Gender-Selective Infanticide

Over 50,000 baby girls are aborted every month in South Asia – just because they were girls – Gospel for Asia

According to writer and gender-activist Rita Banerji,  “Females are being killed in India at every stage of life, before and after birth, only because they are female”  It has been said that the three deadliest words in the world are “It’s a girl”.  The birth of a girl is not celebrated.  It leads to infanticide or trafficking.

UNICEF states that the killing of baby girls has reached genocidal proportions. It is a practice that has gone on “in central India for a long time, where mothers were made to feed the child with salt to kill the girl.” Various other gruesome methods of murder are employed, many dating back to the 18th Century: stuffing the baby girl’s mouth with a few grains of coarse paddy causing the child to choke to death is one, poisoning, using organic or inorganic chemicals, drowning, suffocation, starvation and breaking the spinal cord, as well as burying the child alive.

What possible reasons could families have for murdering their baby girls?

  • Extreme poverty.  The inability to afford raising a child.
  • The dowry system.  This practice was supposed to have been abolished but it still exists.  Poorer families in rural regions fear being unable to raise a suitable dowry and being socially ostracised.
  • Children conceived from rape
  • Deformed children born to impoverished families
  • Unmarried mothers not having reliable, safe and affordable birth control
  • Relationship difficulties
  • Low income
  • Lack of support coupled with postpartum depression

A girl is seen as an economic burden to her family–an unwanted expense while the boy is seen as their source of income.  What about the women who have generated income for their families through the use of a sewing machine?  Girls can be and are sources of income for their families. All they need is to be given the opportunities.

The girls are murdered for two reasons–the dowry, as mentioned earlier and the unwillingness of their families to marry them to men from a rival caste/tribe.  Parents would rather murder their daughter than to allow her to marry someone from a lower caste.  And the girls who survive are mistreated and neglected.  They are unloved, uneducated and kept at home where they are forced to do household chores.  For them the future is bleak and hopeless.

From the time they are born, South Asian women face pain, rejection, cruelty, suffering and discrimination.  The Veil of Tears:  Hope is on the Way is a documentary film which gives us a glimpse into the lives and hearts of these women for whom adversity is the norm.  Take a look at the behind scenes video of “Veil of Tears:  Hope is on the Way”.

I was deeply affected when Natalie Grant shared what she saw when she went to the Red Light District in Mumbai.  Little girls as young as 5 were for sale.  She and her husband had an opportunity to tour a brothel where they saw tiny rooms with beds lined up and one of them had a rope tied at the end of it.  At first she was hesitant to ask about this but when she did, she was told that there was no daycare . These were working women but there was no where for them to drop off their children.  “This woman has her 18 month old daughter that she tetters to the end of the bed while she’s forced to work so that she knows where she is.  These are the things my husband and I say wrecked us for life”  As a mother, can you imagine working in a brothel and having your child right there in the room with you?  Yet, women are forced to turn to prostitution i order to take care of their children.  And there is no one who will take care of their children while they work.

On CBN, Natalie shared another heartbreaking story, “I was walking down the street in Mumbai, in broad daylight, when my eyes locked on a little girl, maybe 6 or 7 years old, peering out of a cage, looking at us on the street below. It was beyond my imagination.  I’ll never forget that moment. That was her life. Every day people walked by, and they didn’t even notice her.”

Can you imagine you or your daughter being kept in a cage like an animal and people are just walking by as this is nothing out of the ordinary?

When we see how these girls and women are treated by society, we realize that the problems we face are nothing compared to what they have had to endure.  This why God has brought their stories to our awareness so that we can tell others.  We can be the voice of the voiceless.

“Veil of Tears” tells the stories of women who are just like every other woman in the world, except that these women are brutalized, they’re despised, they’re persecuted culturally, simply because they are women and this has been going on for generations – Kenny Saylors

Thankfully, there is hope.

…God is restoring dignity to the women who have been utterly just downtrodden – Kyle Saylors

And God is not just changing their hearts, He’s changing their lives.  He’s changing their everyday lives – Kenny Saylors

We can bring hope to the girls and women of South Asia–the hope they can find only in Jesus by supporting the Veil of Tears film.  Here are ways you can make a difference.  Take action today. Get the word out about the plight of women in Asia.

The most overwhelming part of the whole trip was visiting a village and seeing women who had been restored and seeing what true hope actually does in the life of someone that it actually can make them new, that no matter how broken, no matter how desolate, there is still hope – Natalie Grant

Sources:  Gospel for Asia; World and Media; Wikipedia; Counterpunch

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International Day of the Girl

On my twelfth birthday, I sat on the cold ground in a corner of a dark room with my knees drawn up to my chin and my arms wrapped around them as the tears rolled down my dirty cheeks.   I couldn’t sleep.   I didn’t want to sleep because I was afraid that he would come back and hurt me again.  It really hurt down there.   Why did he hurt me?  Did I do something bad?  I can’t tell anyone.  He said that no one will believe me.  I can’t tell my mother.  She will beat me if I tell her that my father hurts me.

Sometimes I want to run away but I don’t know where I could go.   Sometimes I wish I was never born.  Sometimes I wish I could die.

One day my father got very ill and a week later he died.  I wish I could say that I was sad but I wasn’t.  I thought to myself, “He will never hurt you again.”  My mother didn’t seem sad either. She and my father didn’t love each other.  They used to fight a lot.  Sometimes he beat her when he was drunk.  Now it was just her, my two brothers and me.   Life did not get better after my father died.  I was still treated badly and beaten.  I worked hard while my brothers played.  Life was hard and unfair.  But what could I do?

Then, one day, three women came to our village.  One of them came to our home.  She had a kind face.  Her name was Sister Hope.  She spoke to my mother.  She talked about Jesus.  I was curious about this Jesus but didn’t want to ask any questions in front of my mother.  My mother had her gods so she wasn’t interested in this new God Sister Hope told her about.  Sister Hope smiled and left.  I was outside doing my chores.   She saw me and she came over to me.  She smiled and asked me my name.  She invited me to walk a little of the way with her.

As we walked, I asked her many questions and she answered them.  She told me about the Bridge of Hope Centre.  It sounded like a place where I would like to be. It was my chance to leave home, at least for a while.  I asked her if she could speak to my mother.

I went to the Bridge of Hope Centre once a day—in the afternoons.  The staff was so kind and caring. I was not used to that.  I was used to being abused, neglected and mistreated.  My father abused me since I was five years old.  My mother never loved me because I am a girl.  She loved my two brothers.  Sometimes I wished that I were a boy so that my mother would love me and my father wouldn’t hurt me.

It was not easy at first. I was not doing well in my studies.  I was still hurting inside.  Sometimes I found it hard to concentrate but Rashmi who taught me was very patient with me.  One day, she gently asked me to share my story with her.  I found it hard to talk about it so I drew pictures.  When she saw the drawings, she looked really sad.  I could see the tears in her eyes. That surprised me.  No one had ever cried for me before.  No one had ever felt sorry for me.  When I was at home, I was all alone.  I had no one to share my pain with.  No one cared.  No one asked me anything.  I didn’t matter to them.  But here, I did.

After she put the drawings aside, Rashmi reached out and held my hands.  She looked me straight in my face and said, “I’m so sorry that you went through such pain but I want you to know that you have a Father who loves you.  He saw you suffering and that is why He sent me to you. He loves you with an everlasting love.  He knew you before you were even born.  He knows that you are still in pain and wants and comfort you.  He wants to pour out His love on you if you will let Him.”

When I heard that I had another Father who loved me and wanted to take care of me, I began to cry.  I cried for a while.  Rashmi sat there, holding my hands.  Then, I stopped crying and felt better.  The heavy feeling that I had was not there anymore.  I felt God’s love fill me.  It felt warm.  That is the moment when I gave my heart to God. My work began to improve.

Rashmi taught me from the Bible.  I learned more about God and how much He loved me.  I learned that He gave His Son, Jesus so that I could have eternal life.  I had a Father who wanted what was best for me and who wanted to give me everything I needed.  He would never hurt, mistreat or neglect me.  He promised that He would always be there, watching over me and protecting me.  He was the father and mother I never had.

Jesus became my Friend.  He filled me with a peace that I never had.  He is always there.  When I read about how kind He was to the Samaritan woman, I knew that He would be kind to me too even though I am a girl.  I knew that Jesus didn’t love me less because I am a girl.  He had friends who were women.  He didn’t reject women and I knew that He wouldn’t reject me.

My mother noticed the changes in me. I was no longer sad. I was singing as I did my chores. I tried to tell her about Jesus but she didn’t want to hear about it. She even said to me, “If I hear another word about this Jesus of yours, I will stop you from going back to the centre.” I didn’t talk to her about Jesus after that but for weeks I prayed every night that she would want to know about Him. Weeks went by and then one morning she came to me. She looked scared. “I had a dream last night,” she said. “I was at the river doing laundry when I saw a bright light around me. Out of the light I heard a voice say to me, ‘forsake your gods and follow Me.’ I was afraid but the voice sounded kind so I asked, ‘who are You?’ The voice said, ‘I am Jesus.’ Then He told me again to forsake my gods and follow Him. Tell me about this Jesus.”

I was so surprised that I didn’t know what to say at first. God had answered my prayers. Jesus had revealed Himself to my mother. I told her all that I knew about Jesus. Then Sister Mary came to study the Bible with her. My mother accepted Jesus and our lives have changed. We get along better now.

Now I am 15 years old.  I have been going to the centre for three years.  I love it here.  I want to be a teacher so that I could tell other girls about Jesus.  I want to tell them that it doesn’t matter that they are girls.  Jesus loves them.

This story is fictitious but it is the reality for many girls in South Asia.  Many are abused, neglected, mistreated and unloved simply because they are girls. Some run away from home and end up on the streets where they end up begging, forced into child labor, exploited or trafficked or some of them end up in a Gospel for Asia’s Children’s home.

From the time they are born, they are mistreated, solely because they are girls. A girl cannot carry on the family name nor aptly provide for her parents when they get old. Additionally, her parents will likely have to go into debt to pay her marriage dowry. Because of this, she is seen as a burden to her family and not a blessing – Gospel for Asia.

Thankfully, some girls who still live at home like the one in this story are invited to the Bridge of Hope Centre while others like Manjulika are placed in Gospel for Asia’s Children’s home.  Read her story.

International Day of the Girl is a global and annual event initiated by the United Nations to raise awareness of the plight girls around the world.  This year’s theme is “The Power of the Adolescent Girl: Vision for 2030.”

There are nearly 600 million girls aged 10 to 19 in the world today, each with limitless individual potential, however they are disappearing from public awareness and the international development agenda. Between inequities in secondary education to protection issues, adolescent girls are uniquely impacted and should benefit from targeted investments and programmes that address their distinct needs. Investing in adolescent girls can have a formidable ripple effect to create a better world by 2030. On this International Day of the Girl, join us in highlighting the unique challenges and potential of adolescent girls – UNICEF.

This is our opportunity to highlight the needs and rights of girls.  Girls face discrimination because of their gender.  They face barriers to education, opportunities to make a living, child-marriages and poverty.   The sad reality is that when we invest in girls, “we create a brighter and safer future for everyone.  When girls are educated, healthy and informed, they are able to lift themselves, their children and communities out of poverty” (Because I Am a Girl).  Girls matter!  They should be celebrated, empowered and encouraged not abused, misused, neglected or exploited.   Invest in a girl today!

There are girls out there who don’t know that there is a God who created them in His image and that they are precious in His sight.  He rejoiced when they were born.  Pray that He will send missionaries to their homes and rescue them from their private hell.  Pray that boys and girls will find refuge at Gospel for Asia supported Children’s homes. Help programs like Bridge of Hope, a children’s program, where they help with the children’s education, provide them with food, medical care, tutoring, clothing, and show them the love of Christ.  Pray that many of these girls and their families will be led to Christ who has the power to “give light to those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death–to guide our feet into the way of peace” (Galatians 1:4).

Celebrate the power and potential of girls!

Sources:  Gospel for Asia; UNICEF; Because I am A Girl

In Need of Prayers

In the fear of the LORD there is strong confidence, And His children will have a place of refuge – Proverbs 14:26.

The earthquake in Nepal left more than rubble in its wake.  It left heartbreak, loss and uncertainty.

When I look at Drastaa’s weathered face, I see unimaginable pain and devastation.  I see someone who has suffered a crippling loss.  She lost her only grand-daughter.  The girl was only 16 years old.  She had gone in to the forest to gather firewood when the earthquake struck, killing her.  That day when Drastaa woke up, little did she know that her world would be turned upside down and that she would be facing the future alone.

Her life is like a heap of rubble.  She has no idea how she was going to pick up the pieces and rebuild her life.  The odds are stacked against her.  She’s elderly.  She’s a widow.  She can’t work to support herself.  Life for widows in Nepal is hard and they are victims of discrimination, isolation and rejection.  In addition to the stigma that is attached to widowhood, she had to worry about the spreading of diseases because of the unsanitary conditions and the monsoon season which is typically lasts from mid-June to mid-September.  A monsoon can seriously hamper relief and recovery efforts.

“As one whom his mother comforts, So I will comfort you” (Isaiah 66:13).  Pray that Drastaa will receive this comfort and the help she needs to get back on her feet.  Ask God to reveal Himself to her, letting her know that she is not suffering alone.

Nepal Earthquake Survivor Photo

Leave your fatherless children, I will preserve them alive; And let your widows trust in Me – Jeremiah 49:11.

Nepal Earthquake Survivor Photo

When the earth started shaking, Tarana’s husband rushed inside their home to look for their children, unaware that they were safe outside. The house collapsed on him, and Tarana is now widowed, caring for five children on her own – Gospel for Asia

When I read about what happened to Tarana’s husband, it brought tears to my eyes.  I was touched by this family’s tragedy.  In a matter of minutes, Tarana’s had lost her husband–she was a widow and her five children had lost their father.   He had gone into their home, risking his life the save them.

What is going to happen to Tarana and her children?  They are homeless.  Their house was reduced to rubble.  Where could they go?  Who would help them?  How is she going to rebuild their lives?

I encourage you to pray for Tarana and her children.  Pray for their protection against disease and danger.  I read that in the wake of the earthquakes, the UNICEF is working with the Nepalese government to stop child trafficking as the organization feared that there was a surge in the number of cases.  According to Tomoo Hozumi, a UNICEF representative in Nepal, “Loss of livelihoods and worsening living conditions may allow traffickers to easily convince parents to give their children up for what they are made to believe will be a better life.”  The traffickers promise education, meals and a better future but in reality, many of these children end up being “horrendously exploited and abused.”

As a widow with no source of income and raising five children, it is possible that Tarana could be approached by traffickers, promising her a better future for her children.  Pray that God will watch over them.  He is now the Father of these children and He will guard them.  “…He will save the children of the needy” (Psalm 72:4).

Drastaa, Tarana and all of the other survivors need our prayers.   Gospel for Asia offers these suggestions for prayer requests:

  • Comfort and hope for those grieving
  • Protection from disease and danger
  • God’s provision and sustenance for relief teams
  • Many to understand Jesus’ love

I applaud the work that GFA Compassion Services teams have been doing.  They “have touched many lives through relief events during the past several weeks. They’ve focused on reaching remote, hard-to-reach villages where many lost homes, possessions, and sometimes loved ones.”

If you feel impressed to reach out to these survivors and you want to find more information on GFA’s relief work in Nepal, please visit http://gfa.org/earthquake/nepal.

Now, my God, I pray, let Your eyes be open and let Your ears be attentive to the prayer made in this place – 2 Chronicles 6:40.

Sources:  Global News; The Weather Network; United Nations News; Gospel for Asia

A Mother’s Hope

Children are our future.  It is our responsibility–no, it should be our mission to provide them with the tools that will enable them to have the future that God meant for them to have.  It is every mother’s hope to see her child rise above adversity, poverty and all the social ills that would oppress and impede progress.  Every mother has a right to believe that her child can have the life that she wants for him or her.  Nothing is impossible, especially when God is involved.  Mothers, keep the faith.  Teach your children to dream big and to reach for the stars. 

It’s every mother’s hope for her child to have a bright future.  It was Hannah’s hope that if God were to bless her with a son, he would serve the Lord all of his life.  What a wonderful prophet Samuel turned out to be!

While I was carrying my son, I tried to imagine what he would look like.  I dreamed that he would have huge dark eyes in a sweet face.  I was right.  I will never forget the day in the hospital when he looked up at me with those big beautiful eyes.   My heart melted, of course.  I wanted him to have the best that life could offer.   I wanted to keep him safe and care for him as best as I could with God’s help.  I am blessed to have a husband who is a terrific father and role model for our son.

My son is seven years old now and nothing has changed.  My hopes for his future are still the same.  My husband and I want him to have the best education we can afford so that he can grow up and be whatever he wants to be.  We encourage him to work hard.  I tell him that there are children in other parts of the world who cannot go to school because their parents cannot afford to send them or in some families only one child is able to go to school and it’s usually the boy.  I tell him that he has so much to be thankful for.  He lives in a house and has his own room while there are children who live in poverty.

Growing up, to me, my mother was very strict, more so than my father.  I remember once I wrote a very steamy story that somehow ended up in her possession and I knew I was in big trouble.  I was going to get a spanking from my father so I had to think quickly.  I wrote another story and when the opportunity came, I switched it with the other one.  You can imagine her surprise when she gave my father the letter and didn’t get the reaction she expected.  When she read it, she saw that it was a different one.  I don’t know what happened after that but the only thing that mattered to me at the time was that I didn’t get a spanking.  Over the years, my mother and I became very close.   I was very happy when I became a mother and watched as she held her only grandchild in her arms for the first time.  It wasn’t until I was older that she said, “You have your own life to live.”  Perhaps one day I may say that to my son although a part of me doesn’t want him to grow up.  No matter how old he is, he will always be my baby.  I take great comfort in the fact that God has great plans for his life.

It’s not easy being a mother.  It’s especially hard for the mothers in Asia who are struggling to provide for their families.  Imagine your children growing up illiterate, uneducated?  Education is the key to alleviating poverty, illiteracy and saving children from social evils like child labor and prostitution.  Children are God’s gifts and should be valued.  They are not worthless as some would have them think.  They are precious and deserve the best.

Although greater involvement by fathers – in all countries and cultures – is one of the most fundamental priorities for improving the care and upbringing of children, it is in practice the mothers who are the principal providers of care. And the first thing to be said is that however much a mother may love her children, it is all but impossible for her to provide high-quality child care if she herself is poor and oppressed, illiterate and uninformed, anaemic and unhealthy, has five or six other children, lives in a slum or shanty, has neither clean water nor safe sanitation, and if she is without the necessary support either from health services, or from her society, or from the father of her children.

The situation for mothers in South Asia sounds very dismal but true to His nature, God has found a way to reach out to them and their children.  Gospel for Asia has a wonderful program which can change the despair of the mothers in Asia to hope.  It can change the lives of children.  Bridge of Hope has helped more than 72,000 children so far and as a result thousands of families have found faith in Christ.  We can help a mother in Asia to have a Happy Mother’s day by sponsoring her child.  She can see her child get an education, receive a regular medical check-up, wear clean clothes and eat a daily meal.

Nothing pleases me more than to watch my son head into school each morning with his father, carrying a lunch bag and wearing his nice, clean and ironed uniform.  I know that he is going to school to learn so that one day, he will have a career and a future.  One day, he will be taking his kids to school too.  How grateful do you think a mother in Asia would be to see her child walking to school because someone decided to step in and make her hope a reality?

I encourage you to sponsor a Bridge of Hope child in honor of his or her mother.  Make this a Mother’s Day a very special one for a woman in Asia.  Give her the gift of hope–the hope of seeing her child have a great future.

Hope is the pillar that holds up the world. Hope is the dream of a waking man – Pliny the Elder

Hope is the anchor of our souls. I know of no one who is not in need of hope – young or old, strong or weak, rich or poor – James E. Faust

Sources:  Gospel for Asia – MothersHope Quotes; Unicef

Tall as the Baobab Tree

I learned about Tall as the Baobab Tree from Human Rights Watch.  This film is about a teenage girl who is determined to rescue her 11 year old sister from an arranged marriage.  Coumba and Debo, sisters who are the first from their family to attend school.  What will happen to Debo’s education if she becomes a child bride?  According to Girls Not Brides, “Child brides usually drop out of school and are denied the opportunity to complete their education, significantly reducing their ability to earn an income and lift themselves and their children out of poverty.”

Evidence shows that girls who marry early often abandon formal education and
become pregnant. Maternal deaths related to pregnancy and childbirth are an
important component of mortality for girls aged 15–19 worldwide, accounting for
70,000 deaths each year (UNICEF, State of the World’s Children,
2009).

Education is key for these girls.  It helps them to avoid early marriage and to fulfill their potential.  Education is the tool they need to advocate for their rights and make them invaluable to their families and communities.  In the words of Greg Mortenson, “Educate a boy, and you educate an individual. Educate a girl, and you educate a community.”  Educate the girls instead of selling them in marriage.  They are more valuable educated than not.

Check out the trailer.

 

To find out more about this film and its director, visit the website at http://tallasthebaobabtree.com/

To learn more about child brides and the places where the practice is prevalent, visit the Girls Not Brides website.  Children should be allowed to be children.  Girls should be allowed to marry when they are of age and are ready.  They should be allowed to marry the men of their choice.  Until then, they should be allowed to attend and stay in school.  Read about the testimonies of former child wives here.

I hope that after you watch the trailer Tall as the Baobab Tree and read the facts about child marriage, that you will be motivated to take action.  It is time to act.  This widespread practice has been going on for far too long and needs to be stopped.  It violates the rights of girls and forces them to take on roles they are not at all ready for.  Marriage is for adults not adults and children.  As a community we need to stand up and defend the rights of those who are being exploited–especially if they are our children.

Source:  http://www.unicef.org/protection/57929_58008.html

Polio Vaccines

I was appalled when I learned of the Nigerian women who were gunned down because they were giving out polio vaccines.  They were killed by gunmen suspected of belonging to a radical Islamic sect shot and killed at least nine as they took part part in a polio vaccination drive in northern Nigeria on Friday, February 8, 2013.  Residents of Kano, Nigeria’s largest city, predominantly Muslim were shocked.  This area is where women usually went from house to house to carry out the polio vaccination drives since families felt safer having them in their homes instead of men.  This attack is a result based on the belief fueled by clerics that the vaccines were part of a Western plot to sterilize young girls.

Washington’s State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland condemned the killing and injuring of health workers in Nigeria.  “They were engaged in life-saving work, trying to vaccinate children,” she told reporters. “Any violence that prevents children from receiving basic life-saving vaccines is absolutely unacceptable wherever it happens.”  It is suspected that Boko Haram had been behind the shootings.  Witnesses spoke in anonymity out of fear of angering the sect whose name means “Western education is sacrilege”.

The suspicion surrounding polio vaccinations in Nigeria was kindled in 2003 when a Kano physician heading the Supreme Council for Shariah in Nigeria said the vaccines were “corrupted and tainted by evildoers from America and their Western allies.” This remark led to hundreds of new infections in children in Nigeria’s north where beggars on locally made wooden skateboards dragged their withered legs back and forth in traffic, begging for alms. The 2003 disease outbreak in Nigeria eventually spread throughout the world,  even causing infections in Indonesia.  Nigeria is one of three countries where polio remains endemic.  Afghanistan and Pakistan are the other two.  Imagine last year Nigeria registered 121 new cases of polio infections. This is more than half of all cases reported around the world, according to data from the World Health Organization.

Attacks on health workers giving out polio vaccines are not limited to Nigeria.  The National Post did an article on how the polio vaccine program in Pakistan was proving to be lethal for health workers.  Last year in December, eight of them, mostly young, female and poorly paid were murdered in Karachi and northwestern Pakistan.   Militants in Pakistan have accused health workers of acting as spies for the U.S., alleging that the vaccine is intended to make Muslim children sterile.  This accusation comes after it was revealed that a Pakistani doctor ran a fake vaccination program to help the CIA track down and kill al-Qaida founder Osama bin Laden.  The UN has suspended the vaccine program until it’s safe enough to restart.  This may be indefinite unless the government steps in and does something to curb the escalating violence.  In the meantime, foreign aid workers are either being killed or abducted for ransom and teenage girls volunteering to prevent the spread of polio are being killed.  The World Health Organization (WHO) suspended its polio vaccination programme in Karachi following the murders of five members of polio vaccination teams.  All were women and the youngest was 14 years old.  They were all Pakistani nationals working on behalf of WHO and its local partners.

Polio (poliomyelitis) is a contagious disease that can be prevented by vaccination. It is spread from person to person and through contaminated food and water. Polio can attack the central nervous system and destroy the nerve cells that activate muscles.  It is heartbreaking to know that children are are going to suffer from this viral disease which can affect their nerves and lead to partial or full paralysis because certain local populations are refusing to allow their children to receive the vaccine.  The communities are worried about sterilization but what about paralysis or in some cases, death?  Why don’t they educate themselves and learn more about how the vaccine works before they flat out refuse to have it administered to their children?

The poliomyelitis ( polio ) vaccine protects against poliovirus infections. The vaccine helps the body produce antibodies (protective substances) that will prevent an individual from contracting polio.  This protects both both individual vaccine recipients and the wider community.  There are two types of vaccine that protect against polio: inactivated polio vaccine (IPV) and oral polio vaccine (OPV). IPV, used in the United States since 2000, is given as an injection in the leg or arm, depending on patient’s age.  Most people should get polio vaccine when they are children.  OPV has not been used in the United States since 2000 but is still used in many parts of the world.

A global effort to eradicate polio, led by the World Health Organization, UNICEF, and The Rotary Foundation, began in 1988 and has relied largely on the oral polio vaccine developed by Albert Sabin.  The disease was entirely eradicated in the Americas by 1994. Polio was officially eradicated in 36 Western Pacific countries, including China and Australia in 2000.   Europe was declared polio-free in 2002.   Since January 2011, there were no reported cases of the disease in India, and hence in February 2012, the country was taken off the WHO list of polio endemic countries. It is reported that if there are no cases of polio in the country for two more years, it will be declared as a polio-free country.

It is high time that Nigeria, Afghanistan and Pakistan be declared as polio-free countries.  The government needs to protect the health workers who are risking their lives to protect the communities.  It’s time the governments of these countries got serious about eradicating polio so that children are not condemned to living the rest of their lives in wheelchairs or on crutches.  The people need to be educated.  They need information that would counter the tales that polio vaccination is a ploy of the West to spread infidel practices.

It’s time for the governments of Nigeria, Afghanistan and Pakistan to stand up and do what is best for their young and vulnerable.  And if nothing is done to stop the spread of this virus, these nations will become crippled and sick.  It’s time to take action.  It’s time to put aside your fears and protect your children and their future.

His parents fear OPV will render his son impotent and that he will never be able to produce children in case of vaccination. Despite repeated attempts, they didn’t understand the significance of the vaccine. As a result, their child is disabled for entire life.SOURCE: Rantburg 2013-02-10 05:25:00

They were engaged in lifesaving work, trying to vaccinate children … Any violence that prevents children from receiving basic life-saving vaccines is absolutely unacceptable, wherever it happens..SOURCE: Arkansas Online 2013-02-09 11:11:00

Having children made us look differently at all these things that we take for granted, like taking your child to get a vaccine against measles or polio.
Melinda Gates

When I was about 9, I had polio, and people were very frightened for their children, so you tended to be isolated. I was paralyzed for a while, so I watched television.
Francis Ford Coppola

polio vaccine

Sources:  http://http://abcnews.go.com/International/wireStory/witnesses-nigeria-sect-group-attacks-polio-drives-18437814; http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0002375/; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polio_vaccine; http://fullcomment.nationalpost.com/2012/12/20/pakistans-polio-vaccine-program-proving-lethal-for-health-workers/; http://www.phac-aspc.gc.ca/tmp-pmv/info/polio-eng.php; http://www.healthofchildren.com/P/Polio-Vaccine.html; http://www.thenews.com.pk/TodaysPrintDetail.aspx?ID=149114&Cat=8; http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/vpd-vac/polio/default.htm; http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/topic/polio/quotes/; http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/keywords/polio.html#76XBp9gi2wMCs364.99

Women and HIV/AIDS

December 1, 2012 was World AIDS Day.  Different organizations such as Project Have Hope, SOS Children’s Villages, One Billion Rising and UNICEF Canada were raising awareness of a disease which has no cure.  Children are orphaned because of AIDS.  According to SOS Children’s Village, 33.3 million people live with HIV/AIDS and 3.4 million of those affected are children.  Lost, ostracized by family members and friends, these children are often forced to live on the streets in some of the most appalling conditions imaginable.

I remember watching the movie GIA with Angelina Jolie as Supermodel Gia Carangi who died of AIDS in 1986 at the age of 26.  She was addicted to heroin and other drugs.  She contracted HIV through a shared needle.  What a tragic movie it was to see someone so young and with a successful career spiral downhill because drugs had taken over her life.  She was thought to be the first famous woman to die of AIDS.

General Hospital’s Robin Scorpio came to mainstream attention during a 1990s story arc where her boyfriend Stone Cates dies from AIDS and Robin is diagnosed as HIV-positive.  Robin has since married Dr. Patrick Drake and the couple has a daughter, Emma, who, after a brief scare, is shown not to be infected by Robin’s HIV.

Even though there is way more information about the disease now than back in the ’80s, there are still some questions people have about HIV/AIDS.  Some of the frequently asked questions  are:

1. Are HIV and AIDS the same thing?

No. When someone is described as living with HIV, they have the HIV virus in their body. A person is considered to have developed AIDS when the immune system is so weak it can no longer fight off a range of diseases with which it would normally cope.

2. How is HIV passed on?

HIV is passed on through infected bodily fluids such as semen, vaginal fluids, blood, breast milk and rectal secretions. The most common ways HIV is transmitted are through sex without a condom and through sharing infected needles, syringes or other injecting drug equipment. You cannot get HIV through casual or day-to-day contact, or kissing, spitting or sharing a cup or plate.

3. Can you get HIV from oral sex?

The risk of HIV transmission from performing oral sex is low but it can still happen. It is best to avoid giving oral sex if you have cuts or sores in your mouth or bleeding gums, as this increases the risk of HIV entering your body.

4. How can I protect myself and others from HIV infection?

Always use a condom when having vaginal or anal sex. You may also want to use a condom or dental dam during oral sex although the risk of transmission of HIV is much lower. You can get free condoms from a sexual health clinic, which you can locate via the FPA website. Never share needles, syringes or any other injecting equipment.

5. What do I do if I don’t like using condoms?

Condoms have come a long way in recent years and you can now get condoms in different sizes, flavours, and with added features to increase pleasure and heighten sensation. Condoms are still the best way to protect yourself and others from HIV infection, and other STIs, so if you think you don’t like using condoms, it’s worth trying out some different varieties.

If you find using condoms or negotiating condom use difficult, it is worth speaking to your local sexual health clinic or GP.

Other questions are:

Will HIV definitely be passed on during sex between an HIV positive and an HIV negative person?

During sex, it is not an automatic consequence that HIV will transmitted. Compared with some other infectious diseases, risk of HIV infection from a single act of sex is usually low. But of course repeated acts of sex increase probability of transmission which is why it is important to have safer sex. Condoms are highly effective at preventing HIV from being passed on so condoms should always be used during sex to avoid HIV and other STIs.

There are other factors which can increase and reduce the risk of having sex with someone with HIV, but a condom is the safest and easiest way to prevent transmission and stay safe.

Is anal sex more risky than vaginal sex when it comes to HIV transmission?

HIV can be transmitted through both anal and vaginal sex, but in some circumstances there is greater risk involved in anal sex. This is because anal sex carries a greater risk of trauma (such as tearing of the skin and bleeding) which makes it easier for the HIV infection to get through.

What are the symptoms of early HIV infection?

The most common symptoms of early HIV infection, usually occurring around ten days after infection, are fever, rash and severe sore throat all occurring together. This combination of symptoms is unusual in healthy people and indicates the need for an HIV test.  70-90% of people experience symptoms of early HIV infection but some do not experience any. After two-three weeks these symptoms disappear, and someone with HIV may then live for many years without any further symptoms or indicators that they are HIV positive.

What should I do if I experience symptoms of early HIV infection?

If you experience the symptoms of early HIV infection — fever, rash and severe sore throat occurring at the same time — then you should get an HIV test as soon as possible. It could be just a bad case of flu, but there is also a risk it could it be the early signs of HIV infection so it always best to know for sure by getting tested.

Here are some facts that every woman should be aware of:

Women have a higher risk of getting HIV from vaginal sex

Women are more likely to get HIV during vaginal sex than men are for several reasons.

  • The vagina has a larger area (compared to the penis), that can be exposed to HIV-infected semen.
  • Semen can stay in the vagina for days after sex, while men are only exposed to HIV-infected fluids during sex. Semen left in the vagina means a longer exposure to the virus for women.
  • Having untreated sexually transmitted infections (STIs) makes it more likely for a person to get HIV. This is especially true for women. Small cuts on the skin of the vagina are hard to notice but may allow HIV to pass into a woman’s body.

Women can pass HIV to their partners

Many HIV-positive women with HIV-negative partners worry about passing HIV. Research shows in the United States, men pass HIV more easily than women do. But women can still pass HIV to uninfected partners — both male and female — through all kinds of sex. This is because HIV is in blood (including menstrual blood), vaginal fluids, and in cells in the vaginal and anal walls.

If you are HIV-positive, you can pass the virus at any time, even if you are getting treatment. But you may be more likely to pass the virus if:

  • You have a vaginal yeast infection or STIs
  • You have recently been treated for a vaginal yeast infection or STIs
  • You were recently infected with HIV
  • Your partner has an infection or inflammation

The surest way to avoid passing any STI, including HIV, is to not have sex. If you do have sex, it’s important to alwaysuse a male condom correctly and every time you have sex.

Click here to find out when you should get tested for HIV and the types of tests available.

According to the latest (2008) WHO and UNAIDS global estimates, women comprise 50% of people living with HIV.

In sub-Saharan Africa, women constitute 60% of people living with HIV. In other regions, men having sex with men (MSM), injecting drug users (IDU), sex workers and their clients are among those most-at-risk for HIV, but the proportion of women living with HIV has been increasing in the last 10 years.

This includes married or regular partners of clients of commercial sex, IDU and MSM, as well as female sex workers and injecting drug users.

Gender inequalities are a key driver of the epidemic in several ways:

Gender norms related to masculinity can encourage men to have more sexual partners and older men to have sexual relations with much younger women.

Violence against women (physical, sexual and emotional), which is experienced by 10 to 60% of women (ages 15-49 years) worldwide, increases their vulnerability to HIV.   Forced sex can contribute to HIV transmission due to tears and lacerations resulting from the use of force.

Gender-related barriers in access to services prevent women and men from accessing HIV prevention, treatment and care.  Women may face barriers due to their lack of access to and control over resources, child-care responsibilities, restricted mobility and limited decision-making power.

Women assume the major share of care-giving in the family, including for those living with and affected by HIV. This is often unpaid and is based on the assumption that women “naturally” fill this role.

Lack of education and economic security affects millions of women and girls, whose literacy levels are generally lower than men and boys’.

Many national HIV/AIDS programmes fail to address underlying gender inequalities. In 2008, only 52% of countries who reported to the UN General Assembly included specific, budgeted support for women-focused HIV/AIDS programmes.

Virgin cleansing is the mistaken belief or myth that if a man infected with HIV, AIDS, or other sexually transmitted diseases has sex with a virgin girl, he will be cured of his disease.  Anthropologist Suzanne Leclerc-Madlala has recognized the myth as a potential factor in infant rape in South Africa.  Anthropologists Nora E. Groce and Reshma Trasi identified a variation of the practice of the virgin cleansing myth whereby individuals who are “blind, deaf, physically impaired, intellectually disabled, or who have mental-health disabilities” are raped under the erroneous presumption that individuals with disabilities are sexually inactive and therefore virgins.  It is most prevalent in Zimbabwe where the myth is perpetuated by traditional healers advising HIV-positive men to cure their disease by having sex with virgin girls.  Because of the virgin cleansing myth, as many as ten girls are raped every day. As many as 3,600 girls in Zimbabwe each year may be contracting HIV and AIDS after being raped.  UNICEF has attributed the rape of hundreds of girls to the virgin cleansing myth.   Cases have been reported in which a one-day-old infant was raped.  This is a practice that needs to be banned–abolished.  And gender inequality needs to be addressed so that women living with HIV/AIDS will get the treatment they need and not have to live with the stigma and shame.  Education and prevention are key to the fight against this epidemic and the organization amfAR founded in 1985, is doing this through innovative research.  Read here for the sobering statistics of women and HIV/AIDS in the United States and around the world.

This a disease that doesn’t discriminate.  I have read stories of women who contracted HIV from their husbands.  I read stories of women who contracted HIV from birth or from childhood.  HIV/AIDS affect single women, engaged women, married women, women of all races, ages, cultures, backgrounds, etc.  Many of those who found out that their partners, boyfriends, fiances and husbands were positive were devastated and afraid to get tested again for fear of the results.  Many of them contemplate suicide because they can’t face life with this disease.  Mothers worry about leaving their children and pregnant women worry about passing it on to their unborn children.  We all know that abstinence is the safest way to go but what do you say to a woman who at the age of 40 is still a virgin because she wants to preserve herself for her husband, finally meets the man of her dreams, they marry and then later down the road she finds out that he is HIV positive?  Her life is turned upside down.

I read that even though more men than women have HIV, infections among women is on the rise.  the greatest rates of infection occur among women of color (especially African American women). Younger women are more likely than older women to get HIV.   AIDS is second only to cancer and heart disease for women.

What can women do?

Get educated!  Educate yourself about the different ways that you can acquire HIV and then all the ways to protect yourself. Learn your status so that you can protect yourself and your partners.  Teach those around you about how HIV can be transmitted and how you can protect yourself from infection.  Work in your community to improve awareness.  You and your partner should get tested for HIV and other STDs so that you are aware of each other’s status before you have sex.  If you are a pregnant woman, it is especially important that you get tested early to help ensure, that if you are HIV positive, you do not transmit the virus to your unborn child.  Talk about HIV and other STDs with each partner before you have sex.  Ask your partners if they have recently been tested for HIV; encourage those who have not been tested to do so. Use a latex condom and lubricant every time you have sex.  Get tested for HIV once a year.

The good news is that many women with HIV are living longer and stronger lives. With proper care and treatment, many women can continue to take care of themselves and others.

Let’s continue to do everything we can to make HIV/AIDS history.

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Sources:  http://www.hivaware.org.uk/be-aware/faqs.php; http://www.womenshealth.gov/hiv-aids; http://www.who.int/gender/hiv_aids/en/; http://www.amfar.org/about_hiv_and_aids/facts_and_stats/statistics__women_and_hiv_aids/; http://hiv411.org/page.php?pID=30; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gia_Carangi; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Virgin_cleansing_myth