Double Dose: Sex Trafficking Doesn’t Make Discussion Cut; Sarah Palin and the Rape Kits; Congress Approves Mental Health Parity Legislation; Why Don’t the Candidates Speak Out on HIV?; A Finanical Incentive to Keep Poor Women from Having Children …

By Christine |

Slavery Overlooked: “World leaders are parading through New York this week for a United Nations General Assembly reviewing their (lack of) progress in fighting global poverty. That’s urgent and necessary, but what they aren’t talking enough about is one of the grimmest of all manifestations of poverty — sex trafficking,” writes columnist Nicholas Kristof, who had doggedly stayed on this issue (view related columns here).

“This is widely acknowledged to be the 21st-century version of slavery, but governments accept it partly because it seems to defy solution,” Kristof continues. “Prostitution is said to be the oldest profession. It exists in all countries, and if some teenage girls are imprisoned in brothels until they die of AIDS, that is seen as tragic but inevitable.”

Kristof goes on to detail the work of Somaly Mam, a survivor of the Cambodian brothels who now leads the Somaly Mam Foundation.

Plus: “For the U.S. to be a significant part of the solution that elevates the status of women and all that such progress entails, our foreign policy has to start dealing with the realities of women’s lives instead of attempting to legislate morality,” writes Anika Rahman at RH Reality Check.

Sarah Palin and the Rape Kits: We’ve been writing for weeks about how Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin approved cutting funding from the Wasilla police budget when she was mayor, leaving sexual assault victims holding the bill for their own forensic exams. Well, Dorothy Samuels of The New York Times is now also outraged.

“Ms. Palin owes voters an explanation. What was the thinking behind cutting the measly few thousand dollars needed to cover the yearly cost of swabs, specimen containers and medical tests?” asks Samuels. Wouldn’t we all love to know.

Congress Approves Mental Health Parity: Congress approved legislation this week requiring private insurers to provide the same level of benefits for mental illness as they do for physical maladies, reports the Washington Post. But we’re not home yet, as Lindsey Layton explains:

The measure has received strong bipartisan support in the House and Senate and has the backing of business, insurance companies, health advocates, the medical community and the White House. But its passage into law was not ensured last night.

The remaining obstacle appeared to be ironing out differences in how to pay the cost to the federal government — estimated at $3.4 billion over 10 years, in the form of forgone tax revenue. Lawmakers also needed to resolve whether the final bill should be a standalone measure or part of a larger package of legislation.

The House approved the language in a standalone bill, while the Senate wrapped it into a $150 billion package of popular tax cuts, including a one-year patch for the alternative minimum tax, and extensions of expiring tax provisions including tuition credits and state and local sales tax deductions (for states that do not have an income tax), as well as research and development tax credits.

It is unclear whether a joint agreement can be reached in the few days remaining before Congress recesses.

Plus: Read how David Wellstone has been lobbying for the mental health parity bill, which would be his father’s legacy. The Wellstone-Dominici legislation is named after the late Sen. Paul Wellstone (D-Minn.) and retiring Sen. Pete Domenici (R-N.M.).

D.C. to Publicize HIV-AIDS Epidemic: Washington, D.C. has one of the highest rates of people living with AIDS among major U.S. cities and the highest rate of new reports of AIDS. Now the city is stepping up with a large-scale “social marketing” campaign to publicize these facts, according to the Washington Post.

Almost 12,500 people in the District were known to have HIV or AIDS in 2006, the most recent year of statistics available. HIV was spread through heterosexual contact in 37 percent of the cases, compared with 25 percent of the cases attributed to men having sex with men — the most common mode of transmission nationally.

New reports of AIDS in the District were coming in at the rate of 128 per 100,000, in contrast to 14 cases per 100,000 nationally. One in 50 residents is thought to have the disease.

According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, the District has the highest rate of AIDS among African Americans in the country: 277.5 for every 100,000 people. It also has the highest rate of new cases reported among Hispanics: 109.2 for every 100,000 people.

This week the DC Appleseed Center released its fourth “report card” that grades the progress of the D.C. government in the fight against HIV/AIDS.

Why Don’t the Candidates Speak Out on HIV?: “When news hit that another Wall Street financial institution was on the verge of collapse, the response from rivals Sen. John McCain and Sen. Barack Obama was swift.  Both candidates issued statements touting their respective economic plans.  What kind of impact could our presidential candidates make if they responded as quickly to the domestic and global HIV/AIDS crisis?” writes Pamea Merritt at RH Reality Check.

Merritt looks at how presidential nominees Barack Obama and John McCain have (and have not) addressed the global and domestic HIV/AIDS crisis …

Forward Thinking from Louisiana State Rep: “Worried that welfare costs are rising as the number of taxpayers declines, state Rep. John LaBruzzo, R-Metairie, said Tuesday he is studying a plan to pay poor women $1,000 to have their Fallopian tubes tied,” reports The Times-Picayune.

And it gets even better. He wants to give tax-incentives to women with higher incomes to have more children.

LaBruzzo said he worries that people receiving government aid such as food stamps and publicly subsidized housing are reproducing at a faster rate than more affluent, better-educated people who presumably pay more tax revenue to the government. He said he is gathering statistics now.

“What I’m really studying is any and all possibilities that we can reduce the number of people that are going from generational welfare to generational welfare, ” he said.

He said his program would be voluntary. It could involve tubal ligation, encouraging other forms of birth control or, to avoid charges of gender discrimination, vasectomies for men.

It also could include tax incentives for college-educated, higher-income people to have more children, he said.

Plus: Feministing has more.

Drug Makers to Report Fees Paid to Doctors: “Amid a national debate over the influence of industry money on medical research and practice, two pharmaceutical giants say they will begin publicly reporting payments they make to outside doctors,” reports The New York Times. Benedict Carey writes:

John C. Lechleiter, chief executive of Eli Lilly & Company, announced on Wednesday that starting next year it intended to post in an online database all its payments to doctors for speaking and consulting services. The postings will “likely include” the names of the doctors, or will provide some other identifying information about them, along with the reason for the payments, the company said.

In the wake of Lilly’s announcement, Merck & Company said later Wednesday that it would disclose speaking fees it pays to doctors, also beginning in 2009.

Members of Congress have been pushing for a national registry of such payments. In the last year and a half, Senate investigations have found that prominent researchers at several institutions, including Harvard and the University of Cincinnati, failed to report millions of dollars in outside income from drug makers, contrary to the institutions’ reporting requirements.

Wait to See Doctors Grows in Mass.: “The wait to see primary care doctors in Massachusetts has grown to as long as 100 days, while the number of practices accepting new patients has dipped in the past four years, with care the scarcest in some rural areas,” writes Liz Kowalczyk in the Boston Globe.

“Now, as the state’s health insurance mandate threatens to make a chronic doctor shortage worse, the Legislature has approved an unprecedented set of financial incentives for young physicians, and other programs to attract primary care doctors. But healthcare leaders fear the new measures will take several years to ease the shortage.”

Play Addresses Birth Control & Other Taboos: I haven’t listened to today’s “Talk of the Nation” yet, but I will — check out the description of the 17-minute segment:

Famous for his work on the first oral contraceptive in 1951, chemist Carl Djerassi has published a number of novels and plays over the last 20 years. His latest play, Taboos, grapples with the questions of sex divorced from reproduction.

Plus: “All Things Considered” had a good report today (text available) on the proposed HHS rule on “physician conscience.” The report notes that the “Bush administration this week received tens of thousands of comments on a controversial rule that demonstrates that even it its waning days, the administration continues to have a major impact on policy.” Comments are now closed.

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