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from Photographers' Blog:

The cycle of poverty and pregnancy

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By Erik de Castro

It was a few minutes before 6 a.m. when I arrived at the dwelling of Liza Cabiya-an, 39, and her 14 children. Liza was pouring coffee on a plate of rice as her five small children, including her youngest 11-month-old baby, huddled on the floor around her waiting to be served their breakfast. On a good day, Liza says breakfast would be pan de sal, or the classic Filipino salt bread, which they dip into hot instant coffee.

While the small children have their breakfast, Liza’s nine other children were still asleep, shoulder-to-shoulder, in a room of approximately 9-square meters.

The only appliances they have are the television and a DVD player. The glassless window provides natural ventilation to the space. Liza’s family lives on the third floor of a three-story tenement in a slum neighborhood in Paco, in the Philippines capital Manila. I had to go up a narrow wooden ladder to reach their dwelling. Residents of the tenement share the same toilet, which is on the second floor. Liza complains that there are nights when they have to endure the stink of the toilet, which is not regularly cleaned.

“Life is hard with so many children but we still try to have fun,” says Liza as she turns on the TV, inserts a music CD in the DVD player and, as if on cue, the little kids start to dance. The noise wakes up the rest of the brood. “I still remember the names and birthdays of each of them,” Liza boasts with a grin, revealing her decaying teeth. After a while, she turns off the music and half-jokingly says, “That’s it for now. Too much activity will make them hungry again.”

from The Human Impact:

Poor Kenyan women robbed of choice to give birth

The saddest part of the stories told by 40 HIV-positive Kenyan women who are suing the government for forced or coercive sterilisation is not that they can no longer give birth.

Most already have children, often more than they can comfortably provide for.

“Getting food is a problem,” said Pamela Adeka, who was sterilised after giving birth to twins in 2004.

from The Human Impact:

When is a condom more than a condom?

When is a condom more than a condom?

When it becomes the catalyst for controversy, intimidation and even criminal prosecution, as it has in many places around the world today, a panel of experts said Sunday.

“There is no reason, in my opinion, why an inert piece of rubber should cause so much conflict and controversy…but it does,” said Jon O’Brien, president of Catholics for Choice and head of its Condoms for Life campaign.

from The Human Impact:

Global women’s agenda lengthy at AIDS 2012 conference

By Lisa Anderson

WASHINGTON (TrustLaw)— Globally, young women between the ages of 15 and 24 years are twice as likely as their male counterparts to contract HIV. HIV is the leading cause of death among women of reproductive age. Women and girls make up 60 percent of the people living with HIV in sub-Saharan Africa, home to two-thirds of the world’s HIV cases.

Just these few facts, provided in a recent report by the United Nations AIDS programme (UNAIDS), begin to underscore women's and girls' severe vulnerability to HIV infection and the toll it takes on their lives.

from The Great Debate:

A Sex Ed 101 curriculum for conservatives

Recent national kerfuffles over abortion and contraception access bring up many important questions: Should employers retain control over your wages and benefits after they sign them over to you? Is contraception, a service used by 99 percent of American women, really so controversial? How much state regulation should there be over women’s most private decisions? But amidst all those questions is one overarching one: Do conservatives need a crash course in sex ed?

Usually, when we think of the sex education debate, we think of junior high and high school kids putting condoms on bananas. But recent events indicate that this country needs remedial sex education for adults, specifically social conservatives who wish to hold forth on reproductive rights without seeming to know the basics regarding who has sex and how it works in 2012. With that in mind, I designed a quick curriculum for these surprisingly necessary courses.

from Tales from the Trail:

Contraception question booed at Republican debate

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A question about contraception caused a flareup in the culture wars during the last Republican presidential debate before next week's Arizona and Michigan primaries and "Super Tuesday."

The question drew boos from the audience and impassioned statements from the four candidates on the stage in Mesa, Arizona, last night.

from Photographers' Blog:

The long and the short of it

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By David Gray

The Safedom condom company’s factory is located in the town of Zhaoyuan, located 100 kilometers south of the city of Yantai, Shandong Province, China. Safedom turned its back on the low-margin, guaranteed-business sales to the Chinese government’s family planning program 11 months ago, and decided to shift to where the money is: the higher end of the general public market. Claiming to be the fourth-largest condom maker in China by revenue, after three foreign brands, they are hoping to sell one billion condoms this year with the launch of its “Take Me” condom, aimed at women consumers, and partnerships with French, Italian, German and UK condom makers.

I was led into a rather unassuming building and greeted by the company’s executives. Here they told me during a brief introduction, that I was to ‘behave’ when touring the production floor, and not disclose any company ‘secrets’. This made me chuckle, though I certainly didn’t show it, as I thought this was how you may talk to a child – the very thing their product was aiming to prevent.

from Tales from the Trail:

Rick Santorum: birth control ruling has nothing to do with women’s rights

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Forcing religious organizations to provide contraceptives has nothing to do with women's rights, Republican presidential contender and vocal Catholic Rick Santorum said on Thursday.

The comment aligned Santorum with a lineup of conservative critics bashing Democratic President Barack Obama's rule requiring religious institutions -- but not churches -- to provide health insurance plans that cover birth control.

from FaithWorld:

Condoms still banned for birth control: Vatican

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Pope Benedict's acknowledgement that using condoms may be justified to stop the spread of AIDS did not signify a change in the Catholic Church's ban on their use as contraception, the Vatican said Tuesday. cdf(Image: Heading of statement on condom use, Dec 21, 2010/ Bollettino Sala Stampa della Santa Sede)

In a statement, the Vatican's doctrinal department said there had been "erroneous interpretations" of the pope's words which had caused confusion concerning the Church's views on sexual morality. In a book published last month entitled "Light of the World", the pope used the example of a prostitute to say there were cases where using a condom to avoid transmitting HIV could be justified as a "first step" toward moralization, even though condoms were "not really the way to deal with the evil of HIV infection."

from FaithWorld:

Lively debate among Catholics interpreting pope’s condom remarks

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papaPope Benedict's surprising view that condoms can sometimes be used to fight AIDS has kindled a lively debate among Roman Catholic theologians and commentators about whether this amounts to a change in Church thinking.

His comments and a Vatican clarification that expanded on them seem to leave no doubt that Benedict has spoken with unprecedented frankness for a pontiff and shifted the focus a bit from the Church's rejection of condoms to avoid disease.

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