Mario|17.08.2012|Feature News
Guest blogger and editor/host of The Lancet News podcast Mario gives us his review of this week’s HIV related news stories…

Philippines fight Manny Pacquiao for contraception

Boxing champion and now Filipino congressman Manny Pacquiao has been fighting the wrong battles lately.

He has opposed the Philippine president Benigno Aquino’s health bill that will provide free contraception to prevent unwanted pregnancies.

Surely such a law is a good thing?

But according to Pacquiao: “God did not say just have two children or three children. He said go forth and multiply.”

Well that’s one way of looking at it. But here’s another perspective: in the past 20 years, increasing contraceptive use in developing countries has reduced maternal deaths by 40%.

In 2008 alone, 250 000 maternal deaths worldwide were avoided by using contraceptives to reduce the number of unintended pregnancies.

And let’s not forget that reproductive choice is a fundamental human right.

Hershey’s and HIV

The US Government has ruled that The Milton Hershey School, founded by the creator of The Hershey Chocolate Company, has violated the disability act by refusing to allow admission of a HIV-positive boy.

This decision would have no doubt had Mr Hershey rolling in his grave, mostly because it’s an embarrassingly narrow-minded decision but also because of the negative publicity that has bombarded Hershey’s as a result.

The original reason given by the school for denying admission to the boy was that his disease could have posed a threat to the health and safety of the students.

The ruling against the school is good news, because this kind of reasoning doesn’t exactly set a good example to its students and only serves to fuel wider HIV-related stigma.

Awkward sex education in Jamaica

Cultural obstacles in Jamaica are preventing teens from accessing accurate sex education in some secondary schools.

According to the Geeta Sethi, sub-regional director of the UN Population Fund, sexuality is a sensitive issue for many Jamaicans because it was not widely discussed in the past.

While it may be difficult for some teachers, who were raised in a time when people were less vocal about their sexuality, to convey the gory details of sex, failure to do so could be putting teens at risk.

Adolescent girls in Jamaica are particularly at risk of HIV infection. The infections rate is three times higher in girls aged 10 to 19 years than in boys of the same age.

With more than half of Jamaican girls having sex before the age of 15 years, sex education is more important than ever.

Religion and safe-sex messages can work

Black people in the USA make up 14% of the population, yet account for 44% of new HIV infections.

With this startling statistic in mind, The Black Church and HIV manual has been released by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

The manual aims to educate and guide black faith leaders so that they can spread information about HIV prevention to their communities.

This is an encouraging step, since the subjects of safe-sex and religion don’t always integrate well with each other. Think back to Pope Benedict XVI unsubstantiated and fallacious suggestion that access to condoms had worsened the HIV epidemic in Africa.

How do you think religious institutions could help to promote safe sex?

The views expressed in this blog are those of the author.