Friday, August 29, 2008

GOP Completes It's Anti-Choice Ticket

The New York Times reports that Sen. John McCain has chosen a virtually unknown and avowed anti-choice Governor from Alaska as his running mate.

Sarah Palin, who opposes abortion even in instances of rape and incest, was named McCain's VP nominee today. Palin is a member of Feminists for Life, an anti-choice organization working actively to deny women the right to make their own decisions about when and whether to become a parent.

Tanya Melich writes about why Palin won't fool American women in today's
Women's Media Center Commentary.

"The reality of the McCain pick barely rests on Palin’s personal qualifications. McCain is attempting to present Palin as a symbol that the Republican Party supports women but her selection is not a major change—except by degree—for the GOP. Republicans have been running women for a long time. This historic first is NOT a first for the country, just for the GOP."

Scott Swenson
wrote on RH Reality Check back in June that "...
her selection is seen as an effort to make a play for disgruntled female supporters of Sen. Hillary Clinton. Anti-choice McCain, with an anti-choice Palin, ... would stand for policies so far removed from the reality of the women who loyally supported Sen. Clinton, as to reduce the Palin nomination to the status of political novelty..."

Stay tuned - the race for the White House is about to get more interesting!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Chasin' The P's in Mexico City

P is for Prevention, Policies & Pink Elephants

I was in Mexico City with 23,000 other people for the first International AIDS Conference in Latin America. The event was grand, to say the least.

The conference opened up in full regalia on Sunday, August 3rd, with an event hosted at the Auditorio Nacional near the center of el De Efe- the Federal District, Mexico City (if such a behemoth has a center). As always, this opening session really set the stage and tone for the conference in the days to come. After a beautiful performance of the ballet folklórico, with a mariachi band from Guadalajara, we awaited addresses from several key leaders from all over the world including, Peter Piot, Executive Director of UNAIDS, Felipe Calderon, President of Mexico and Ban Ki-Moon, the UN Secretary General.

The conference theme was Universal Action Now (¡Acción Universal Ya!) which underscored the key message from each of the speakers - increasing access to antiretroviral (ARV) therapy for some of the most vulnerable and marginalized communities. It quickly became apparent that the conference sought to focus on certain communities in particular: men who have sex with men (MSM), intravenous drug users (IDUs), commercial sex workers (CSWs), and to a lesser extent, Latin American migrant workers.

Later, back in my room, I realized this was no coincidence. Looking at the conference program it was clear that session after session would focus on these same groups.

Focus can be good, or can be bad. For instance, funders might say, "Hey, lets try and include other 'hard to reach populations.' " Which is good. But, on the other hand, funders might also say, “Hey, we only have a few dollars, lets only focus on these few 'hard to reach populations.' ” Which could be bad. Well, I’m no Nostradamus so we’ll just have to wait and see about all that.

That first night also brought the first discussions of top US and Mexico initiatives - initiatives that were heavily applauded. And why not? Let me list them, Letterman-like, as my Top 5 P's. (Drum roll, please).

P is for PEPFAR and getting $$$ - and more $$$$$!

Do you remember back in 2003 when George Bush didn't want to be known as just a war president? That's the year the president (maybe as a distraction from the troubles in Iraq?) authorized the first President's Emergency Plan For AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) - $15 million dollars over 5 years to fight the global HIV/AIDS pandemic. We had problems with the details- especially in that program appeared to be influenced too heavily by American political and social groups with "moral" rather than public health agendas. But, hey, it was a first step in the right direction.

Well, 5 years is up (and we're are still in Iraq) and presto, PEPFAR has been reauthorized and the money is way up - a whopping 48 billion dollars! Gotta clap for that!

While nowhere in PEPFAR are the words ‘family planning’ mentioned, folks on the ground here talked about this re-authorization with cautious appreciation. Hey, no language is better than repressive language. And some folks hoped that a maybe a new presidential administration will interpret PEPFAR more broadly.

2. P is for People Living With HIV/AIDS traveling into the US

Okay, check on hell and make sure it hasn’t frozen over, because I am going to praise President Bush twice in one day. During the opening plenary and again during former President Bill Clinton’s speech on Monday, August 4th, President Bush was applauded for lifting the travel ban that previously prevented people living with HIV/AIDS (PLWH/A) from entering the United States. (Not the slightest of reasons why the AIDS conference has not been held in the U.S. since its inception in San Francisco, 17 years ago). Tucked into the PEPFAR language are provisions that repeal a 1993 ban preventing PLWH/A from entering the country or from being eligible for legal status.

That's great, right? But not too fast. The measure, at the moment, is purely de jure. As the Washington Blade points out, for now, HIV is still listed as a communicable disease by Health and Human Services- which prevents positive folks from entering the country or adjusting their legal status. Sound like Catch 22 to you?

3. P is for Lifting Pharmaceutical Plant Restrictions

Mexican President Felipe Calderon promised to follow Brazil's lead by lifting plant and manufacturing restrictions and thereby allowing Mexico to produce their own generic HIV meds. He barely took a breath before adding that such modifications would be rolled out slowly as to prevent a crash in the market. (This should be interesting to see the roll out - remember that pharmaceuticals are available without prescriptions in Mexico!)

Mexico continues to show how far from US movie stereotyping it really is. Far from the machismo, hyper-Catholic conservative city, Mexico city has shown it's progressive streak by legalizing abortion, greatly improving it's contraceptive uptake rates and, hopefully soon, producing its own antiretroviral generics. (Go ‘head on now!)

4. P is for Prevention Reducing Prevalence

President Bill Clinton addressed a plenary session of roughly 3,000 people on Monday 4 August 2008 [he is such a rock star!]. He departed from the party platform of universal access to return the focus back to the United States and it's own HIV/AIDS epidemic.

He cited the national Black AIDS Institute's report on HIV in the Black community, noting that were Black Americans a nation on our own, our HIV prevalence would rank us 16th in the world. He went on to push for a national AIDS strategy to address structural issues for PLWH/A domestically - issues including housing, poverty and substance abuse. (He joked that he did not coordinate such sound bites to coincide with the protesters below him calling for ‘Housing for People Living with HIV.’)

Later these same issues were echoed by Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D- California) and by Dr. Kevin Fenton, the director of the National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention (NCHHSTP) at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Dr. Fenton reiterated the need for a national strategy to tackle AIDS domestically. He highlighted new prevalence and incidence estimates from CDC novel methods for calculation. Essentially, the numbers pointed to an steady increase of incidence for, and only for, the MSM community; a disproportionate burden borne by men, and Black men in particular.

Other encouraging news also came via Laura Kann, also of the CDC. She presented results from the Youth Behavioral Risk Surveillance Survey from 1991 to 2007. For the first year since the start of the epidemic, HIV incidence has dropped- indicating that prevention efforts have started to turn the tide on the epidemic.

But, she went on, young people engaging in sex has been on the rise since 2001 (with quadratic increases over the 16 years- meaning, decreases then increases again). One woman from the audience asked to what would Kann attribute this. As Dr. Kann hesitated to speculate on the data, I sat in my chair thinking only of the failure rate of so-called Abstinence-Only programs.

5. But P is really for the Pink Elephants in the room: Big Pharma

So reeling from all the wonderful people I met, all the informative sessions I participated in and all the cool pens pilfered from the exhibit hall, I awaited the delayed flight in Mexico City’s Benito Juarez airport with new-found colleagues. We talked and debated. Was all this money being spent worth it? Are we going to ensure universal access? And I am going to have to call out the pink elephant in the room: by saying universal access, we have to know the hidden discourse. It reminds me of the myth of meritocracy - that in America if you “work hard, you will get far.” What no one adds to that story is that the road narrows the further you along you go. And for some the road starts to narrow sooner than for others.

In the end, and call me a cynic, if you like, I believe that we will not treat all people. But we need to keep the heat on and keep calling for universal access. Truth is, Big Pharma cannot afford to give access to everyone who live with HIV/AIDS. The point of seeking out particular target populations, is just that, to target some folks. Either those with the highest prevalence (like MSM) and who would therefore stand to make the most money for Big Pharma once they are on ARVs, or those with the greatest incidence rates (like IDUs and sex workers) who would be most likely to start ARVs. Lets be real, universal access is not universal. That Big Pharma is a necessary evil is a given- that disease translates to dollars for some is the way of the world. But we can’t take on Big Pharma alone AND we really do need the meds!

We just need to keep creating small cracks in the system that props Big Pharma up - cracks that include innovative prevention approaches and policies that align with scientific evidence.

And we need to start serving people, not profits and private agendas.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Not Blogging the Democratic Convention

I'm not going to blog about the Democratic Convention in Denver.

Except to say this...

If the recent polls showing that up to 27% of Hillary Clinton's backers are going to vote for McCain are right, then those Hillary Clinton supporters preparing to vote for John McCain will be committing one of the dumbest acts in history.

If those Clinton backers vote for McCain it will seriously imperil the future of women's reproductive health and rights. And as Dahlia Lithwick at Slate said recently, McCain is betting the farm that women aren't listening to the facts about his real record.

What could these Clinton supporters be thinking?

It's simply wrong-headed!

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Women's Equality Day

August 26 of each year is designated in the United States as Women's Equality Day. Instituted by Representative Bella Abzug and first established in 1971, the date commemorates the passage of the 19th Amendment, the Woman Suffrage Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which gave women in the United States full voting rights in 1920.

In his
2004 Presidential Proclamation honoring this day, President Bush said,

"The full participation of women and the protection of their rights as citizens are essential for freedom and democracy to flourish."

Nothing could be more true - not only in the United States, but throughout the world. I personally believe that our collective future is dependent on the education of young women and their full and equal participation in society.

But, in the U.S. and in New York State, the goal of full participation, so reliant as it is on equal economic, educational, and health care access, is moving at a snail's pace and in some instances stagnating and back-tracking.

In their 2006
Briefing Paper, The Institute for Women's Policy Research (IWPR) reported that "in no state does the typical full-time woman worker earn as much as the typical man. And, the number of women..."without health insurance has increased in 43 states," and "the poverty rate among women has increased in 15 states."

In New York State, this reality is particularly harsh for women of color.

According to the report "
The Economic Status of Women in New York State" issued by IWPR, "... strong disparities exist among New York’s women. While 87.9 percent of white women in the state had health insurance, only 80.9 percent of African American women, [and] 75.1 percent of Latina women...were insured. Lower rates of insurance coverage for African American...and Latina women may be attributable in part to their greater prevalence in jobs that lack health benefits... "

In addition, the report continues, "New York State ranks in the bottom third of all states in the nation for the proportion of women who live above the poverty line. Women in New York State were more likely to be poor than women nationally [and] since the late 1980s New York State has experienced an overall increase in poverty among women and a severe drop in its ranking from 30th to 40th in the nation. These trends call attention to poverty as an increasingly pressing problem for the state."

Reproductive health is always adversely impacted by poverty and lack of insurance. The number of poor and uninsured women in New York City without easy access to information and education about reproductive health care is a statewide and national embarrassment. As is the lack of a concerted effort to bring sex education and unplanned pregnancy prevention programs into our schools and communities.

We have much work to do in New York to bring real meaning to Women's Equality Day .

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

The Old Man & The Seed (McCain & Conception)

First let me rant a bit - how does Rick Warren and his evangelical church get a prime-time gig on CNN? (Here's an irreverent take on it)

How does that happen? Even if pollsters are right and 25% of the voting electorate are self-described "born again" Christians or evangelicals, how does that still warrant a prime-time gig on CNN?

Will there now be a prime-time 2-hour presidential candidate interview show for the other 75% of the voting electorate? Or even any percentage of them? If so, maybe I'll get to host a prime-time gig representing liberal, right-handed, feminist white guys.

Separation of church & state has simply become an interesting concept, and I think the CNN show was simply pandering.

Anyway, it gave us all an opportunity to hear John McCain proclaim that life begins at conception - to thunderous applause from the audience I might add. Thanks John, that really clears things up.

Although I'm sure Senator McCain doesn't think through all the implications of position statements like that - here's what it could mean for future McCain Administration policies.

For example, as Jay Bookman writes in his Atlanta Journal-Constitution

"If human life begins at the moment of conception, it means that abortion must be outlawed in all instances, with no possible exception for pregnancies that result from rape or incest. By McCain’s definition, those embryos are human beings that must be protected, without regard to how they might have been created.

It also means that IUDs are not a form of birth control but murder weapons, because they operate by preventing a fertilized egg from implanting in the uterus, thus starving it to death. Some prolife physicians even believe that the birth-control pill is an abortion device, because in some cases the pill can prevent implantation of a fertilized egg."

And then there's the sticky problem such a statement creates for Senator McCain himself concerning his avowed support for stem cell research. As Jay Bookman points out, if life begins at conception, then "...stem cell research into cures for Alzheimers, Parkinson’s, diabetes and other diseases is murder and must be abandoned immediately."

Well, John, what do you have to say about that?

I like absolutists like McCain, don't you. Helps clears things up.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

The Democrats & Their Big Tent Platform - Worried?

The blogosphere and news reporting web sites have been abuzz and atwitter this week over proposed changes to the Democratic Party Platform concerning women and reproductive rights. (see entire proposed platform here)

The first thing I read was Linda Hirshman's insightful
article on Slate. I got excited reading that the hated Clintonian language concerning abortion (safe, legal and rare) had been cast onto the garbage heap of history and replaced with very strong support for Roe and a woman's inherent capacity for moral decision making. I admired Hirshman for calling out Senator Obama and other self-described progressives for having ceded the moral high ground by insinuating that abortion is morally wrong . "Why," Hirshman writes, "did the Democratic candidate for president...invoke the image of the "middle-aged feminist who regrets her abortion" in The Audacity of Hope?' She continues, "...It is time to revive the moral argument for protecting a woman's right to choose: Abortion is about the value of women's lives."

And so it is. Unequivocally.

Hirshman concludes by saying, "The Democratic platform of 2008 offers an opportunity to put an end to this self-destructive cycle of safe, legal, and rare, otherwise known as regret, depression, and self-denigration. In its place, it can finally argue for the value of women's lives."

WORD! And, BTW, I vote for Linda Hirshman getting a speaking role at the convention.

The next thing I read tilted to the effusive. Calling it a "remarkable feminist document," Dana Goldstein, blogs about the platform on
The American Prospect. Goldstein credits female members of both Obama's and Clinton's staff for having moved the language of the platform to be more explicitly pro-woman. She also admirably runs the 2004 and 2008 platforms together so you can make your own decision about shift in language and intent. She concludes though by saying that she, "...[doesn't] see this as a modification of the party's pro-choice stance. Rather, it's a strengthening of that position and a re-articulation of the commitment to helping low-income expectant mothers."

I wanted to believe that to be true. But as I read the next article the story morphed right before my eyes. ABC News asserted that the "
Democrats Soften Edges on Abortion."

What's Up? I was just starting to believe that miracles really could happen, when I'm slapped back to reality with the lead sentence, "The Democratic Party is planning a convention designed to soften the edges on the party's support for abortion rights..." And then the article goes on to say that pro-life Senator Bob Casey will be given a prime-time speaking gig in Denver in 2 weeks.

Uh-oh. Something going on here I don't get?

This is followed by more breaking news that pro-life Virginia Governor Tim Kaine is on a very short list for Vice President. And that pro-life Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and pro-life religious leader Jim Wallis and other pro-lifers are applauding the platform and in some cases taking credit for it's creation.

This is the point where I start to get nervous.

I read the post from David Brody, the senior national correspondent for the Christian Broadcasting Network. Brody
writes that "the Democratic Party is going to add and change some abortion language in their platform as an attempt to bring more moderate Evangelicals and pro-life Catholics into the party." He continues, "The Brody File is told that people like Pastor Joel Hunter (registered Republican), Jim Wallis (President of Sojourners), Pastor Tony Campolo,
and conservative Catholic legal scholar Doug Kmiec all helped in the drafting of this new language."

By now I haven't a clue about what is really going on. And I begin to have doubts about this fast moving, ever nuanced story of the proposed changes to the Democratic Party platform. Who knows who created it and why? Or even if it will pass muster in Denver. And if it does, if it will be further nuanced and/or compromised by a vice presidential pick that may not support a woman's inherent right to make a decision about when or whether to become a parent.

What worries me and what really makes me nervous is that I don't trust that all of this has gone down without serious questioning by those with so much at stake. I'm just not a blind follower. I am too much of a cynic when it comes to politics to simply drink the Kool Aid without asking why. I want to win elections as much as the next guy, but I have worked too long trying to assure that women can control their own destinies to just accept everything at face value.

And I'm all for the Big Tent in theory, but if in practice it brings people within a heartbeat of controlling my and my daughter's future - then I demand to know what's up.
I demand reasonable assurances for my loyalty and support. Is that too much to ask?

What do you think? Am I only only one feeling this way? Let me know.

Here's what all the buzzing and twittering is about...

The new proposed language:

The Democratic Party strongly and unequivocally supports Roe v Wade and a woman's right to choose a safe and legal abortion, regardless of ability to pay, and we oppose any and all efforts to weaken or undermine that right.The Democratic Party also strongly supports access to affordable family planning services and comprehensive age-appropriate sex education which empower people to make informed choices and live healthy lives. We also recognize that such health care and education help reduce the number of unintended pregnancies and thereby also reduce the need for abortions. The Democratic Party also strongly supports a woman's decision to have a child by ensuring access to and availability of programs for pre and post natal health care, parenting skills, income support, and caring adoption programs.

The current Democratic Party platform:

Because we believe in the privacy and equality of women, we stand proudly for a woman's right to choose, consistent with Roe v. Wade, and regardless of her ability to pay. We stand firmly against Republican efforts to undermine that right. At the same time, we strongly support family planning and adoption incentives. Abortion should be safe, legal, and rare.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Living Through Absurd Times

  • Health Care Inequality is Key to Abortion Rates
It's a crime that we need to expend so much energy answering the absurd charges made by anti-choicers about the rate of abortions in communities of color. Charges like - we're waging big marketing campaigns targeting women of color, or that women of color use abortion as birth control, or women of color don't use condoms or contraceptives. All those charges are just malicious BS - made by people and groups who are vehemently against birth control and prevention and refuse to fund such programs. And who jump at every opportunity to de-fund programs that disproportionately impact poor women and women of color .

Hello! It's all about access fellas!
Thankfully, Dr Melissa Gilliam, an African American woman, a physician, and a reproductive-health specialist, speaks truth to absurd claims by discussing the real-life consequences of unequal access to good health care. Dr. Gilliam is associate professor of obstetrics/gynecology at the University of Chicago and chairwoman of the Guttmacher Institute board of directors. She recently penned this excellent Op/Ed which ran in the August 10th edition of The Philadelphia Inquirer.

This should put an end to the absurd charges, but I'm betting it probably won't. Pass this article along to your friends. Everyone needs to be educated on this topic.

  • Abortion Doesn't Cause Mental Illness
Here's another absurd claim - that abortion causes mental illness - promulgated by evildoers on the anti-choice side for decades. This should also be put to rest, but don't hold your breath.

Here's the good news - at the recent gathering of the American Psychology Association, their Mental Health and Abortion Task Force issued a 91-page report which says, in brief, "...there is no evidence
that a single abortion causes significant mental health problems."

The New York Times
summarizes it beautifully in an article in today's edition.

The false claims of mental health problems following abortion are put out there in bogus "studies" by the same people who brought you the bogus breast cancer and abortion lies.

  • Is the NYC MTA Serious?
As if living in the 1950's, the MTA ruled that a pregnant officer was "unfit for duty," took away her gun and sent her to work in a toll booth. Even though her doctor pronounced the 10-week pregnant Lori Ann DiPalo fit for duty, the MTA thought otherwise.

You can read about this absurdity

Is it just me or does standing in a toll booth on your feet for 8 hours and sucking up car and truck fumes sound more unhealthy than enforcing the law?

Sunday, August 10, 2008

I <3 Katha Pollitt

Author, poet, activist and feminist Katha Pollitt has been speaking truth to power from the pages of The Nation for almost 30 years. The Washington Post called Katha Pollitt's 'Subject to Debate' column"the best place to go for original thinking on the left." The NYC native has won major awards for her writing - including one from Planned Parenthood. Her most recent book, "Learning to Drive: And Other Life Lessons" is currently available in hardback from booksellers like Amazon.

But that's not just why I love Katha Pollitt.

I love Katha Pollitt most because no one I know writes with such passion and clarity about womens reproductive health and freedom as she does. And nobody exposes political attempts to deny a woman her reproductive freedom better than Katha Pollitt.

Katha's recent post on her
The Nation blog spot, "And Another Thing," is a perfect case-in-point.

"Stealth Attack on Reproductive Rights" smartly links Bush's attempt to further restrict access to abortion with simultaneous attempts by his party's extremist right wing to deny a woman access to birth control.

As Katha Pollitt writes,
"...There are several disturbing elements to this story. One is that even as it fades into history, the Bush Administration is catering to the anti-choice movement's larger agenda of making contraception harder to obtain. And, "...another dangerous feature of the proposed rules is that they redefine contraception as abortion."

We are at a critical point in our political history. Great damage could be done to reproductive rights as this administration prepares to exit, stage far right.

Read Katha's article, pass it along to your friends, and contact your Senator and your Congressperson and
demand that every attempt be made to stop these rules changes.

And on Nov. 2 - Vote! - as if your freedom depended on it - because it does!

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Women Beware Parting Gift From Bush

I've briefly discussed Bush's plan to
deny women access to abortion and birth control before he leaves office. Since then the news has become the subject of editorial pages across the country, and I want to share one of those with you.

It's Joan Malin's Op/Ed in the current issue of METRO - hot off the presses as it hits newsstands in NYC, Boston and Philadelphia on Friday, August 6th. Joan is president & CEO of Planned Parenthood of New York City and understands what's at stake as well as anyone.

It’s 3 a.m. and your sister is in need of emergency contraception. She goes to her closest hospital emergency room and asks for it. Instead of being given this backup method of birth control, she is instead given a dose of heavy judgment and turned away by a health care provider who believes birth control is “wrong.”

more ... and let us know what you think.

Next up - why I love Katha Pollitt.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Lies, Damn Lies, and California's Prop 4

How many of you remember the story of "Nayirah," the 15-year old Kuwaiti girl who shocked a public hearing of Congress' Human Rights Caucus on October 10, 1990? She testified that she "saw Iraqi soldiers come into the hospital with guns. They took the babies out of the incubators ... and left the children to die on the cold floor." This "story" was widely reported in the media, reached approximately 35 million people, and helped demonize Iraqis in American public opinion.

Truth was, it is was all bullshit. Made up by PR behemoth Hill & Knowlton who was hired by the Kuwaiti government to generate support for U.S. entry into the first Gulf War.

The young woman was later unmasked as the daughter of the Kuwaiti ambassador, and Kuwaiti hospital officials interviewed after the Gulf War said no infants had been dumped from incubators.

Truth is always the first casualty of war. And in the war over the right to abortion, teen health and confidentiality, truth is once again the first victim.

This time the battle is being waged in California and the issue is Proposition 4,
a ballot measure that would require parents to be notified before an abortion is performed on a woman under the age of 18. Known officially as the "Waiting Period and Parental Notification Before Termination of Minor’s Pregnancy Amendment" it is more commonly referred to by it's backers as "Sarah's" Law.

Truth is, there really is no "Sarah." "Sarah" was actually Jammie Garcia Yanez-Villegas, who sadly died in Texas in 1994 - her death allegedly caused by an infection contracted during an abortion procedure in a Houston clinic. The backers of Proposition 4 have long claimed that had there been a parental notification law in California "Sarah" would never have died.

Truth is, "Sarah" didn't live in California. She lived in Texas, and although 15, she was in a common-law marriage and already had one child at home. Texas recognizes common-law marriage and does not view a married 15-year-old as a minor. So, you see, "Sarah" would never have been covered by California's proposed law.

And once again truth is the first victim of war. Backers of Prop 4 made up an outrageous and shameful lie in order to push an unnecessary and potential harmful law. The PR merchants behind Prop 4 have sacrificed truth in order to fire up the voters. Simply put, Californians have been lied to, and if they have been lied to about who "Sarah" really is, how much of the language of Prop 4 is lies?

A lawsuit co-sponsored by Planned Parenthood Affiliates and filed Friday in Sacramento County Superior Court asks the secretary of state to remove the girl's story and other information it deemed misleading, including any reference to "Sarah's Law," from the material submitted for the official voter guide.

Backers of the initiative said they learned the details after submitting the ballot argument last month and would review the lawsuit before deciding whether to amend the language for the voter guide. "We will modify the way we present Sarah to be accurate with the information." But we don't think the use of her story is marred."

Yeah, right!

For more information on Proposition 4 and reasons to work for it's defeat see here.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Have We Turned Our Backs on Black Americans with HIV/AIDS?

While the Bush Administration admirably enacted a $48 billion five-year extension of the program PEPFAR to battle HIV/AIDS and malaria overseas, the HIV/AIDS infection rate is the United States is climbing to equally alarming numbers among Black Americans. But the U.S. does pathetically little to address it's own epidemic.

The Black AIDS Institute recently issued a report which finds that AIDS in segments of Black America is as severe as in many African Countries, but receives much less attention.

"More Black Americans are infected with HIV than the total populations of people living with HIV in seven of the 15 countries served by PEPFAR," noted Phill Wilson, CEO of the Black AIDS Institute and one of the authors of the report, referring to the U.S. government’s program of extraordinary aid for countries severely impacted by the epidemic. "Were Black America a separate country, it would elicit major concern and extensive assistance from the U.S. government. Instead, the national response to AIDS among Black Americans has been lethargic and often neglectful."

In areas of the United States such as New York City HIV levels among segments of the Black community approach those of many severely affected countries in Africa. For example, HIV prevalence among middle-aged Black men in Manhattan is almost as high as overall prevalence in South Africa, home to the world’s largest population of people living with HIV.

Tragically, while the U.S. government requires countries receiving PEPFAR support to have a national AIDS strategy in place, the United States itself has no strategy for its own epidemic
- no strategy while thousands of our most vulnerable citizens become infected with the virus every year.

In fact, an estimated 100,000 New Yorkers are living with a diagnosis of HIV/AIDS. More than one-third are women. Women of color, especially African-American and Latino women in low-income neighborhoods are at highest risk. 82% of all women living with HIV/AIDS are women of color. A significant number of these women are mothers with young children.

Unable to manage their health, maintain employment and care for their children, thousands of women with HIV/AIDS watch hopelessly as their lives fall apart and they slide deeper into poverty. Without the proper support, too often these women lose their independence, their self-esteem and their determination to provide and care for their children.

We all need to refocus our attention on the epidemic in our own backyard. Reach out and help those organizations that provide services. Here's a few that need your help.