.
"Gender inequality, punitive laws and discriminatory actions are continuing to hamper national responses to HIV," according to UNAIDS, "and concerted efforts are needed to address these persistent obstacles."
Media Resources: United Nations; Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS; Ms. Magazine Blog 8/30/2013
8/28/2015 Alaska Court Protects Abortion Access for Low-Income Women - The Alaska Superior Court struck down a state law yesterday that would have severely limited abortion access for low-income women in Alaska.
The state's Superior Court also struck down a Department of Health and Social Services regulation that placed narrow specifications on Medicaid coverage for abortions, requiring that Medicaid-funded abortions be determined by a physician to be "medically necessary." Last year, the Center for Reproductive Rights, the American Civil Liberties Union, and Planned Parenthood sued on behalf of the Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest, claiming that the narrow definition of "medically necessary" arbitrarily established conditions designed to restrict the ability of low-income women to access abortion services.
The law was temporarily blocked last July by an Alaskan state court judge.
Superior Court Judge John Suddock ordered yesterday that the state be blocked from implementing this regulation, ruling that it placed an undue burden on low-income women seeking abortion services in Alaska.
"By providing health care to all poor Alaskans except women who need abortions, the challenged regulation violates the state constitutional guarantee of 'equal rights, opportunities, and protection under the law'," the ruling read.
"We applaud the superior court for striing down these cruel restrictions on women's health and rights that violate the Alaska Constitution," said Chris Charbonneau, CEO of Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest and the Hawaiian Islands. . . .
8/26/2015 Saudi Women Prepare to Vote for the First Time - The fight for gender equality is making slow but notable progress in Saudi Arabia, where women will be allowed to vote for the first time in upcoming December elections.
This shift in Saudi law came in 2011, when a royal decree announced that women would be allowed to vote and run in local elections beginning in December of 2015. . . .