By Bowen and Moawad
Saturday, June 2, 2007
A report from Physicians for Human Rights suggests that improving women's rights could be the key to addressing the AIDS epidemic in Southern Africa, Reuters reported May 25. The Massachusetts group, which investigates human rights abuses, studied 2,000 women in Botswana and Swaziland and identified inequality and gender discrimination as major problems in the region, where women are often forced into risky sex by men or by economic circumstance.
"The impact of women's lack of power cannot be underestimated," said study co-author Karen Leiter.
Women represent 75 percent of all HIV-infected Africans between the ages of 15 and 25; in Swaziland, 33 percent of adults are infected and in Botswana 24 percent of adults have the virus.
In Washington, D.C., President Bush announced a five-year renewal of the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief with a $30 billion funding package to fight the epidemic. The effort is targeted toward 15 developing countries and Bush's proposal would double current funding levels for the initiative, which he launched in his 2003 State of the Union speech.
The funding increase--with one-third earmarked for education programs that emphasize abstinence--would provide lifesaving treatments to 2.5 million people, according to a May 30 Washington Post article. The program's original five-year, $15 billion-dollar commitment expires in September 2008. About 40 million people are known to be suffering from AIDS around the world; with more than half of those residing in Africa.
"Women with AIDS Need Our Help":
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Britain's two most senior Roman Catholic officials, Cardinal Keith O'Brien--who leads Scotland's Catholics--and Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor--who leads Catholics in England and Wales--have warned Catholic politicians who support abortion rights not to receive holy communion, the Telegraph reported June 1. The warning amounts to a heavy sanction and denotes strong disapproval on the part of church hierarchy.
In a sermon marking the 40th anniversary of legalized abortion rights in Britain, Cardinal O'Brien urged voters to consider the pro-choice views of politicians when making their decisions. Parliament Member Jim Devine said the comments--which followed news last week that abortion rates in Scotland were rising--were an "affront to democracy."
On May 26, a British woman was convicted for an illegal abortion under the nation's 78-year-old child-destruction law, United Press International reported. Maisha Mohammad was convicted of having an abortion when she was more than seven months pregnant, but has denied doing so and the fetus has never been found. She faces a 12-month prison sentence; the 22-year-old woman has three other children.
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