New HIV infection rate declines in South Africa, survey data shows

New HIV infection rate declines in South Africa, survey data shows

In South Africa, the number of new HIV infections is on the decline. The newly-released South African National HIV Prevalence, Incidence, Behaviour, and Communications Survey, 2017 is the fifth wave of a series of cross-sectional surveys on HIV/AIDS in the country, and offers a comprehensive look at how HIV/AIDS affects the population. According to the study, the HIV incidence rate--or the rate of new infections--declined by an impressive 44%, from 0.85% in 2012 to 0.48% in 2017. The incidence rate was highest among females aged 15-24. The overall decrease in incidence suggests that progress is being made in antiretroviral treatment (ART) coverage. Contraceptive use and increased HIV education may have also contributed to the change. The survey also found that over 60 percent of South Africans living with HIV, an estimated 4.4 million people, were on ART in 2017. In addition, viral suppression was 87.3% among people living with HIV who were on ART. Overall, approximately 7.9 million South Africans were...
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Texas fetal tissue burial law trial begins in U.S. federal court

Texas fetal tissue burial law trial begins in U.S. federal court

The federal court hearing of a Texas abortion law began this week. The state claims that the law, which requires the burial or cremation of fetal remains following an abortion or miscarriage, ensures that dignified disposal of fetal remains. Abortion providers and reproductive rights activists, however, argue that the legislation is unnecessary and places an undue burden on patients and clinics alike. Courts have blocked similar laws on fetal tissue disposal in Arkansas, Louisiana, and Indiana. The trial is expected to conclude on Friday....
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UK Department for Education updates sex education curriculum, includes information on exploitation and consent

UK Department for Education updates sex education curriculum, includes information on exploitation and consent

This week, the UK Department for Education will launch new guidelines for relationships and sex education in schools, the first update to the curriculum since 2000. The new guidelines will include information on understanding, giving, and recognizing consent, as well as the current laws on sexual exploitation, harassment, and abuse. Beginning in primary school, the age-appropriate lessons aim to give children clear and comprehensive information about their bodily autonomy and responsibilities towards themselves and others, both in person and online. This important update to the curriculum comes after a 2017 BBC production revealed nearly 30,000 reports of children sexually abusing their peers. "It’s vital that every child knows about their rights and that nothing should happen to them without their consent," explained education secretary Damian Hinds, adding that the lessons will teach children how to recognize when someone else has not given consent, and hopefully reduce the pressure that they put on one another....
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Kenyan court case challenges government stance on abortion

Kenyan court case challenges government stance on abortion

After a three-day hearing, Kenya's high court adjourned a case on safe abortion until September 18, with a verdict expected by the end of the year. The case will decide if the government is responsible for the death of a teenager from complications of a botched backstreet abortion, and could increase access to safe abortion for women throughout the nation. The Kenyan ministry of health withdrew guidelines on safe abortion in 2010, and has since banned health workers from receiving training on abortion. FIDA Kenya and the Center for Reproductive Rights are challenging the ministry's decision, saying that it is a violation of women's rights. The government's removal of guidelines and training on safe abortion, they argue, has led to an increase in illegal and often unqualified practitioners taking advantage of desperate women, who face serious risk of complication or even death. The girl at the center of the case, known by her initials JMM, died last month after a botched backstreet...
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New public health policy aims to halt virginity testing in Afghanistan

New public health policy aims to halt virginity testing in Afghanistan

Afghanistan has enacted a new public health policy intended to stop virginity testing in the country, marking a hard-earned victory for human rights campaigners. The invasive procedure to check whether the hymen is intact remains widespread in Afghanistan, despite having been condemned by the World Health Organization, countless human rights groups, and even the Afghan government. Girls and young women who fail the virginity tests can beimprisoned for several months--sometimes, more than a year--and face shame and exclusion even after they are released. Yet after years of advocacy and activism, Marie Stopes Afghanistan and other societal leaders believe that this official public health policy, which will stop the practice from being performed in all clinics and hospitals throughout Afghanistan, presents a major breakthrough. The organization will work to ensure that the new policy is understood and implemented. Farhad Javid, country director for Marie Stopes International in Afghanistan, believes that both government and Taliban regions will respect this new change in public health policy....
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Burundi ban denies expectant teens their right to education

Burundi ban denies expectant teens their right to education

Burundi recently announced a ban that will prevent pregnant girls and expectant fathers from attending formal schooling, sparking immediate backlash from human rights groups and other advocates. In a letter to local educators and authorities, the east African nation's minister of education instructed that pregnant teens and young mothers, as well as the boys that impregnate them, would no longer be permitted to attend public and private schools. The students would, however, be allowed to receive vocational or professional training. Advocates have expressed opposition to the ban, arguing that the policy will disproportionately harm teenage girls as it will be difficult to identify and prove fatherhood. "How does the government prove that Boy A impregnated Boy B?" asked human rights lawyer Naitore Nyamu-Mathenge of gender justice organization Equality Now. "This ban disproportionately affects girls and it is skewed towards an abuse of the girls' rights to education," she said. Nyamu-Mathenge stressed the importance of girls' education, adding that denying girls education could lead to...
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New guidelines for the care of transgender children and adolescents

New guidelines for the care of transgender children and adolescents

The Royal Children's Hospital Gender Service of Melbourne, Australia recently published the first guidelines focusing solely on the care of transgender and gender diverse children and adolescents. "Based on empirical evidence, clinician consensus, and results of non-randomised and observational studies, the guidelines were developed in consultation with multidisciplinary experts, support groups, and transgender children and adolescents, and their families," writes The Lancet. The 36-page document is intended to guide the respectful, gender-affirming care of transgender and gender diverse youth, thereby minimizing the consequences of  the stigma, bullying, and abuse that children and adolescents with gender dysphoria often suffer. It includes information on terminology and respectful language, psychological support, social transition, fertility counseling, hormone therapy, and surgical interventions. The guidelines also outline the roles of various health and legal practitioners in the care of transgender and gender diverse youth.   - Anna Katz, Communications Intern...
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Thailand honored for Cervical Cancer Prevention Program

Thailand honored for Cervical Cancer Prevention Program

For years, Thailand had a high incidence of cervical cancer and had seen little success from their pap smear based screening approach. In 2000, Jhpiego, the government of Thailand, the Provincial Health Office of Roi Et, and the Royal Thai College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists implemented a pilot study using a screen-and-treat approach for cervical cancer prevention. This method allows women to attend a single visit with a health care provider and services can be provided by a nurse, allowing for task-sharing within the health system. Based on results from this study, the WHO adopted the screen-and-treat strategy as part of their comprehensive cervical cancer guidelines. These services are now offered in 32 Thai provinces and the government has recently introduced a HPV vaccination campaign to further efforts in cervical cancer prevention. This week, the Roi Et Provincial Health Office was awarded a United Nations Public Service Award honoring their pioneering efforts in cervical cancer prevention....
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No remaining abortion providers in Guam

No remaining abortion providers in Guam

The Guam Women's Clinic is no longer performing abortions, seemingly leaving the small island without any abortion providers. Though the clinic is still operational, Dr. Jeffrey Gabel, unlike his retired predecessor Dr. William Freeman, does not perform abortions. Jamie Ward of The Guam Daily Post contacted several clinics searching for an abortion provider to no avail, and one of her contacts within the Guam women's health community confirmed that there is nobody on the island that women can be referred to for an abortion. Abortion access in Guam could be further restricted by a proposed bill that would permit abortions only up to 20 weeks, unless the life of the pregnant person was at risk. Guam's current law allows for abortions up to 26 weeks if the fetus has a serious physical or mental defect or if the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest. Abortions are allowed throughout at pregnancy if the pregnant person's life or health is seriously...
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Refugees in Rwandan camp appeal for help with pregnancy prevention

Refugees in Rwandan camp appeal for help with pregnancy prevention

Refugees in Rwanda's Nyabiheke Refugee Camp have asked the government and other leaders to help reduce teen pregnancies in the camp. The camp, which has hosted Congolese refugees since 2005, is now home to nearly 17,000 refugees. Overcrowding is a key concern, and refugee representative Justin Byiringiro cites teen pregnancy as a driving force of the problem. "The overpopulation in the camp favors early [teen] pregnancies. Some students graduate from secondary schools but a very limited number are advancing to universities while others are dropping out of schools," he explained. While Byiringiro believes that vocational training programs will help prevent teen pregnancy, government officials are advocating for investment in family planning programs. Jeanne d’Arc De Bonheur, the Minister for Disaster Management and Refugee Affairs, believes "reproductive health and family planning will surely be a durable solution to the issue." Organizations like the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) are supporting family planning in Rwandan refugee camps, but significant unmet need remains.   - Anna Katz, Communications...
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