GLOBAL POPULATION MEDIA ANALYSIS
December 1-15, 2000
by Ketayoun Darvich-Kodjouri and Kathy Bonk
Communications Consortium Media Center,
1200 New York Avenue, NW, Suite 300,
Washington, DC 20005
WORLD AIDS DAY
Media outlets worldwide reported on the HIV/AIDS pandemic to mark World AIDS Day on Dec. 1. UNAIDS released its annual AIDS Epidemic Update in advance of the observance and launched a new awareness campaign that "Men Make a Difference" in stemming the spread of the disease.
The Associated Press filed more than a dozen AIDS stories on Dec. 1, focusing on the UNAIDS report, U.S. and international rates of infection, the ravages on health systems and national economies, worldwide prevention campaigns, and global events that marked the day. The Associated Press also
reported President Clinton's address on AIDS, saying that "AIDS is a 'moral crisis' because it threatens to triple child mortality and reduce life expectancy by 20 years in some African countries."
Dec. 1 Inter Press Service stories focused on trends in the African continent, Russia and India. A Dec. 7 story detailed how "Africa's armed forces are taking a more active role in the fight against AIDS, to prevent spread of the fatal disease and help those already infected live longer." Other wire services including Agence France Presse, Reuters, Scripps Howard, United Press International and Xinhua News Agency also filed multiple stories Dec. 1 on worldwide HIV/AIDS trends.
The Los Angeles Times reported Dec. 1 that in China, "because frank talk about sex is still largely taboo" and because of "slow response by the government, ignorance about the disease remains pervasive." A government study in China found that "less than 4% of Chinese citizens surveyed last
year were able to identify correctly how AIDS and HIV...are spread," and "about 45% did not think condoms would help prevent infection." Link
The Dec. 1 Boston Globe reported on a "groundbreaking partnership between Western pharmaceutical companies and [Uganda]" to "bring advanced treatments for the disease to tens of thousands of Ugandans who have been unable to afford it." Fifteen African countries and Chile "have expressed some
interest in developing partnerships through UNAIDS and its affiliates to obtain cheaper [AIDS] drugs." The story noted that Africa has "the highest concentration of the world's poorest countries and by far the greatest number of AIDS sufferers" and that Uganda "has posted the only statistical record in Africa of successfully blunting the epidemic."
The New York Times reported Dec. 2 on the "25.3 million people in sub-Saharan Africa -- the bulk of the world's infected - [who] have HIV or AIDS," and noted, "this year alone, 2.4 million people in the region died of AIDS" in a story on South Africa, which announced a $50 million donation of
AIDS drugs Dec. 1.
The Dec. 1 Washington Post reported on U.S. public knowledge of the means of AIDS transmission. [The paper also reported Nov. 30 on "the first World AIDS Day Summit, a four-day conference aimed at mobilizing assistance for faith-based communities that are manning the front lines in the global
battle against AIDS." The Summit included discussions "on how the U.S. Agency for International Development can form new partnerships with overseas faith communities that are often the primary caregivers for those with HIV or AIDS."]
The Dec. 1 Daily News (New York) reported that the Vatican "reaffirmed the Catholic Church's opposition to the use of condoms to stop the spread of AIDS" on the eve of World AIDS Day, opposing the UN's campaign "to urge men to use condoms to help slow the growing rate of infection."
OTHER GLOBAL POPULATION COVERAGE
The UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) released its annual The State of the World's Children on Dec. 12, encouraging "government to do more to help children from birth to age 3...[to] make for healthier, more productive nations," according to a Dec. 12 Associated Press story that was carried in newspapers
across the United States. The New York Times reported Dec. 13 that "in 33 countries, more than half the children born are not registered at birth...and are therefore denied social benefits" and that worldwide, "at least 11 million children younger than 5 die every year."
Findings from The State of the World's Children were also reported Dec. 12 by ABC News, Agence France Presse, Reuters, United Press International and Xinhua News Service; on Dec. 13 by USA Today, and on Dec. 16 by The Economist, among other outlets. A United Nations General Assembly Special Session on Children will be held in September 2001 in New York.
Population and health declines in Russia made the news in a Dec. 3 New York Times article published as part of a series on "Freedom's Toll" on Russian society. The article examined the "precipitous decline in Russia's public health," reporting that "the death rate has risen almost one-third, to the
highest of any major nation, and the birth rate has dropped almost 40 percent, making it among the lowest." The story included extensive graphics on life expectancy around the world.
The Dec. 5 Baltimore Sun reported that if health trends continue in Russia, the population "could drop to 138.4 million by 2015," reflecting a loss of nearly 100 million people since 1992. Link A Dec. 5 Associated Press story also detailed Russia's population decline.
Agence France Presse reported Dec. 6 that "old will outnumber young as [the] world heads for nine billion" in 2050, according to UN estimates. Despite the fact that "fertility rates in many regions are falling much faster than expected," most growth "will take place among the populations which are
least able to support it, namely poor and developing countries."
The Jakarta Post asked, "How fast is human population expanding?" in a Dec. 10 article, detailing that "population growth exacerbates environmental degradation and resource depletion, and puts unmanageable pressure on government institutions, national economies and virtually all other
resources" in a world that is "six billion crowded."
INTERNATIONAL REPRODUCTIVE HEALTH AND FAMILY PLANNING
Lawyers in Kenya are calling for "a law banning female circumcision, despite a ruling by a magistrate...that a father cannot force his daughters to be circumcised against their will," the Associated Press reported Dec. 14. Kenya "is signatory to several international conventions that call
circumcision of girls female genital mutilation and define it as a human rights violation," according to the story.
Africa News reported Dec. 14 on a proposal to reduce teen pregnancy in Kenya, noting that a cabinet minister there stated that "that the biggest challenge for the health services ministry is provision of youth-friendly services which would enable the youth to deal with problems related to reproductive health matters." Link
In India, a USAID-funded National Family Health Survey revealed that "despite the increase in the use of contraceptives...only 48 percent of the currently married women age 15-49 are using contraceptives," few women "are given an opportunity to make an informed choice about the method" and
"female sterilization dominates the contraceptive use," according to the Dec. 12 Business Line (India).
Reuters reported Dec. 11 that the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation awarded $8.8 million to the International Planned Parenthood Federation to "improve reproductive health and family planning services for women in more than 180 countries around the world." Link
In the United States, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ruled that "it is discriminatory for an employer's health plan to not pay for contraceptives if prescription drugs and preventative care are otherwise covered," the Dec. 15 Los Angeles Times reported. Link The Washington Post and The New York Times also reported on the story Dec. 15.
NEWS ABOUT INTERNATIONAL ABORTION TRENDS
Agence France Presse reported Dec. 6 that a Chinese province "passed a law forbidding couples from using ultrasound scanners to detect the gender of their unborn baby, in a bid to stop abortions that have upset the ratio of boys to girls in the province." The story notes that surveys show "a disproportionately higher number of boys compared to girls" born in China, and that critics of China's one-child policy "blamed the millions of missing girls on infanticide or abortions" as couples "still prefer to have a son."
A Dec. 7 Swiss Radio International broadcast reported that "after a highly charged debate, [Swiss] parliamentarians approved a proposal to allow abortion within the first 12 weeks of pregnancy." Abortion has been illegal in Switzerland, but "the law is often not rigorously applied and around 12,000 procedures are carried out every year."
U.S. POLITICS AND FAMILY PLANNING FUNDING
The Dec. 8 Los Angeles Times reported that conservative groups in the United States "are pushing for appointment of strong conservatives to lead key agencies" and reverse or "moderate" Clinton Administration policies through "executive orders, regulations and litigation." The Times reported that
"family issues" targeted for reversal include a push to "move early to block funding for overseas family planning organization that actively promote abortion." Link
OPINIONS AND EDITORIALS
The December American Journal of Public Health included a focus on "The Population Debate," with commentaries by Steven W. Sinding of the Columbia University School of Public Health and Adrienne Germain of the International Women's Health Coalition. Setting the stage, an introduction by scholar
Allan G. Rosenfield stated that "between the late 1960s and the early 1990s, national family planning programs became one of the major public health successes of the 20th century, ranking with the eradication of smallpox, the polio campaign, and other major achievements in immunization."
In his piece on the "Great Population Debates," Sinding noted that debates have "revolved around two core questions: Is there a global population crisis? If so, what is to be done about it?" He argued that the second question was "largely resolved by the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development," which rejected demographic targets for a broader, health and developed-centered approach, but that "the debate on whether [there is a problem] remains unresolved."
Germain, in a commentary on "Population and Reproductive Health: Where Do We Go Next?" argued that "analysts concerned about population growth have explained the Cairo paradigm shift as a triumph of feminist ideology over demographic analysis," but in reality, "the diverse demographic realities of
the 21st century pose new and varied challenges that cannot be met through the limited family planning approach of the last 30 years." These realities include addressing demographic momentum and eliminating "persistent and avoidable" maternal mortality. [NOTE: ONLINE VERSIONS OF THESE COMMENTARIES ARE NOT AVAILABLE, BUT CCMC HOPES TO SECURE COPIES TO POST ON
Newspapers throughout the United States responded to World AIDS Day with editorials and opinion pieces. A Dec. 1 editorial in The Boston Globe stated that "in Africa, countries like Uganda and Senegal have shown that education and prevention efforts, including condom distribution, can curb the spread of AIDS" and that "Asian nations and the former Soviet republics must learn from their example if the nightmare of southern Africa is not to be repeated in even more populous regions."
The Dec. 1 Boston Globe also printed an op-ed by UNICEF's Carol Bellamy, who noted that though "World AIDS Day reminds us that men can make a difference," we should also note that "every minute, six young people under the age of 25 become infected with HIV" and "the number of girls and women
afflicted is rising."
The UNAIDS report "should shatter complacency" and "stun every human being from here to Botswana," according to a Dec. 13 Pittsburgh Post-Gazette editorial, because "3 million people will die this year from AIDS" and "four-fifths of them will be buried in sub-Saharan Africa, where the dead
outnumber the living in many devastated regions."
The UNAIDS' finding "underscores, once again, the importance of prevention programs as a first line of defense against this global scourge," a Dec. 5 Plain Dealer (Cleveland, OH) editorial stated.
A Dec. 13 op-ed by Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) in the Ventura County Star (Ventura County, CA) argued that the United States should "address the enormous threat AIDS poses to international security, regional development and human dignity," considering that the epidemic "now kills 10 times as many Africans each year as all wars and conflicts on the continent combined."
Media coverage of the HIV/AIDS pandemic came under scrutiny from the online Mediachannel.org, which reported in December that "the public health story of our time, is, of course, AIDS," yet media "too often overlook the social, economic and political implications." Link
Editorials and opinion pieces on World AIDS Day and HIV/AIDS trends also appeared in the Chicago Sun-Times Dec. 9, Chicago Tribune Dec. 1, Houston Chronicle Dec. 1, Los Angeles Times Dec. 1, Palm Beach Post (Palm Beach, FL) Dec. 10, San Diego Union-Tribune Dec. 1, San Jose Mercury News Dec. 5, San Francisco Chronicle Dec. 3, Seattle Post-Intelligencer Dec. 9, Seattle Times Dec. 1, Star Tribune (Minneapolis, MN) Dec. 11, USA Today Dec. 1, and The Washington Post Dec. 1, among other U.S. newspapers.
Columnist Judy Mann said that "Americans are focused on the importance of international public health as never before," in a Dec. 8 Washington Post column describing findings from a Global Health Council poll. She noted that "the key issues in global health...[are] basic: improving child health, nutrition and survival; expanding immunization programs; and investing more in maternal health and reproductive health," which involves "everything from family planning to treatment and prevention of sexually transmitted diseases." Link
The Dec. 15 New York Times printed an op-ed by conservative activist Gary Bauer urging president-elect George W. Bush to "run to the right, not the middle" on "fundamental policy differences" between the Republicans and Democrats. He urges Bush to "immediately repeal a long list of executive
orders President Clinton issued over eight years" including "financing international family planning groups that provide abortions abroad."
The above analysis was written by Ketayoun Darvich-Kodjouri and Kathy Bonk at the Communications Consortium Media Center, 1200 New York Avenue, NW, Suite 300, Washington, DC 20005, 202/326-8700.
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