UNITED STATES: Teen Birth Rates on the Rise

Wed, 07 Jan 2009 - http://www.ajc.com

Births to US teenagers were up sharply in 2006, ending a 14-year period of decline, CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics reported Tuesday. Even with the drop of 45 percent since 1991, the US teen birth rate had consistently remained the highest in the industrialized world. Among the report’s highlights: *Birth rates among 15- to 19-year-olds rose by 3.5 percent in 2006, with the national prevalence figure climbing from 40.5 births per 1,000 teens to 41.9. *The largest increases were seen in the South and Southwest; the lowest were seen in the Northeast. *Mississippi’s rate, 68.4 births per 1,000 teens, was the nation’s highest. *New Hampshire, Vermont, and Massachusetts logged the lowest birth rates. *Only North Dakota, Rhode Island, and New York saw their teen birth rates fall. Advocates of sex education that includes contraception instruction cited the figures as evidence that the hundreds of millions of dollars spent on abstinence-only education would have been better invested in the comprehensive approach. Janice Crouse, executive director of the conservative Beverly LaHaye Institute, blamed the increase on an atmosphere of sexual tolerance, the influence of alcohol, and the cultural glamorization of teenage pregnancy. “Over the last decade, this whole business of ‘hooking up’ has been very injurious to our girls, not just in terms of pregnancy, but also in terms of STDs, depression, and a very alarming increase in sexual assault among college students,” she said. To access the report, visit www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nvsr/nvsr57/nvsr57_07.pdf.

UNITED STATES: Shaping Good Health as Teens Outgrow Pediatrician

Mon, 05 Jan 2009 - http://www.ap.org/

A new report by the National Research Council and the Institute of Medicine calls for broad improvements in the way the US health care system treats teenagers and pre-teens. Few doctors specialize in adolescent medicine, the study notes, or provide the comprehensive care needed to earn the trust of youths. While teen pregnancy and smoking declined over the past decade, the report found little other progress. Physical activity is on the decline, and youths are increasingly overweight. Only a fraction of teens are screened for risky behavior; 10 to 20 percent of adolescents annually experience a mental health disorder; and 5 million teens and pre-teens are uninsured. Half of adult deaths are due to unhealthy behaviors that often begin in adolescence. Teens do tend to see doctors somewhat regularly, if only for school-required vaccinations and sports-related exams. The report notes, however, that these encounters often fall short of the minimum 40 minutes required for a thorough adolescent checkup that screens for high-risk behavior and builds the youth’s trust in the doctor. That trust is basic to the relationship. The physician should emphasize that while the teen has the right to privacy, parents play a part, too. “As long as you’re not hurting yourself, another person or getting hurt by another person, I will hold that information confidential,” said Dr. Frank Biro of the adolescent medicine program at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital. “If there’s a direct health risk that could involve their life, then I will share that.” Teens may overestimate a doctor’s ability to reach conclusions about their health problems. “It’s not that they’re withholding information,” Biro said. “They figure they’ve just told you everything you need to know because the rest of it you should be able to figure out.”

MARSHALL ISLANDS; MICRONESIA; PALAU: US to Vaccinate Pacific Girls Against Cervical Cancer

Thu, 08 Jan 2009 - http://www.afp.com/english/home/

The United States is embarking on a $9 million campaign to vaccinate girls against cervical cancer in the Marshall Islands, Palau, and the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM), said CDC regional epidemiologist Jena-Paul Chaine. More than 30,000 girls ages 10-18 will receive the vaccine against human papillomavirus, the cause of most cases of cervical cancer and genital warts. According to Chaine, the Marshall Islands’ cervical cancer rate is six times that of the United States. In 2007, cervical cancer was the second-most prevalent cancer in the country. The vaccination program was scheduled to start in early 2008, but funding snags delayed it, said Chaine. Some of the four island states in FSM will launch the drive as early as next month, he said. The three north Pacific nations, located between Hawaii and the Philippines, were formerly a UN Trust Territory administered by the United States. The now-independent countries maintain close relations with Washington through “compacts of free association,” which make them eligible for many US-funded health and education programs.

UNITED STATES: Health Care Seeking and Sexual Behavior Among Patients with Symptomatic Newly Acquired Genital Herpes

Mon, 01 Dec 2008 - http://www.stdjournal.com

The researchers wrote that symptoms among patients with first episode herpes simplex virus (HSV) likely influence their health-seeking and sexual behaviors. Improving the understanding of this relationship offers insight into the experience of having genital herpes and has implications for counseling. The study’s subjects, 236 patients (94 men, 142 women), were asked to complete a questionnaire on their demographic characteristics and sexual history. HSV was diagnosed by lesion swabs collected for viral culture and HSV DNA polymerase chain reaction; blood was drawn for confirmation of HSV serostatus using Western blot. The most frequent symptoms prompting patients to seek health care were pain for women and lesions for men. Missing work or school because of symptoms was reported by 43 percent of patients. Compared with men, women missed more work or school, sought care earlier, and saw more providers. Prior to diagnosis, 67 percent of patients suspected genital herpes as the cause of their symptoms. Twenty-seven percent had sex after noticing symptoms. Those who reported missing work or school were less likely to engage in intercourse. “Men and women have different experiences with first episode HSV, but morbidity is substantial, especially among women,” the authors concluded. “Both men and women may continue to engage in sexual activity after onset of genital herpes, emphasizing the need for providers to counsel their patients to avoid exposing partners to the infection.”

CALIFORNIA: TB Cases Linked to Castro Bars

Thu, 08 Jan 2009 - http://ebar.com

Public health officials have traced several cases of tuberculosis to bars in the predominantly gay Castro neighborhood, prompting them to ask 140 area employees to be screened for the disease. More than 50 people reportedly have already been tested. In a fact sheet distributed to bar owners, the San Francisco Department of Public Health expresses concern that a “cluster of highly infectious TB cases” may be “working its way through the SF gay community.” The department is also notifying health service providers with gay and HIV-positive patients to watch for cases of TB. “We don’t want to cause panic in the community,” said Dr. Masae Kawamura, director of the health department’s TB control section. “We are targeting staff of the bars because they would have the most exposure than patrons.” The poor ventilation typical of bars puts their employees at greater risk, he said. According to the fact sheet, the first two cases were linked to a retail commercial establishment in the South of Market neighborhood. Three additional cases were diagnosed, and “contacts of the fifth and third case admitted to going to bars in the Castro and named the bar/club employing the fourth index patient. All three of these individuals frequented many of the bars in the Castro during their infectious periods,” the fact sheet reported. Four of the five cases are gay men in their 20s; three are HIV-positive. All but one are US natives who would otherwise be considered at low risk for TB. The health department has set up a special screening site at Magnet, the gay men’s health center in the Castro, which will operate during the first two weeks of January. Supervisor Bevan Dufty emphasized that “members of the public are at extremely low risk” and should not be concerned about patronizing Castro bars.

KANSAS: School Abstinence Program Loses Funding

Wed, 07 Jan 2009 - http://www.kcstar.com/

This fall, the Wyandotte County-based Haven Center Inc. learned its federal abstinence grant will not be renewed. The center, which was founded in 1995 as a home for pregnant teens and evolved into a life-skills program, had provided the Kansas City, Kan., School District with an abstinence-only curriculum. “Even though the main focus was abstinence education, we deal with overall health as well as teaching social skills,” said Pat Tramble, Haven’s former executive director. She no longer works at the center due to a lack of funding. The curriculum was given over a three-year period to students at Rosedale and Arrowhead middle schools and Wyandotte, Sumner, and Schlagle high schools. It was presented to students once a week over a nine-week period. “They just do a really good job of connecting with the kids,” said Terry Messenheimer, a physical education instructor at Rosedale Middle School. “The kids really liked it because they could open up with them and talk about dating and relationships. I’ll be really upset if they can’t continue the program; they really cared about these kids.” In 2005, Haven received a federal grant totaling more than $670,000 annually to bring its life-skills programs to youths ages 12-18 in Wyandotte County. It unsuccessfully applied to have the grant renewed this fall, said Tramble. That forced the center to put the school program on hold. “Abstinence education is an important part of our comprehensive sex and HIV/AIDS education curriculum,” said Jean Ney, a district education coordinator. “Pat and her trainers met kids where they were and provided important supplemental education about the consequences of careless sexual behavior.” Ney said the district will look to see whether curriculum adjustments are needed.

NEW YORK: Church Youths Fight HIV with Tech Talk

Tue, 23 Dec 2008 - http://www.timesunion.com/

Zion’z Youth Group, sponsored by the Walls Temple AME Zion Church in Albany, provides area teens a safe place to discuss topics like abstinence, safe sex, body image, and peer pressure. The program grew out of a Community Outreach Health Fair that offered HIV testing this past summer. When organizer Glenda Romero recruited church youths to help distribute HIV information at the fair, she was encouraged by their enthusiasm and started ZYG. Romero said the goal is to provide a space where teens “can talk about anything.” “I want them to feel comfortable,” said ZYG’s leader. She uses technologies like instant messaging to communicate with members. “You have to step into their world to catch their attention,” she said. Many of ZYG’s members do volunteer work and are on their school honor rolls. All say they recognize the need to be educated about sex and STDs. The nine youths, who range in age from 12 to 16, meet once a month. “I learn from the group and they help me,” said Kassie Wilkins, a seventh grader at Blessed Sacrament School and ZYG’s youngest member. “We don’t really talk about HIV at my school, and it’s weird to talk about sex with parents.” ZYG President Amie Jefferson of Colonie Central High School said peer outreach is an important part of the group’s mission. “We understand the dangers,” she said. “You need to know the risks so you know what you’re doing.” According to Jason Lam, the group’s vice president, the message must appeal to teens. “People in my school think teachers and adults don’t really know what’s going on these days. If your friends tell you something, you’d believe them more,” said the Bethlehem Central High School student.

UNITED STATES: FDA Approves New HIV Blood Test from Roche

Tue, 30 Dec 2008 - http://www.ap.org/

On Dec. 29, federal regulators announced they have approved a Roche human plasma test for HIV, including HIV-2 and HIV-1 Group O strains. The latter strains are mainly found in patients from Africa, but the Food and Drug Administration said cases have recently been detected in the United States. The TaqScreen MPX Test also screens for hepatitis B and C. For more information, visit http://www.fda.gov/cber/approvltr/cobasmpx123008L.htm.

SENEGAL: 9 Men Jailed in Senegal for Homosexual Acts

Thu, 08 Jan 2009 - http://www.ap.org/

Senegal late Tuesday sentenced nine men, most belonging to an association set up to provide HIV/AIDS prevention services to gay men, to eight years for “unnatural acts” and criminal conspiracy, the men’s attorney said today. Among the men convicted was Diadji Diouf, head of AIDES Senegal, an organization that distributed condoms and HIV treatment. The men were arrested last month in a raid on Diouf’s apartment, AIDES Senegal’s organizational base. Senegal is one of 38 African countries that criminalize homosexual acts. “This is the first case that we’ve heard of in Senegal where people actually got sentenced,” said Joel Nana, Africa research and policy coordinator with the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission in Cape Town. Attorney Issa Diop said his clients would appeal the sentences, which he said were three years longer than the maximum punishment for such cases. “It is a strong message of hatred, a strong message of division when we know it is critical at this point to address HIV in these communities,” Diop said.

SOUTH AFRICA: Gay, HIV-Positive Man Named to South Africa’s High Court

Tue, 06 Jan 2009 - http://www.advocate.com/

South African President Kgalema Motlanthe named a gay, HIV-positive jurist to the country’s highest court on New Year’s Eve, The Star newspaper reported. Judge Edwin Cameron was thoroughly vetted by the Judicial Service Committee about his vocal AIDS activism, and the committee unanimously recommended his appointment to the Supreme Court of Appeal. Cameron was the first judge in South Africa to disclose his HIV status, telling BBC News in 2005 that he was inspired to act after a woman was stoned to death after admitting her HIV status in a radio interview. Former President Nelson Mandela has hailed Cameron as “one of South Africa’s new heroes,” and activist Zachie Achmat called the appointment “one of the best New Year’s presents ever.”