University of Utah scientists have developed a “molecular condom” that may help women protect themselves from HIV infection. Made up of three different chemicals, the condom works like a gel coating when put on the skin, then turns into a liquid microbicide when exposed to semen and prevents the virus from spreading.

The development was announced in the Dec. 11 issue of the Journal of Pharmaceutical Science. The molecular condom is not ready for testing in women and researchers predicted it will take five to 10 years to bring it to market.

“Millions of women currently have little control over their sexual health, and microbicides could put the power of preventing HIV into women’s hands,” Yusef Azad of the London-based National Aids Trust told the BBC Dec. 31. “It is vitally important that women have a range of options of products such as gels, liquids and creams that could provide a barrier to contracting HIV during sex.”

More than 17 million women worldwide are infected with HIV, according to the United Nations.

More News to Cheer This Week:

  • Charges against Lydia Cacho, the Cancun journalist accused of defamation last year, were quietly dropped this week after a Mexican court ruled that accusations against her by a prominent businessman were moot. Cacho was arrested in May 2005 and had been awaiting trial after her book, “Demons of Eden,” accused powerful businessmen of participating in a pedophile ring preying on girls in Cancun. The judge relieved Cacho of the charges by ruling that criminal libel was not a crime in Mexico City, where her book was published. Her attorney said that although the judicial battle was won, the “war against the power of pedophilia that operates in Mexico” would continue, the newspaper La Jornada reported Jan. 4.
  • Tanzania’s foreign minister, Asha-Rose Migiro, was named deputy secretary-general of the United Nations by new U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon on Jan 5. Migiro is the second woman to hold a deputy’s post at the international agency and is now the highest-ranking woman there.
  • For the first time, 20 women have joined the Serbian military academy as cadets, United Press International reported Jan. 3. They will have the same curriculum and training program as men but they will be housed separately. The women will be trained to serve as military police, technicians and as pilots in the Serbian air force. In England, the first female “Beefeater,” or yeoman warder who guards the Tower of London, is being hired, the Guardian reported Jan. 3. The unidentified woman is currently serving in Britain’s armed services.
  • Between 1993 and 2004, intimate partner violence in the United States fell by more than half, the Department of Justice reported Dec. 28. This finding mirrors an overall decrease in violent crime during that time period. Homicides, rapes, assaults and robberies against “intimate partners”–defined as current or former spouses, a boyfriend, girlfriend or a same-sex partner–fell from about 10 victims per 1,000 women in 1993 to four victims per 1,000 women in 2004.
  • Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi was elected Speaker of the House on Jan. 4 and media around the world trumpeted her ascent as the most powerful woman in Congress. A sampling of the headlines: “A Woman’s Place Is in the House” (Sydney Morning Herald); “America, Meet Speaker Pelosi” (San Jose Mercury News); “Nancy Pelosi: Two Heartbeats From the Presidency” (ABCNews.com); “Pelosi Takes the Helm in Triumph” (Los Angeles Times); “Pelosi, hear her roar” (Chicago Sun-Times); “Speaker of the Household” (Seattle Times); and “This Just In: Pelosi Is a Woman” (TomPaine.com). After taking the oath of office, the new Madame Speaker said, “Today, we have broken the marble ceiling.”
  • Dr. Margaret Chan officially took over as director-general of the World Health Organization Jan. 4, the agency announced. “I want my leadership to be judged by the impact of our work on the health of two populations: women and the people of Africa,” Chan said. “WHO has a long history of commitment to those in greatest need, including the most vulnerable groups.”

For more information:

“Thai Activists Monitor Trial of Anti-HIV Gel”:

“Cacho Faces Defamation Charges in Mexico”:

U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics:


Sectarian groups in Iraq are forcing an increasing number of girls to stay away from their schools, according to a Dec. 11 UNICEF report. One-fifth of Iraqi girls in the primary level failed to enroll in 2004. Baghdad, along with the south central region of Iraq, has seen a sharp decline in enrollment since 2006.

Schools in this area are being increasingly affected by sectarian violence, with girls’ schools often singled out for specific threats, Michael Bociurkiw of UNICEF told Voice of America Dec. 12.

The sectarian attacks have lowered attendance rates among girls, who are often kept indoors due to fears of violence and kidnapping.

More News to Jeer This Week:

  • In recent years the United States has seen an overall decline in invasive breast cancer rates, but rates were stagnant among African American women under age 40, reported the University of Pittsburgh Medical center on Nov. 7. Researchers attributed the breast cancer decline, particularly among white women, to more opportunities for mammography screenings and the drastic reduction of hormone replacement therapy. Young African American women with breast cancer die at a younger age than women from other groups, but do not receive mammography screenings as frequently.
  • The Madras High Court in the Chennai state of India has found the situation of female prisoners in 15 prisons and jails “disgraceful,” the Hindu newspaper reported Jan. 3. Food in prisons is tasteless, prisons do not have decent toilet and water facilities and prisoners are rarely provided with health care. Free legal aid is not always available and female prisoners are prohibited from eating on days they appear in court. Most jails cells are dark and lack ventilation.


U.S. and Canadian researchers have found that women suffering from clinical depression are more likely to binge drink than men, the BBC reported Jan. 3. The research was carried out by the Center for Addiction and Mental Health in Ontario, Canada, and the University of North Dakota.

Toyin Adeyemi is an independent journalist based in New York City; Nouhad Moawad is Arabic site intern; Theresa Braine is Women’s eNews’ Mexico City correspondent.

Women’s eNews welcomes your comments. E-mail us at [email protected].