The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved a vaccine to prevent cervical cancer Thursday, Reuters reported June 8. The vaccine, Gardasil, is manufactured by New Jersey pharmaceutical company Merck and Co., and was approved for use by girls and women ages 9 to 26. The vaccine prevents infection from human papillomavirus, or HPV, a widespread sexually transmitted virus responsible for 70 percent of cervical cancer cases, the second leading cause of death for women globally. The vaccine also prevented 90 percent of genital warts caused by some strains of the virus.
The vaccine is recommended for use in younger women, as it only prevents infection and is not effective for people who already carry the virus; 80 percent of women by age 50 are infected. The British drug firm GlaxoSmithKline PLC says it will seek FDA approval for a vaccine it says may be effective in women up to age 55. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will decide June 26 whether to endorse routine vaccinations for all female preteens, but the religious organization Focus on the Family, based in Colorado Springs, has raised concerns that the vaccine will promote sexual activity among young adults.
"This is the first real advance in women’s medical care in 50 years," Diana Harper, an obstetrics and gynecology professor at Dartmouth Medical School in New Hampshire and member of the Merck research team, told Ms. Magazine.
More News to Cheer This Week
- The U.S. Department of Education’s annual "Condition of Education" report shows that women are making inroads into traditionally male professions, The Associated Press reported June 7. Women now earn the majority of bachelor’s degrees in business, biology and history. Women represent half of all students enrolled in professional programs such as medicine and law, an increase from 22 percent a generation ago. However, full-time working women still earn only about 77 percent as much as men.
- The New York-based nonprofit Consumers Union recommends that pregnant women avoid tuna in the July issue of Consumer Reports magazine, despite official recommendations from the FDA and the Environmental Protection Agency that canned tuna can be safely consumed at a rate of 6 ounces a week and fresh tuna at a rate of 12 ounces a week. The Consumers Union cited research indicating that white and albacore tuna had significantly higher mercury levels, which increases the risks of health problems for pregnant women and birth defects in children.
- Maryland state police arrested Prince George’s County resident Robert Weiler Jr. on June 8 for his plans to bomb an abortion clinic in College Park, the Baltimore Sun reported. Weiler was arrested with a loaded gun in his car which the police said he planned to use to kill abortion providers. The Washington-based National Abortion Federation says there have been 11 bombings and 25 attempted bombings of clinics since 1996.
- The National Basketball Association received stellar marks on the June 7 "Race and Gender Report Card" issued by the University of Central Florida’s Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport. The combined grade for race and gender, their highest ever, was a B+. Women held 41 percent of the NBA League Office’s professional positions, higher than any other men’s professional league.
For more information:
"Vaccine Holds Special Promise for Women of Color" http://www.womensenews.org/article.cfm/dyn/aid/2712/
"More Female Incumbents Face Women in ’06 Races":
2006 High-Level Meeting on AIDS:
Women represent nearly half the world’s AIDS cases and the numbers of new infections are rising faster for women than men, says the United Nations, which released a comprehensive report on the pandemic timed to coincide with its special meeting marking the 25th anniversary of the first AIDS diagnosis last week.
More than 25 million people have died from AIDS since 1981, and the U.N. says the world must step up its efforts to fight the disease, drawing special attention to the vulnerability of women and the adverse effects of gender inequities that are taking a toll. Women make up nearly half of the 40 million people living with AIDS worldwide and more than three-quarters of them live in sub-Saharan Africa. The U.N. noted the dramatic increase in HIV in young women–60 percent of infections in 15 to 24-year-olds–who are now 1.6 times more likely to have the disease than young men. In the United States, AIDS is the leading cause of death for African American women between the ages of 25 and 34.
"Empowering women and girls is key to turning the tide of AIDS," said Dr. Peter Piot, who heads the UNAIDS agency. "As we design and evaluate AIDS programs, we must always ask: Does this work for women and girls? Unless the answer to that is yes, we cannot expect to succeed in the global response to AIDS."
More News to Jeer This Week
- Duke University’s men’s lacrosse team will be allowed to play next season, the AP reported June 6. Three members of the team face criminal charges of raping a woman who had been hired as an exotic dancer for a party. The group of young men allegedly hurled racial slurs at the victim, who is African American, before the assault. The reinstatement follows the arrest last week of a team member on charges of drug possession and driving while impaired.
- The Niger Parliament has rejected Africa’s Maputo Protocol, which bans female genital mutilation and other human rights abuses, Reuters reported June 5. The protocol was adopted by African heads of state in 2003 and came into effect in November 2005.
- The Web site Livejournal.com has declared pictures of breastfeeding mothers "inappropriate," reported The Register, a British news site, June 1. Icons posted by an advocacy group depicting babies at the breast were a violation of Livejournal’s prohibition against "nudity or graphic violence."
- South Dakota voters threw out four Republican incumbents who opposed their colleagues and voted against the state’s abortion ban in the June 6 primary election. Meanwhile, two Native American Democratic women–Paula Long Fox and Theresa Spry–won primary elections and will face Republican incumbents in the fall, and another–incumbent Democrat Theresa Two Bulls–did not face primary opposition. Two other Native American Democratic women–Charon Asetoyer and Faith Spotted Eagle–lost their primary bids.
- Democrat Francine Busby lost a bid to succeed Randy "Duke" Cunningham, the Republican congressman sentenced in March for bribery, in a special election in California’s 50th district in San Diego. Former Rep. Brian Bilbray, a Republican, won the race. A number of other women in the state won the right to represent their parties in the November midterm elections. That will lead to three races in the state featuring two female candidates facing each other from opposing parties.
- In Tuesday’s primary elections, Alabama Democrat Lucy Baxley won her party’s gubernatorial nod, and female candidates for Congress won primaries in Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, Montana, New Jersey and New Mexico. New Mexico will feature one of the hottest races in the country, pitting a Democratic woman–Patricia Madrid–against a Republican incumbent, Heather Wilson.
— Washington Bureau Chief Allison Stevens contributed to this report.
Elizabeth Stein is an intern for Women’s eNews. She is a student and freelance writer based in New York.
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