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A Decade of PEPFAR and Young People: What’s working and what isn’t
Friday, 24 May 2013 12:03

by Janine Kossen, Director of Public Policy

PEPFAR—the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief—officially turns ten on May 27th, the date when President George W. Bush signed it into law. It’s a remarkable milestone given that many global health and development programs never make it out of their infancy. With the program now entering its pre-teen years, it’s the perfect time to take stock of its efforts to reach young people in their second decade of life.

Over the past ten years, we have witnessed dramatic scientific advances in the fight against HIV and AIDS, spurring renewed hope that the end of AIDS is in sight. These advances, coupled with the U.S. Government’s Blueprint for Achieving an AIDS-Free Generation and the recently-released Institute of Medicine evaluation of PEPFAR, offer real promise for the way forward.

This promise, however, is in real jeopardy. Several years of level and/or decreased funding threaten the successes PEPFAR has achieved to date. While politicians wrangle over funding and policy decisions in Washington, HIV continues to take its toll on our families, our communities, and our nations, particularly among young people. Despite declines in HIV prevalence among young people in recent years, 15-24 year-olds continue to account for four in ten new infections around the globe. This is simply unacceptable.

50 Days of Action for Women and Girls, Continued!
Tuesday, 21 May 2013 07:21

It’s Week 6 of 50 Days of Action for Women and Girls, a campaign to  demonstrate mass support for policies and programs that will allow women and girls to be healthy, empowered, educated, and safe.

How can you get involved?

  • Follow the conversation at #usa4women and use these sample tweets: 
    • #SecKerry @statedept @usaid Approx. 14 mill. girls are married every year before they turn 18. #endchildmarriage #usa4girls #usa4women
    • #SecKerry @statedept @usaid: Child brides are more vulnerable to #HIV #STI. US foreign policy must address early/forced marriage #usa4girls #endchildmarriage
An Open Letter to Joel Stein
Monday, 13 May 2013 06:46


In this week’s Time Magazine, Joel Stein took a look at the Millennial generation – and said that Millennials are “inactive” and “lack passion.”  Advocates’ President Debra Hauser wrote this open letter to Time Magazine and Joel Stein informing them otherwise!

Regarding your cover story, "The Me, Me, Me Generation": We're thrilled that Joel Stein took some time to get to know the Millennial generation, and that he recognizes their potential for greatness. But we were surprised and saddened by his assessment that Millennials are inactive and lack passion. We work with Millennial activists in all 50 states, on hundreds of college campuses, and in dozens of communities in the United States and around the world. Every day, we are inspired by their dedication and willingness to be the source of positive change. From campus activists in Texas who registered thousands of voters for the 2012 presidential election; to Eriauna, a young woman who bravely stands outside a Kentucky women's clinic every week defending women's right to access abortion care; to Chelsea and Lizzie, who rightfully defied their college's order to stop distributing condoms on their campus

On Plan B, politics trumps young women's health - again
Thursday, 02 May 2013 08:19

by Kate Stewart, Executive Vice President for Public Affairs

When I wrote about access to emergency contraception a year and a half ago, the Obama Administration had just overruled the FDA’s ruling that would have made Plan B available over the counter, without age restriction or ID requirements. With loaded remarks about “bubble gum and batteries,” the President had decided that Plan B had to remain locked up, accessible only to those who can prove they are 17 or older.

Since then the Administration’s decision-making has gone from bad to worse, continuing to allow politics to trump the health and well-being of young women. The events of this Spring and the moves by the Administration are truly mind-boggling.

First, in early April of this year, we all hailed a judge’s ruling that emergency contraception must be made available on store shelves within 30 days with no age or identification requirements. We thought – finally! – the decade long battle over emergency contraception has come to a close, and now young women and their partners will have access to back-up birth control without unnecessary and burdensome restrictions.

Not so fast. Earlier this week, the FDA, in a downgrade of its own 2011 ruling, announced that Plan B was approved for those with ID who could prove they were fifteen or older. Not so great.

Then last night, the Justice Department announced that it would appeal the judge’s April decision on emergency contraception being available over the counter with no age restrictions.

Never mind the absurdity of the picture the White House paints of a child buying a $50 pregnancy prevention medication from the drugstore, or that that same drugstore sells thousands of non-age-regulated chemicals and medicines which cost far less and pose far more danger to someone who uses them incorrectly. Never mind that science has shown that young people are capable of assessing when they need emergency contraception and using it appropriately (according to the FDA’s own 2011 ruling and to what its scientific staff have been recommending since 2004). And that the medical community supports making emergency contraception available with no age restriction.

The political machinations are dizzying. But forgotten are the real victims of this shell game: young women who need emergency contraception, for whom there is now one more barrier to preventing unintended pregnancy.

Illinois, Stop Sharing HIV+ Students' Status
Tuesday, 30 April 2013 07:27

by Diana Rhodes, Manager, State Strategies

Students in Illinois need your help to correct an outrageous violation of privacy.

Illinois is the ONLY state in which health authorities are required by law to notify school principals of the names of students that test HIV-positive. Their principals can then disclose the information to any school personnel they like.A bill before the senate, HB 61, would repeal this invasive and unnecessary requirement.

Urge the Illinois Senate to pass HB 61

Family Physicians Should Be Trained in Contraceptive Options
Friday, 26 April 2013 09:17

Last week we learned that the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME)--the organization that sets the training standards and accredits all residency training programs in the US-- is updating the training standards for those training in Family Medicine. Unfortunately, their proposed changes include weakening the existing standards so that they omit key requirements.

  • Training in contraception is no longer required. 
  • Training in providing pregnancy options counseling is no longer required. 
  • Training in IUD and contraceptive implant insertion (the two most effective contraceptive methods available) will continue to not be required. 
  •  Learning how to do a uterine evacuation, which can be used for miscarriage or abortion care, will continue to not be required.

It's especially important for young people, who already experience many barriers to care, that their family doctors understand these options so that they can stay healthy and avoid unintended pregnancy.  Along with dozens of health care and family planning advocacy groups, Advocates submitted comments to the ACGME urging them to revise their new requirements.

Take Action: Demand Health Equity for Peace Corps Volunteers
Friday, 26 April 2013 07:08

by Janine Jossen, Director, Public Policy, and Returned Peace Corps Volunteer

The two years I spent serving as a health volunteer with the Peace Corps in West Africa were some of the most formative years of my life. They fostered my sense of independence and resourcefulness, solidified my career and life goals, and taught me to question injustices, particularly those injustices that jeopardized the sexual and reproductive health and rights of young women and girls and placed them at an educational, economic, social, and political disadvantage. I never imagined that one day I would find myself questioning injustices faced by Peace Corps volunteers themselves.

More than 210,000 of us have served in the Peace Corps since its founding 52 years ago. As anyone can attest, Peace Corps volunteers provide an invaluable service to our country and the countries in which we serve, but we often do it at risk to our own safety and security. Over the past decade, more than 1,000 volunteers have experienced sexual assault. Women—who comprise more than 60 percent of the 8,000 currently serving volunteers—should never have to face the tragedy of a sexual assault, but if they do, they should be able to access comprehensive health care and support services. Yet, Peace Corps volunteers are now one of the only groups of women who receive their health care through the federal government who are denied coverage for abortion services in the cases of rape, incest, or life endangerment.

We must change this outrageously blatant discriminatory policy! Join me in demanding health equity and fairness for Peace Corps volunteers!

Statement: Access Denied for Peace Corps Volunteers
Thursday, 25 April 2013 12:29

Janine Kossen, Advocates for Youth’s Director of Public Policy, issued the following statement today regarding the introduction of the Peace Corps Equity Act:

“Advocates for Youth applauds U.S. Senators Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Patty Murray (D-WA), and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) for introducing the Peace Corps Equity Act, legislation which would repeal an inequitable restriction on women’s health and institute a technical fix to allow Peace Corps volunteers and trainees to access abortion in the case of rape, incest, or life endangerment.

The two years I spent serving as a volunteer with the Peace Corps in West Africa taught me to question injustices, particularly those injustices that jeopardize the sexual and reproductive health and rights of young women and girls. I never imagined that one day I would find myself questioning injustices faced by Peace Corps volunteers themselves.

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