Anti-HIV Gel May Empower Women in the Fight Against AIDS
The FDA has put an anti-HIV vaginal gel called VivaGel on the fast track for approval. Women can apply the gel vaginally in the hours before intercourse to prevent HIV and genital herpes. If trials go smoothly, VivaGel may be commercially available as early as 2008, making it the first anti-HIV microbicide on the market.
After plateauing in the 1990s, US HIV infection rates are on the rise again, especially among African-American women. Part of the rising infection rates are due to the fact that women in the US still face pressure from male partners who do not want to wear condoms, according to Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, United Press International reports. Because women can hide microbicide use from their partners, microbicides would provide a way for women to protect themselves “without bowing to male dictates,” said UN Special Envoy for HIV/AIDS Stephen Lewis in a speech adapted for Ms. magazine.
Once approved in the US, VivaGel could be made available internationally at an affordable price, says the NIH. Rates of infection in developing countries are disproportionately high among women. In South Africa, four times as many women as men under 24 are HIV-positive.
“[W]hen the landscape is so bleak,” said Lewis, “the prospect of a microbicide in five to 10 years is intoxicating.”
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. . . .