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The QueQue: Democrats shimmy, shake to new map, Gonzalez’s retirement, Free testing in SA on World AIDS day

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It’s relief mixed with a mild dose of uncertainty. State Attorney General Gregg Abbott asked the U.S. Supreme Court Monday to stop the implementation of the new court-drawn maps. “It is judicial activism at its worst for judges to draw redistricting maps of their own choosing despite no finding of wrongdoing by the state of Texas,” Abbott said in a prepared release. Groups involved in the redistricting case have until Thursday to respond. Meanwhile, candidates across the state are starting to file. And the Supremes may prove reluctant to grant Abbott his emergency stay with primary battles already forming, Michael Li, an elections lawyer and close redistricting watcher, told the Express-News this week. “It’s harder to put the genie back in the bottle.”

 

Free testing in SA on World AIDS day

More than 1.1 million Americans are living with AIDS today, and with all we understand about transmission, it’s hard to fathom that the number of new HIV infections in San Antonio continue along an ugly plateau virtually unabated with hundreds of new cases each year. Within Latino and African-American communities the current transmission rates is as much as three times higher than among the white population. Vanessa Gonzales, director of prevention for the San Antonio AIDS Foundation, says that increase among Latinos is partly linked to a lingering stigma about the disease (“This has always been known as a gay man’s disease,” she said), language barriers (“They don’t get access to the info and don’t get access to testing”) and patterns of “dating closer to home” among both blacks and Latinos. Yet it can be difficult to track the rates of new infections to gauge whether or not outreach efforts are being successful. The most recent data available through the city’s Metro Health department, for instance, dates to 2009.

While new AIDS diagnoses peaked in the 1990s (in the 300-400 per year range) they’ve since declined to about 200 per year, according to Metro Health statistics. Meanwhile, new HIV infections continue at a pace well above what was seen in the 1990s. There were 312 new HIV infections diagnosed in 2009. It’s a number that’s stayed elevated well over 1990 figures since 2000.

Also troubling is the continued rise in syphilis cases diagnosed in SA: 705 in 2009, compared to under 400 in 2007, and just above 200 in 2003. Considering these are mostly 20-somethings being diagnosed, it’s not a stretch to suggest that public-school educations play a factor. According to the Texas Freedom Network Education Fund, only 3.6 percent of Texas schools taught any form of sex ed (outside the “don’t do it” abstinence-only variety that doesn’t qualify as education) during the 2008-2009 school year. “What we found was that most abstinence-only programs don’t provide accurate information about [contraceptive] effectiveness. If they mention them at all, they say there’s no evidence to suggest they work,” said Dan Quinn, TFN’s communications director. “They suggest things like boys are microwaves and girls are like crock-pots, they heat up more slowly so it’s up to them to shut [the boys] down.” Fortunately, the number of districts offering sex ed has grown to 25 percent last school year, according to data collected by the Texas Education Agency and released by TFN. In San Antonio, for instance, San Antonio Independent School District made the switch to abstinence-“plus” education from abstinence-only. NEISD continues offering ab-plus, according to TFN. Back in the stone ages? Northside ISD. (A call to confirm was still unreturned by press deadline.)

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