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Hormone Drug Considered Unsafe in U.S. Now Creating Havoc in Africa

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Special to the NNPA from the Global Information Network –

A controversial hormone drug, long opposed by several Black, Latina and Native American women’s health groups, has found its way to Africa where new research has made some alarming discoveries.

In the just-published study of seven African countries, researchers at the University of Washington in Seattle found that women who used the Pfizer drug Depo Provera – a hormone-based contraceptive injection - were twice as likely to acquire and pass on HIV as those who didn’t. A higher risk was also observed for birth-control pills.

The study suggests that active promotion of injectable contraception in Africa may be fueling the spread of the world’s biggest infectious killer, said Charles S. Morrison and Kavita Nanda, researchers at FHI 360, a nonprofit organization in Durham, North Carolina, that works on reproductive health projects.

Some 3,790 couples in Botswana, Kenya, Rwanda, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia in which one partner was infected with HIV were studied for the research.

For years , Depo-Provera has been targeted by health activist women of color, who point out how disproportionately it is used with Black and poor women despite dangerous side effects. Depo users in the U.S. are 33 percent under the age of 19, 84 percent Black women, and 74 percent low income, according to a recent study.

In 2004, Pfizer acknowledged that Depo caused a significant loss of bone mineral density, and a study funded by USAID found that women using Depo had a three-fold chance of infection from Chlamydia and gonorrhea.

Nevertheless, from 1994-2000, USAID provided 41,967,200 units of Depo-Provera to the developing world. USAID sends more units of Depo-Provera to Africa, to countries such as Mozambique, Tanzania and Nigeria than to any other part of the world.

“Depo-Provera is potentially life-threatening,” warned a poster by the Racism & Reproductive Rights Taskforce in San Francisco. “Get The Facts Before You Get The Shot.”

More than 140 million women worldwide use hormonal contraception, including pills and long-acting injections, which are the most popular form of birth control in Africa. But limiting the most highly used method of contraception could also be risky, warned the FHI 360 group. It could contribute to increased maternal mortality and more low birth weight babies and orphans – “an equally tragic result.”

The Jobs' Crisis Collateral Damage: The Coming Mental Health Epidemic

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Special to the NNPA from thedefendersonline.com –

The U.S. is facing “a silent mental health epidemic” as joblessness lengthens and deepens for millions of once-gainfully employed Americans, a new study is warning.

The report contends that signs of significant mental health problems are already readily apparent among the jobless who’ve been out of work six months or longer, and that they are also beginning to show themselves among workers who have found jobs after a long period of unemployment but at substantially lower wages and benefits.

These problems include difficulty sleeping; having more arguments than usual with family and friends, a tendency to isolate one’s self socially out of shame at being unemployed; a listlessness and loss of self-confidence in pursuing job opportunities in the face of countless rejections, and even clinical depression.

Sociologists and labor market analysts have long discussed these and other effects on individuals of a prolonged spell of joblessness. More recently, the impact of the Great recession and continuing slow recovery has provoked news media to devote more attention to examining the impact on individuals and families of prolonged joblessness.

The huge buildup to record levels of the jobless, and especially the long-term unemployed – those out of work six months and longer – has led some to warn the nation faces a looming social and economic catastrophe.

Among those at the forefront of that effort is the John J. Heldrich Center for Workforce Development at Rutgers University. Its researchers have produced a series of reports over the past two years probing the psychological well-being as well as the economic condition of a cohort of jobless workers, paying special attention to the long-term jobless. The findings of the latest, “Out of Work and Losing Hope: The Misery and Bleak Expectations of American Workers,” offer a grim portrait of individuals, most still in their prime working years, whose joblessness has marooned them on the margins of the society and are increasingly pessimistic about finding their way back to the center.

Nearly three-quarters of the 14 million Americans out of work have been jobless for more than six months. Half have been jobless for two years or more.

The loss of workers is a blow to the productivity of the workplace and, via workers spending their wages, the health of the economy.

The collateral damage stems from the drag on the economy caused by a sizeable cohort of unemployed and from the funding for the social services they will require.

The “Out of Work” report found that 47 percent of those surveyed said they had experienced stress because of their joblessness and 32 percent had undergone substantial emotional turmoil; at least 11 percent said they had sought professional help for depression within the last year.

The reasons why are apparent from another set of statistics embedded in the Heldrich Center survey. They show that 41 percent of those who lost a job before being first surveyed two years ago are either still unemployed or have settled involuntarily for part-time work. Among those who’ve found work, over half settled for lower pay; and nearly a third had their job-related benefits cut. The group as a whole remains in dire economic straits. Less than a fifth say their financial circumstances are “excellent; 45 percent say, after their prolonged period of joblessness that they are “poor.”

Further, as a group they are deeply pessimistic about America’s future. Nearly three-quarters believe the U.S. economy is experiencing fundamental and lasting changes, compared to just over half who said that two years ago.

Not surprisingly, the Heldrich Center found a high level of support among its survey subjects for government action to reduce unemployment, including funding long-term education and training program that help people change careers, giving tax credits to businesses that hire new workers, direct government creation of jobs for unemployed workers, and requiring recipients of unemployment benefits to enter job-training programs.

Starbucks to Share Wealth with Urban League, Abyssinian Corporation

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New program will put funds into communities

By Cynthia E. Griffin, Special to the NNPA from Our Weekly –

When Starbucks Coffee Co. closed its store on the corner of Crenshaw Boulevard and Vernon Avenue, the Los Angeles Urban League started asking questions.

Some two years later, those questions have morphed into a new business model that Starbucks, the L.A. Urban League and the Harlem-based Abyssinian Development Corp. announced Tuesday.

Under this new model, for a three-year period, Starbucks will donate a minimum of $100,000 out of the profits from two of its stores to each of the nonprofit groups for use to help bolster programs in the communities the two organizations serve.

In Los Angeles, the bustling Starbucks at Crenshaw Boulevard and Coliseum Street will serve as the focal point, and in New York, the store at 125th Street and Lenox Avenue will support Abyssinian.

“Starbucks is partnering with two organizations doing heroic work to address the economic, social and education challenges in their communities,” said Howard Schultz, president, chairman and CEO, Starbucks Coffee Co. “These two partnerships are intended to help us learn how our company can successfully join with change-making community organizations in a localized, coordinated and replicable way.”

“Starbucks is taking the lead in very tough economic times. They fully recognize and appreciate the need for collaboration between forward-thinking organizations from the for-profit and nonprofit sectors,” said Blair H. Taylor, president and CEO of the Los Angeles Urban League.

“This 21st-century partnership makes tremendous sense, since the Los Angeles Urban League is fundamentally committed to transforming communities through our holistic model, Neighborhoods@Work™. Howard Schultz has fully embraced the notion of Starbucks playing a vital role in rebuilding communities. Our hope is that this powerful relationship–which allows communities to receive contributions from Starbucks through nonprofit agencies–will be replicated by other companies across the nation.”

The program begins this month, and according to Urban League spokesperson Chris Strudwick-Turner, the funding will allow the nonprofit to do some things it has not been able to do in this shaky economic climate.

Congressional Black Caucus Annual Leadership Conference Takes on HIV/AIDS

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By Candace Y.A. Montague, Special to the NNPA from the Black AIDS Institute –

All eyes were on Washington, D.C., as Black congressional representatives convened their 41st annual leadership conference. The Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) hosted four sessions that were noteworthy in the AIDS community.

HIV/AIDS at 30

Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) hosted this discussion about the triumphs and trials that still exist as we mark the 30th anniversary of the HIV/AIDS epidemic. The panel, moderated by Phill Wilson, president and CEO of the Black AIDS Institute, strongly communicated the message that although we have made many strides in combating HIV and AIDS--including treatment advancements, lower rates of mother-to-child transmission, the end of the travel ban and the National HIV/AIDS Strategy--we have a long way to go to end the epidemic.

Panelist Roosevelt Mosby Jr., executive director of Sexual Minority Alliance of Alameda County (SMAAC) in California, said that we should start by acknowledging that HIV among young Black MSM is on the rise. "How can AIDS be stabilizing in the country but increasing among Black gay men?" he asked. "Something is wrong with that picture."

Other prominent obstacles include the high infection rate among Black women, stigma and access to affordable health care. "We have the tools to end AIDS," said Wilson. "The question is, will we use the tools effectively to end it?"

HIV Criminalization

The Act Against AIDS Leadership Initiative sponsored a discussion about how people with HIV are often subjected to harsher punishment. In fact, 34 states and two U.S. territories have HIV-specific statutes that criminalize HIV exposure and transmission. "The best this country can do is incarcerate people with a health condition," observed moderator Vanessa Johnson, executive vice president of the National Association of People with AIDS (NAPWA). "So I ask, 'What's going on?'"

Panelists suggested that austere punishments for people living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHA) provide bigots and the unenlightened with additional ways to discriminate against Blacks, gays and sex workers. Unfortunately, the knowledge that such penalties exist deters people from getting tested for HIV and having honest discussions with their partners about their sexual health.

In some jurisdictions, when a person is HIV positive, even no-risk contact such as biting, spitting and scratching can carry a heavier sentence than more severe criminal offenses do. Catherine Hanssens, executive director of the Center for HIV Law and Policy, said that a more equal system must be implemented so that people serve the same amount of time regardless of HIV status.

From Civil Rights to LGBT Equality

The National Black Justice Coalition and National Education Association hosted a lively discussion about LGBT acceptance and issued a call for greater action nationwide against the bullying of gay youths. ESPN commentator L.Z. Granderson and Detroit City Council President Charles Pugh moderated the spirited and sometimes humorous discussion.

The panelists--including Cheryl Kilodavis, author of My Princess Boy--noted that family support is crucial for LGBT people. "We have a bigger problem than what someone is wearing or doing. This is about acceptance," Kilodavis said. Phill Wilson shared his own story about how difficult it was during his early 20s to reveal his sexual orientation to his parents just a few days before his wedding to a woman.

Bullying and transgender acceptance were critical topics during the discussion. Panelist Sirdeaner Walker's son Carl was bullied because students in his Springfield, Mass., school thought he was gay. Carl committed suicide a few days shy of his 12th birthday. "The schools need to communicate more with parents and especially the ones whose kids are doing the bullying," Walker said. "I did not know my son had been in a fight with some students until after his death."

Transgender citizens are often left off the LGBT-issue agenda. Valerie Spencer, founder of Transcend Empowerment Institute, discussed the difficulties of being a transgender female and said that transgender people deserve respect.

Reducing Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities

Rep. Danny Davis (D-IL) hosted this session on the impact that race has upon health. Government agencies have implemented plans to address existing inequities. The Affordable Care Act and initiatives such as the National Strategy for Quality Improvement in Health Care and the National HIV/AIDS Strategy also offer signs of hope. But much needs to be done to ensure that all African Americans receive high-quality health care.

Panelists pointed out the lack of community health centers, poverty, reliance on public health insurance, poor preventive health services and lack of education as barriers to health care, and insisted that holding local and state representatives accountable will help ensure that racial health disparities will soon diminish.

Candace Y.A. Montague is a freelance writer in Washington, D.C. She covers HIV/AIDS news for the Black AIDS Weekly, the Examiner.com/dc and TheBody.com.

Caribbean Nations Press for Urgent International Economic Action

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By Tony Best, Special to the NNPA from the New York Carib News –

Even before the green shoots of economic recovery have had a chance to blossom the world is threatened with a double dip of recession and what’s needed is a new global financial system, better trade terms and a helping hand would pave the way for a return to economic prosperity in developing countries, especially those in the Caribbean. That’s how the island-nations and coastal states in Caricom want to see done globally. But as they grapple with the fallout from the international financial crisis, there is a another problem: threats to the environment which cry out for a sweeping program designed to reduce, if not eliminate the dangers traceable to climate change, such as sea-level rise, hurricanes, floods and broad threats to the environment.

Add those key crises to the list of major problems such poverty; sky-high energy and food prices; the growing epidemic of non-communicable diseases; the unresolved Palestinian-Israeli issue; a need to end the economic embargo against Cuba; the urgency of rebuilding of Haiti after last year’s devastating earthquake; curbing the flood of small arms and ammunition that’s fueling skyrocketing crime rates in developing countries and the Caribbean’s foreign policy priorities would become into sharp focus. Indeed, Caribbean states ranging from Guyana, Jamaica, Suriname, Grenada, Antigua & Barbuda, St. Vincent and Antigua to Barbados, St. Kitts-Nevis, Trinidad and Tobago and the Bahamas used the platform of the United Nations General Assembly to highlight those problems and emphasize the need for the international community to pay more attention to the major hurdles affecting the world’s smaller states.

Whether they were prime ministers, presidents or foreign ministers, Caricom officials argued for immediate action. “We must redouble our efforts to address the growing challenges of poverty and food insecurity, the rising costs of food and energy and climate change,” Dr. Ken Baugh, Jamaica’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs told the UN. “It is not good enough to engage in extensive deliberations, to make commitments and issuing Declarations without providing the means for their implementation, including financing, capacity building and technology transfer.” But of the issues which stand out, causing the most serious pain, the economic problems, plus the threat of increasing poverty stand out head and shoulders. Grenada is a case in point.

“The economic crisis continues to weigh heavily on Grenada; our population is experiencing high food and fuel prices; national revenues have decreased and debt continues to be high,” complained Tillman Thomas, the country’s leader. “The green shoots of recovery which others experience have not reached us. For us the economic crisis of 2009 still rages and we must find a way out of it.” Another Caribbean country which is at the economic crossroads is Suriname and its President Desire’ Delano Bouterse outlined the need for a complete restructuring of the international financial system, with the participation of all nations in the decision-making process. “The time has come to bring an end to the practice of decision-making by only a few countries with disastrous consequences for the majority of the peoples of the world,” was the way he put it. “For countries (such) as Suriname, with small open economies, it remains of vital importance to continue on the path of prudent macro-economic policies and economic diversification.”

Barbados couldn’t agree more.

The current economic downturn, said its Prime Minister, Freundel Stuart, was a “painful reminder” of the inter-connected world in which people live. “When large economies like those of the United States and Europe are reeling, you may imagine the toll the worst crisis since the Great Depression is taking on small vulnerable societies like those that populate the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean,” said Stuart. The solution, he argued was the “urgent need for a new architecture of global finance that will render unlikely the prospect of our lurching from one crisis to another that avoids the massive social dislocations which we are now witnessing.” Jamaica listed a different pressing need, one that would alter the economic fortunes of the world’s developing lands.

It was the ability to “build capacities “through infrastructure development, institution building” while enhancing “productive capacity for competitiveness” and meeting international standards, said Dr. Baugh. For its part, St. Vincent & the Grenadines wants the UN General Assembly to play a more active role in the search for economic revitalization. In essence, said Dr. Ralph Gonsalves, the island’s Minister, the world body must “re-assert its role in the response to the international economic crisis,” a debacle that was threatening, vulnerable and highly indebted middle income countries such as those in the Caribbean.

“We cannot afford to wait for the promise of incremental and cyclical upticks in the global economy,” said Dr. Ralph Gonsalves, the country’s Prime Minister, now in his third term in office after winning last year’s general election. “Small states need the fiscal and policy space to creatively spur development in ways that comply not with the checklists of discredited economic theorists, but with real-world particularities and people centered policies. International financial institutions have yet to grasp sufficiently this simple fact.” On Haiti, country after country urged donor nations and international institutions to do more to help rebuild the earthquake ravaged nation.

Like many other speakers from Caricom St. Kitts-Nevis’ Deputy Prime Minister, Sam Condor, called on the donor countries to fulfill “many goodwill pledges that have been made for assistance in the reconstruction efforts. Brent Symonette, Bahamas' Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs, was equally emphatic in calling on the international community “to be generous in contributing to the Haitian Recovery Fund and very specifically we call on donor states to honor the pledges, some of which remain dishearteningly outstanding.” When the time came for Dr. Surujrattan Rambachan, Foreign Affairs and Communications Minister of Trinidad and Tobago, he spoke at great length about the need pressing regional and global issues to be “settled by peaceful means and for women to be given more opportunities to assume leadership position. He urged the UN to “continue to show leadership and work with the Arab League and other entities to resolve” the Middle East conflict, peacefully.

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