South Africa, Which Once Led On Promoting LGBT Rights Abroad, Could Become A Roadblock
KAMPALA, UGANDA (13 October 2014) The AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) mourns the loss of another Doctor, Dr. John Taban Dada who died due to Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) in West Africa. Dr. Dada, a Ugandan national, succumbed to the Disease on 9th October 2014 in Monrovia, Liberia. By the time of his death, Dr. Dada was working at Liberia’s largest hospital, JF Kennedy Memorial Center, and was consulting with the AIDS Healthcare Foundation partner in HIV service provision, People Associated for People’s Assistance (PAPA).
The Ebola outbreak in West Africa has continued a persistent spread pushing the death toll over 4,000 as of 9th October 2014. Having been declared an international public health emergency by the World Health Organization, Ebola Virus Disease has infected over 370 health workers and killed 216 doctors and nurses. In July, Dr. Sheik Humarr Khan, 39, who served as Medical Officer for AHF’s Sierra Leone Country Program, succumbed to the disease after being quarantined and cared for by medical providers from Médecins Sans Frontières at the isolation unit in the Kailahun District in Eastern Sierra Leone for several days. In Liberia, Dr. Dada’s death brought to four (4) the number of Doctors who have died since the outbreak.
“Our brothers and sisters in West Africa need accelerated action by commissions such as the African Union and the World Health Organization to expand provision of appropriate and adequate personal protective equipment, mobilize and deploy more health workers in the region, and increase and equip more isolation centers specifically established to cater for infected health workers,” said Dr. Penninah Iutung Amor, the AHF Bureau Chief for the African Region. “All these are achievable – but only if the commissions and the World Health Organization prioritize and scale up addressing obstacles that are holding us back in the response.”
There was hope late September when President Obama pledged support to the EVD response in the region however the actualization of this support has been delayed due to logistical challenges — inadequate human resources for health, poor state of the runway at the airport, and delays in setting up new isolation centers. “Since we have few isolation centers, we are seeing some people suffering from Ebola re-circulating into the community and therefore driving the infection further,” said Chinnie Sieh, Program Manager with People Associated for People’s Assistance (PAPA). “This is a crisis that requires all the Africa Commissions, the United Nations, all African governments and non-government actors to respond.”
“It is high time that the containment of this outbreak became a reality in the West African Countries of Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia,” said Dr. Lydia Buzaalirwa, the Director for Quality Management with AIDS Healthcare Foundation Africa Bureau. “Everybody needs to take part in the control of Ebola. We need to cut the chain of new transmissions, get in more volunteers, more logistics, and communities should be involved in building new isolation units. We demand that the African Union step up its leadership and exponentially accelerate its response to the Ebola outbreak in the region.”
By The AIDS Healthcare Foundation
Hundreds of pregnant women and girls are dying needlessly in South Africa. In part, this is because they fear their HIV status may be revealed as they access antenatal care services, according to a major report published by Amnesty International today.
Struggle for Maternal Health: Barriers to Antenatal Care in South Africa, details how fears over patient confidentiality and HIV testing, a lack of information and transport problems are contributing to hundreds of maternal deaths every year by acting as barriers to early antenatal care.
“It is unacceptable that pregnant women and girls are continuing to die in South Africa because they fear their HIV status will be revealed, and because of a lack of transport and basic health and sexuality education. This cannot continue,” said Salil Shetty, Amnesty International’s Secretary General.
“The South African government must ensure all departments work together to urgently address all the barriers that place the health of pregnant women and girls at risk.”
South Africa has an unacceptably high rate of maternal mortality. There were 1,560 recorded maternal deaths in 2011 and 1,426 in 2012. More than a third of these deaths were linked to HIV. Experts suggest that 60% of all the deaths were avoidable.
Antenatal care is free in South Africa’s public health system. However, Amnesty International’s research found that many women and girls do not attend clinics until the later stages of their pregnancy because they are given to believe that the HIV test is compulsory. They fear testing and the stigma of being known to be living with HIV. Nearly a quarter of avoidable deaths have been linked to late or no access to antenatal care.
Worryingly, these fears are not without foundation. Amnesty International’s report, based on field research conducted in Mpumalanga and KwaZulu-Natal provinces, contains testimonies from women and girls who say that health care workers inappropriately discuss HIV test results with others.
“The nurses are talking about people and their status”, a woman from KwaZulu-Natal explained.
Amnesty International also found that several clinics it visited use processes for pregnant women and girls living with HIV that disclose their status, including separate queues for antiretroviral medication, different coloured antenatal files and different days for appointments.
“[I]f I go for antiretroviral, my line is that side. All the people in this line they know these people are HIV. That’s why people are afraid to come to the clinic,” one woman in Mpumalanga told Amnesty International.
“During antenatal care, if women come out of the counsellor’s room with two files, then everyone knows they are HIV positive,” said another woman.
Women and girls said they feared discriminatory treatment even from partners and family members as a result of testing positive for HIV and that HIV-related stigma remained a problem in many communities.
“While HIV testing is an important public health intervention it must be done in a manner that respects the rights of women and girls and does not expose them to additional harm. It is deeply worrying that the privacy of pregnant woman and girls is not respected in health facilities. The South African government must take urgent steps to correct this,” said Salil Shetty.
“It is vital that health care workers in South Africa receive additional training on providing quality care that is both free of judgement and stigma and that women and girls accessing sexual and reproductive health services are able to trust that their confidentiality will be respected.”
Amnesty International’s report also identifies that a lack of information and knowledge about sexual and reproductive health and rights increases risks of unplanned pregnancies and HIV transmission, especially among adolescents. Likewise women and girls are often unaware of the importance of early antenatal checks.
The report also documents the lack of progress made in KwaZulu-Natal and Mpumalanga to ensure that women and girls can physically access health services. Problems persist relating to shortages of public transport and poor road infrastructure. The roads in some areas visited by Amnesty International are of such poor quality that they become impassable when it rains. Even when it is dry, ambulances will not go beyond a certain point on some roads. Amnesty International had documented the same problems in both provinces in a 2008 report.
“The South African government must build better road networks in these rural provinces to guarantee access to healthcare facilities. The government must also ensure that ambulances are always available to transport those who are in need,” said Salil Shetty.
This report builds on Amnesty International’s 2008 report, ‘I am at the lowest end of all’: Rural women living with HIV face human rights abuses in South Africa, in which the organisation documented gender, economic and social inequalities as barriers to health care for women living with HIV.
9 October 2014
By Amnesty International
The sexual and reproductive health rights of young marginalized populations are often neglected and their collective voice in this critical area not always heard. To try to redress this imbalance young people from marginalized communities and key populations in Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Puerto Rico and Uganda met in New York this week to discuss how to put these rights issues firmly on the post-2015 development agenda, leaving no one behind.
Taking place on 25 September, the General Assembly side event which took the form of a panel discussion, examined the vital role of community engagement, advocacy and service delivery in protecting the rights and meeting the needs of young key populations. These include men who have sex with men, sex workers and young people living with HIV.
Young speakers, who were peer educators, directors of national and regional NGOs, actors and community leaders, argued that universal access to HIV services and health coverage could not be achieved without prioritizing the needs of the most marginalized. They also noted the contribution of comprehensive sexuality education to improving young people’s health and the role that communities can play in both promoting rights and challenging stigma and discrimination.
The event was hosted by the Government of Brazil and organized by the International HIV/AIDS Alliance, GESTOS, the Global Youth Coalition on AIDS, ATHENA, ICASO, International Civil Society Support, STOP AIDS NOW!, Stop AIDS Alliance, the HIV Young Leaders Fund, the African Services Committee, and the Global Forum on MSM and HIV, in collaboration with UNAIDS.
"Setting goals is only part of the story. Where we should look for change is the way that we will implement the goals. We need to change the way we are doing business and craft the space for civil society in the new post-2015 agenda."
Luiz Loures, UNAIDS Deputy Executive Director
“We are talking about development here and sexual and reproductive rights are development."
Pablo Aguilera, HIV Young Leaders Fund
26 September 2014
For the last three years, AIDS Accountability International’s (AAI) work to stimulate greater accountability from funding partners – particularly the Global Fund – has focused on countries in Southern Africa. Based on the impact and successes of that work and its publication as good practice (Oberth, 2013; Oberth, 2014), AAI has partnered with vested stakeholders in Kenya, Tanzania (Mainland and Zanzibar) and Uganda to scale up our work to East Africa and ensure that the Global Fund is accountable to women, young girls and LGBT communities there.
In August 2014, Daniel Molokele (Deputy Executive Director) and Gemma Oberth (Senior Researcher) represented AAI in three different national and regional forums to promote greater transparency around Global Fund country dialogue.
The AAI team started in Kenya where we were brought in as technical partners to facilitate civil society country dialogue for Kenya’s upcoming HIV/TB concept note to the Global Fund (to be submitted 15 January 2015). As impartial and unbiased facilitators, AAI is able to draw out key priorities from various marginalized groups, including MSM, sex workers, people with disabilities, the TB community and other civil society representatives. The workshop was a national level training for civil society focusing on the Global Fund and the use of data in planning for the New Funding Model. The training workshop was held from 20-22 August at Maanzoni Hotel, just outside Nairobi, and hosted by Aidspan, in partnership with various partners such as International HIV Alliance, EANNASO, KANCO, LVCT Health and KENAAM. The outcome of the workshop will be The Kenya Civil Society Priorities Charter, produced by AAI as part of an initiative we have led in eight African countries, in partnership with the Ford Foundation.
After supporting civil society in Kenya to set priorities for the Global Fund New Funding Model, AAI travelled to Zanzibar where we facilitated a multi-stakeholder Priorities Charter development workshop. AAI’s technical support was requested by the Secretariat of the Zanzibar Global Fund Country Coordinating Mechanism (ZGFCCM), based on our previous work supporting civil society and key populations dialogues (in partnership with the International HIV/AIDS Alliance) and developing the Zanzibar Civil Society Priorities Charter, an initiative led by AAI.
The multi stakeholder consultation in Zanzibar was held on 25 August 2014 and was attended by representatives from diverse sectors in Zanzibar that included government departments, civil society, key populations, development partners, academia and private sector. The outcome of this workshop will be the Zanzibar Key Stakeholder Priorities Charter, which AAI will produce based on the priorities set at the meeting. The Charter is intended to guide the concept note development process in Zanzibar for both their HIV/TB concept note and Malaria concept note (both to be submitted on 15 October 2015). Some of the top priorities among the key stakeholders were on issues around treatment, care and support, behaviour change and also on health systems strengthening, among others.
Lastly, from 26-28 August 2014, AAI travelled to Dar es Salaam, Tanzania to participate in a regional civil society meeting that was hosted by EANNASO. The meeting was attended by civil society members of CCMs across several countries in East Africa, including Kenya, Tanzania (Mainland and Zanzibar), Burundi, Rwanda, Uganda and Ethiopia. The participants shared their experiences and lessons learnt from their active participation on CCMs, particularly focusing on civil society engagement in the concept note development process for the Global Fund New Funding Model. At the meeting, AAI conducted a session on Accountability Literacy, building the capacity of the delegates to hold other CCM members accountable through greater transparency, dialogue and action. A key outcome of the meeting was the launch of a regional civil society CCM forum and also the election of steering Committee.
The AAI team was impressed with the level of commitment and support from the various partners across East Africa and now looks forward to developing more opportunities for programme partnerships in the region.
AIDS Accountability International's work on CCMs and GFATM are kindly funded by funding partner Ford Foundation, South Africa Office.
In 2000, the creators of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) completely overlooked sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR), a mistake that, if repeated, would cripple the dreams of millions of young girls and women for years and generations to come.
Access to SRHR enables individuals to choose whether, when, and with whom to engage in sexual activity; to choose whether and when to have children; and to access the information and means to do so. To some, these rights may be considered an everyday reality. However, that is not the case for millions of young people in the world – particularly girls and women.
On Tuesday night, I had the fantastic opportunity to listen to some of the foremost global leaders speak on behalf of ensuring access to sexual and reproductive health and rights in the post-2015 agenda. The benefits of ensuring SRHR are society wide and inevitably translate into improved education, economic growth, health, gender equality, and even environment.
“At my high school, you would be expelled if found with a condom.” – Samuel Kissi, former President, Curious Minds Ghana
When girls are healthy and their rights are fulfilled, they have the opportunity to attend school, learn life skills, and grow into empowered young women. Wherever girls’ SRHR are ignored, major educational barriers follow. Child marriage and early pregnancy are major contributors to school dropout rates. In South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa, girls are married before age 18 at an alarming 50 percent and 40 percent respectively. And in Sub-Saharan Africa, where 90 percent of adolescent pregnancies occur in marriage, it is safe to assume that not all those sexual acts were consensual and not all those pregnancies were planned.
“Initially I used to oppose family planning, but now I fully support. I support it because my wife has more time to work and earn money.” – The Honorable Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Minster of Foreign Affairs for the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, sharing the story of an Ethiopian man’s changed opinion regarding the importance of SRHR
Protecting SRHR not only saves lives and empowers people, but it also leads to significant economic gains for individuals and for the community as a whole. As previously stated, ensuring SRHR helps to decrease school dropout rates and, as a result, leads to a more productive and healthy workforce as each additional year of schooling for girls increases their employment opportunities and future earnings by nearly 10 percent.
“We cannot eliminate new HIV infections without providing SRHR services to women so they can make informed decisions to protect themselves and their children in the future. Yes, we will end the AIDS epidemic, but first we need to respect the dignity and the equality of women and young girls.” – Dr. Luiz Loures, Deputy Executive Director, UNAIDS
Access to SRHR guarantees quality family planning services, counseling and health information. These services are critical, particularly because women are often victims of gender-based violence and sexual assault and thereby face greater risks for sexually transmitted diseases like HIV/AIDS. Failing to secure and uphold SRHR dooms women and girls with an increased risk of unsafe, non-consensual sex and maternal mortality.
“How can you control your life if you cannot control your fertility?” – Helen Clark, UNDP Administrator
When a woman can easily plan her family, she is more equipped to participate in the economy alongside her male colleagues. When the sexual rights of a woman or girl are fulfilled, she will experience decreased rates of sexual violence and enjoy a healthy relationship with a respectful partner. When a woman or girl does not fall victim to child marriage and early pregnancy, she can stay in school and achieve anything she puts her mind to.
“The woman continues to bring life, to bring up the next generation, to stand before you and say, ‘I am ready to embrace my rights and to deliver a better planet to humanity.’” – Joy Phumaphi, former Minister of Health, Botswana; Chair, Global Leaders Council for Reproductive Health
A 2012 study found that community water and sanitation projects designed and run by women are more sustainable and effective than those that are not. Similarly, women produce 60 to 80 percent of food in developing countries and, with the economic and educational gains that coincide with secured SRHR, a woman is better equipped to effectively manage her land.
The post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals will not happen without SRHR being addressed. So far, the world has failed to recognize that SRHR are equally as fundamental to global development as finance and trade. We can no longer afford to view SRHR as a taboo or promiscuous topic. When 90% of first births in low-income countries are to girls under 18; when the leading cause of death among adolescent girls aged 15 to 19 is pregnancy and childbirth; when two-thirds of new HIV infections in sub-Saharan Africa are among adolescent girls; and when 200 million women want to use family planning methods but lack access, the young girls and women of the world do not have a promiscuity problem – they have a human rights problem.
By Elisabeth Epstein
25 September 2014
Whether it’s the constant fretting over Miley Cyrus’ influence on school girls or the growing (and troubling) tradition of Purity Balls, it’s clear that society has a fascination with young women’s sexuality — especially when it comes to controlling it. But what are we actually teaching today’s girls about sex?
Fueled by outdated ideals of gender roles and the sense that female sexuality is somehow shameful, there seem to be certain pernicious myths about girls and sex that just won’t die. That sex education in America has gaping holes in its curriculum hasn’t helped much, either; in a recent Centers for Disease Control (CDC) report just 6 out of 10 girls said that their schools’ sex ed program included information on how to say no to sex. This lack of personal agency was reflected in a forthcoming study by sociologist Heather Hlavka at Marquette University as well, which found that many young girls think of sex simply as something that is “done to them.”
Knowledge is power, and we can promote a healthier relationship with sex by encouraging a more open dialogue, teaching girls to feel comfortable with their sexuality and, most importantly, emphasizing that their bodies are theirs and theirs alone. But first, we’re going to need to stop perpetuating the following 17 myths about female sexuality.
Therese Shechter’s 2013 documentary How To Lose Your Virginity asks a seemingly simple question: What is a virgin? The answer is actually pretty complicated. The common idea of virginity is focused on a heteronormative, male-centric definition of intercourse — that is, penis-in-vagina penetration. But this definition ignores LGBTQ couples, oral and anal sex, instances where it “didn’t go all the way in,” rape and emotional intimacy.
The cultural obsession with virginity is more about keeping girls pure than anything else, and because the term begins to crumble upon close inspection, it doesn’t have to carry such weight. There’s no clear universal concept of virginity, and people should be able to define meaningful markers of intimacy for themselves.
Given that the entire notion of virginity is dubious at best, it’s not all that surprising that there is actually no medical way to tell if someone is a virgin or not. This includes a broken hymen. Hymens usually become worn down throughout adolescence, and can be torn by everything from jumping on a trampoline, to horseback riding, to simply playing sports. Some women aren’t born with one at all.
Despite the fact that more than half of women don’t bleed the first time they have penetrative sex, blood on the sheets has remained a signifier of losing one’s virginity throughout history. The persistence of this myth surrounding a basically irrelevant anatomical feature has even spawned a market for artificial hymens and reconstructive surgery to “restore” virginity. More disturbingly, girls around the world are often subject to degrading, invasive virginity “tests” to ensure their purity.
Some items on this list focus on the anatomy of those assigned female at birth in an effort to illuminate issues that many girls don’t get to talk about enough, but the purpose is never to be exclusionary. Gender identity is different from biological sex, and trans women are women, period.
Much of the pain young women are taught to expect during their first sexual experience actually comes from increased muscle tension due to nervousness. Blood usually comes from vaginal tissue tearing due to lack of lubrication and, ahem, inexperienced love making — not the hymen breaking. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy, really; maybe if we stop telling girls to be terrified of the excruciating pain of their first time, things would be a little more comfortable for everyone.
It doesn’t matter if it’s a drink or a diamond necklace: You never “owe” someone sex. Ever.
Nothing like the old “hot dog down a hallway” analogy to scare young women away from safe, consensual promiscuity. The truth is, women differ in size just like men do. The vagina is like a rubber band, and unless you’re regularly getting down with fire hose, you should be fine.
Similarly, having a baby will not “ruin” your vagina. Many women report feeling different down there after childbirth (the post-baby healing process depends on a variety of factors like age, the size of the baby and your commitment to Kegels), but we should really be teaching girls to accept their differences as normal and natural — not as new-found flaws.
Many sexologists have arrived at the same conclusion: Women want sex just as much as men. This isn’t some new trend, either; science is just learning to ask the right questions about female desire.
So why does this myth of the undersexed female persist? It certainly doesn’t help that women often are taught that thinking about sex is boyish or juvenile. Entertainment media also frequently likes to portray women as the more responsible party in a relationship (think: nagging wife, childish husband).
The flip side of this thinking is the idea that “real” men should always have a voracious sexual appetite. But the saying “men think about sex every seven seconds” is just not true. Society’s focus on young men’s libido has created a sort of caricature of male sexuality, one that treats an occasional lack of desire or displays of emotion as not being masculine enough. And that’s not fair to them, either.
Not only do women want sex, but as journalist Daniel Bergner points out in What Do Women Want? Adventures in the Science of Female Desire, their desire is “not, for the most part, sparked or sustained by emotional intimacy and safety.” This means that, contrary to popular belief, women can most definitely have sex without getting emotionally attached. Studies of sexual desire have actually shown that plenty of ladies want casual sex more than the average guy, and many guys want it less than the average lady.
Much of this desire appears to be socially conditioned, anyway: Gendered differences in desire have been shown to diminish over time with more progressive generations, in countries with more equitable distributions of power and when the perceived stigma of being slut-shamed is controlled for in female subjects.
Moral of the story? It’s a personal preference, and blanket generalizations aren’t helping anyone.
You don’t need to depend on anyone else for your protection. Girls can be prepared, too.
The myth of the frigid wife plays off outdated notions of women who are too uninterested in sex to keep their men satisfied. But instead of lazily blaming infidelity on gender stereotypes, let’s encourage a sense of personal responsibility. Besides, men deserve more than to be treated like animals who can’t control themselves.
Despite ads that try to convince women life can only be fully enjoyed stubble-free, you do not have an obligation to do anything to your body that you don’t want to do. After all, hair removal is still an industry, designed like every other to exploit people’s insecurities to make the most money possible.
It’s working, too: Hair removal is a $2.1 billion industry in the U.S., and over the course of a lifetime the average woman will spend an estimated $10,000 on shaving products. You should do what works for you, whether or not that means buying in.
If it grosses you out, no pressure. (Seriously though, is period blood really that much grosser than regular sexy-time fluids?) But such an act is both physically possible and safe. In fact, sex during your period can improve menstrual cramps, and some women even report having a shorter period overall when they get busy during that time of the month. Be warned, however: It is still possible to get pregnant or spread an STI while on your period, so don’t forgo the condom.
Sex is not supposed to hurt, but for many women, it does. If your muscles aren’t ready, things can get painful. It can take 20 minutes of foreplay for a woman’s vaginal muscles to relax enough to be truly ready for penetrative sex.
For some women, however, foreplay isn’t the issue at all. Conditions like vaginismus and vulvodynia are very real, albeit unfortunately not very well known. The result is that many women suffering from these conditions don’t realize that there is help available. If sex hurts, it’s worth finding a specialist who can talk you through your options.
You can change your mind at any time during sex, and your partner must respect that. It doesn’t matter if blue balls are real or not. Know that your voice must be heard.
The hatred many women feel towards porn is understandable, given that so much of it promotes unrealistic or downright unhealthy attitudes about female sexuality. The problem is, as the Kinsey Institute’s Debby Herbenick points out, “Most mainstream porn is made by men with other men in mind.”
This doesn’t mean that many women don’t enjoy porn, nor that there’s not a market for more female-friendly fare. Researchers have shown that men and women respond comparably to sexually explicit material, and that the increase in women’s brainwave activity when looking at erotic images is just as strong as the increase in men’s.
A disturbing new study concluded that many young women consider sexual harassment and violence to be part of everyday life. Girls shouldn’t have to think of this treatment as expected. Sexual violations of any kind are unacceptable, and the dismissive “boys being boys” defense is both ridiculous and damaging to all genders. Sorry, personal bodily autonomy is not up for debate.
The average American loses his or her virginity, for lack of a better term, at age 17. Plenty of people don’t start having sex until later (or earlier) in life, and that’s okay, too. Some people don’t have much of an interest in sex at all. Being sex positive isn’t about encouraging everyone to have tons of sex all the time; it’s about understanding that sex should be safe, shame-free and above all, based on informed, personal choices.
By Julianne Ross
The Ebola outbreak in West Africa has killed 2,288 people, with half of them dying in the last three weeks, the World Health Organization (WHO) says.
It said that 47% of the deaths and 49% of the total 4,269 cases had come in the 21 days leading up to 6 September.
The health agency warned that thousands more cases could occur in Liberia, which has had the most fatalities.
The outbreak, which was first reported in Guinea in March this year, has also spread to Sierra Leone and Nigeria.
In Nigeria, eight people have died out of 21 cases, while one case of Ebola has been confirmed in Senegal, the WHO said in its latest update.
On Monday, the agency called on organisations combating the outbreak in Liberia to scale up efforts to control the outbreak "three-to-four fold".
Ebola spreads between humans by direct contact with infected blood, bodily fluids or organs, or indirectly through contact with contaminated environments.
However, the WHO says conventional means of controlling the outbreak, which include avoiding close physical contact with those infected and wearing personal protective equipment, were not working well in Liberia.
The reason for this remains unclear; however, experts say it could be linked to burial practices, which can include touching the body and eating a meal near it.
There are also not enough beds to treat Ebola patients, particularly in the capital Monrovia, with many people told to go back home, where they may spread the virus.
Sophie-Jane Madden, of aid agency Medecins Sans Frontieres, told the BBC that health workers at the largest treatment centre in Monrovia were completely overwhelmed: "Our teams are every day turning away people who are desperately seeking healthcare."
Meanwhile, the US says it will help the African Union mobilise 100 African health workers to the region and contribute an additional $10m (£6.2m) in funds to deal with the outbreak.
The announcement comes as a fourth US aid worker infected with the deadly virus was transported to a hospital in Atlanta for treatment.
The identity of the aid worker has not yet been revealed.
Two other aid workers who were treated at the same hospital have since recovered from an Ebola infection.
Separately on Tuesday, the UN's envoy in Liberia said at least 80 Liberian health workers had died from Ebola, according to the Associated Press.
Karin Landgren described the outbreak as a "latter-day plague" that was growing exponentially. She added that health workers were operating without proper protective equipment, training or pay, in comments to the UN Security Council.
By BBC News Africa
9 September 2014
A new national survey reveals that the political divide among red-versus-blue states does not support the hypothesis that knowledge about abortion and health is shaped by the state in which one lives.
August 19, 2014
Research led by Danielle Bessett, a University of Cincinnati assistant professor of sociology, was presented at the 109th Meeting of the American Sociological Association in San Francisco.
Bessett says that regardless of political viewpoints, only 13 percent of the 569 people polled in the national survey demonstrated high knowledge of abortion, correctly answering four or five questions. Seven percent mistakenly thought that abortion until 12 weeks gestation was illegal (another 11 percent didn't know if it was illegal or not).
More than half the sample (53 percent) reported living in a blue (considered liberal) state; 26 percent reported living in a red (considered conservative) state and 20 percent reported living in a "purple" state – swing states such as Ohio, in which Democrats and Republicans have strong support.
Although initial results showed some support for the red-versus-blue state divide when it came to abortion health knowledge (but not legal knowledge), this difference between states disappeared when researchers took into account individual-level characteristics, including respondents' political beliefs, their beliefs about whether abortion should be permitted and whether or not they knew someone who had an abortion.
"Because the issue of abortion is an exemplar of polarization, it provides a useful way to test the red states v. blue states hypothesis," write the authors. Bessett says she and her co-researchers found that their "data does not support the red-versus-blue state hypothesis: geography does not dictate the world views of Americans. Some individuals in all settings do have accurate information about abortion, regardless of political context."
An online questionnaire was administered to 586 randomly selected men and women ages 18 to 44 via SurveyMonkey Audience. The findings focused on answers from 569 respondents (91.7 percent of the sample) who were born in the U.S. Participants responded to five survey items related to knowledge about abortion health and one exploring legal knowledge about abortion:
· What percentage of women in the U.S. will have an abortion by age 45?
Correct answer: 33 percent
Percentage of respondents with correct answer: 41 percent
· Which has a greater health risk: An abortion in the first three months of pregnancy or giving birth?
Correct answer: giving birth
Percentage of respondents with correct answer: 31 percent
· A woman who has an abortion in the first three months of pregnancy is more likely to have breast cancer than if she were to continue the pregnancy.
Correct answer: disagree somewhat/disagree strongly
Percentage of respondents with correct answer: 37 percent
· A woman who has an abortion in the first three months of pregnancy is more at risk of a serious mental health problem than if she were to continue that pregnancy.
Correct answer: disagree somewhat/disagree strongly
Percentage of respondents with correct answer: 31 percent
· A woman having an abortion in the first three months of pregnancy is more likely to have difficulty getting pregnant in the future.
Correct answer: disagree somewhat/disagree strongly
Percentage of respondents with correct answer: 35 percent
· Abortion during the first three months of pregnancy is legal in the U.S.
Correct answer: true
Percentage of respondents with correct answer: 83 percent
Based on their findings, the researchers conclude that men and women making sexual and reproductive health decisions may not be well informed about the relative safety and consequences of their choices, highlighting a need for the provision of better, more comprehensive and evidence-based sexual and reproductive health education.
Fifty-three percent (313) of the respondents were male; 47 percent (273) female; 49 percent reported an age between 18-29 and 51 percent reported being between 30-44; the majority of the respondents (78 percent) identified as white; 11 percent Hispanic; four percent black and seven percent identified as "other" race or ethnicity.
Thirty-seven percent described themselves as very or somewhat liberal, 38 percent felt they were moderate and 25 percent identified as somewhat or very conservative.
Forty-one percent did not affiliate with any religion, 16 percent identified as Catholic and 35 percent identified as Protestant. Twelve percent reported they had a personal experience with abortion and 65 percent reported knowing someone who had an abortion. Eighty-seven percent believed that in most instances, abortion should not be restricted.
Additional authors on the paper are Caitlin Gerdts, an epidemiologist at University of California, San Francisco; Lisa Littman, an adjunct professor of preventative medicine at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai Hospital; Megan Kavanaugh, Guttmacher Institute; and Alison Norris, MD, assistant professor, College of Public Health, The Ohio State University.
Source: University of Cincinnati
Identities are fluid, and often difficult to map on a straight line between "traditional" and "modern." Or between "hijab" and "helmet," in the case of author Zainab bint Younus's short story about a gang of "Hooris," deeply religious Muslim women turned vigilante biker chicks.
HOOR AL-'AYN, Zainab bint Younus, Canada.
Muslim women being seen as agents of their own fates, able and active in fighting for their own causes – not as helpless victims.
"Hoor al-‘Ayn" is a short story centered around the idea of a group of young Muslim women who, on one hand, would be considered not just religious, but conservative (their leader wears niqab, the face-veil); and who, on the other hand, break the very idea of what "conservative" means by forming a vigilante biker gang in a semi-fictionalized Californian inner city.
These young women embody many of the emotions and experiences of Muslim women around the world. They are devoted to their faith, and it is their faith which empowers them, even as they turn the idea of a “pious Muslim woman” on its head. They reclaim and redefine what it means to be a Muslimah, as is reflected in the name they chose for themselves: “Hoor al-‘Ayn.” In Islamic belief, Hoor al-'Ayn is the name given to the otherworldly handmaidens in Paradise. The young women in this story challenge Muslims and non-Muslims alike in how they choose to present themselves to the world.
These Hoor al-‘Ayn are dedicated to a higher cause: the pleasure of God in the pursuit of justice for all. In the inner city, just as in rural villages, women tend to be amongst the most vulnerable members of the population, and the Hoor al-‘Ayn are willing to take drastic measures to ensure that the women around them are able to feel safe and fight back for their rights. They have the added challenge of facing cultural norms of gender-based injustice found within the Muslim community. Although the issues are the same as those faced by women in other religious and ethnic communities – domestic violence, alas, is a global phenomenon and not unique to Muslims – it is the cultural justifications and normalization of these problems which are most difficult to eradicate.
In short, the Hoor al-‘Ayn of this story are a force of faith, power, and justice to be reckoned with.
At 5 feet 3-and-a-half inches exactly, 20 year old Sameera’s petite form was unremarkable. Swathed in a flowing black abayah and matching shayla, she was just another young Muslim woman from a conservative Muslim community in the inner city. Perhaps the only thing that made her stand out was the niqaab she wore in addition to the abayah and hijab, a sight not often seen in her neighborhood.
Sameera smiled grimly in the mirror as she pulled down her niqab and whipped off the length of chiffon away from her face, revealing a shock of rainbow-colored hair, multiple ear piercings, and a henna tribal tattoo on her neck. There was absolutely nothing conservative about her appearance now. The truth was, she loathed being "normal," hated being "just another Muslimah." The only time she felt free, that she felt truly herself, was when she was on-duty. Luckily for her, she had patrol tonight.
Shrugging off her abayah, Sameera exchanged it for a floor-length leather duster that hung on a mannequin’s torso in her bedroom. The soft, simple shayla was replaced with one of sturdier material, designed not to flutter or slip as much as the chiffon was wont to do. Wrapping it around her face, the hair, tattoo, and piercings disappeared again, although Sameera pinned this hijab in place with a dagger-shaped pin. A pair of fingerless leather gloves, adorned with a strip of small metal spikes, and matching knee-length boots with steel-tipped toes completed her ensemble.
Sameera’s reflection stared back at her, a slow smug smile conveying her satisfaction at this wardrobe adjustment. Tugging her niqab up to cover the smile, Sameera’s back straightened and her muscles flexed in anticipation.
She was ready to prowl.
The Hoor al-‘Ayn, as they had named themselves, or “those Muslim biker chicks,” as they were known by the rest of the city, believed themselves to be nothing more than a product of their environment.
Several of them came from Muslim homes, often conservative, but living in the inner city meant that every day was a survival of the fittest. And usually, the fittest carried around a pair of brass knuckles and steel-toed boots; a speedy ride was helpful, too.
All cultures adapted to Islam – or was it the other way around? Either way, the Hooris were a reflection of both their faith and their neighborhood. The seven or eight girls all observed hijab; their abayas were suited for the concrete jungle they lived in – slashed at the sides for ease of movement, particularly jumping onto and climbing off their motorcycles. Many sported fingerless gloves, mostly leather and accessorized with metal studs or spikes. Matching jackets – emblazoned with the gang’s logo, a veiled woman holding aloft a machine gun – and riding boots completed their practical ensemble. Of course, each girl sported her own custom bike, choice of concealed weaponry, and personalized accessories.
They were all still young, and ranged in age from their mid-teens to early 20s, but growing up in the middle of a battlefield had taken its toll. Though their eyes sparkled and many still had puppy fat clinging to their cheeks, jaded cynicism tipped their smiles like jagged arrowheads and their shoulders were tense with the constant wariness of those who are both predator and prey.
At the moment, the Hooris were milling about the masjid parking lot, a motley crew of bikes, hijabs, and helmets. This evening, they were on-duty: the masjid had a neighborhood watch program that they took part in regularly.
After 9/11, the existing tensions of the inner city turned into an inferno of hate, violence, and fury. When the men of the Muslim community decided to form a protective force, the women refused to be left out. Sameera had been the first to storm into the Imam’s office and demand that she and her friends be allowed to join the nightly patrol.
After much debate (between the Imam and Sameera), argument (between the men of the community and Sameera), and threats (from Sameera to the men in the community), it was finally agreed that the newly-formed Hoor al-‘Ayn would assist the as-yet-unnamed group of Muslim men in monitoring the neighborhood’s activities. Their main focus was to protect the Muslim homes located near and around the masjid, but their overall goal was to serve the cause of justice and strike fear in the heart of the scum who lurked the streets.
And today, they had a mission to carry out.
About the Author
Zainab bint Younus (also known as The Salafi Feminist) is a young Canadian niqaabi and a Goth, (Steam)Punk, zombie-loving, wannabe-biker niqaabi feminist who may or may not be a Salafi according to your definition thereof. Her dream is to become a classically-trained orthodox Islamic scholar, and possibly a superhero. In the meantime, she is a writer dedicated to learning and sharing stories of powerful Muslim women throughout Islamic history; a proponent of grassroots da'wah and activism; and an absent-minded mother to a pretty awesome toddler (mashaAllah). She writes for SISTERS Magazine, her blog, and can be found on Twitter.
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