Saturday Mailbox

SATURDAY MAILBOX

June 09, 2007

Circumcision curbs spread of HIV/AIDS

As a native of Nigeria and a doctor working for an international health organization affiliated with the Johns Hopkins University, I was very encouraged to read Michael Gerson's column supporting male circumcision as a tool to prevent HIV and AIDS in Africa ("Fight AIDS in Africa with circumcision," Opinion * Commentary, June 4).

JHPIEGO has been working to promote safe, comprehensive male circumcision services since 2003, when it began working with Zambia's Ministry of Health to improve the quality of and access to male circumcision and male reproductive health services in that country.

In March of this year, citing results from three clinical trials that found that male circumcision reduces female-to-male HIV transmission by 60 percent, the World Health Organization and UNAIDS recommended that countries with a high prevalence of HIV begin offering free or subsidized circumcisions.

For those of us working in Africa, our immediate concern is about how to move quickly from research to practice.

We need to provide safe, pain-free and affordable male circumcision services.

We also need to make it clear to men and their communities that this procedure does not provide 100 percent protection - and that they will also need to take other steps to reduce their risk.

Still, male circumcision can become be an entry point to offering other male reproductive health services, such as encouraging safer sex and screening and treatment for sexually transmitted infections.

Mr. Gerson is correct when he says, "When it comes to AIDS, circumcision is the kindest cut."

Let's seize the opportunity to rapidly scale up male circumcision services and get men more involved in HIV prevention and reproductive health.

Dr. Emmanuel Oladipo Otolorin

Abuja, Nigeria

The writer is country director for Nigeria for JHPIEGO.

Make energy sellers accountable again

Thomas A. Firey's flawed assumptions about energy are akin to those that led to our state's failed deregulation plan in the first place ("'BGE ratepayers, behold the man," Opinion * Commentary, June 1).

Mr. Firey attributes the lower rates in states with regulated energy prices to their reliance on cheaper energy sources.

However, Maryland relies on much the same cheap sources of energy.

We need to take steps now to restore accountability to the electricity market.

The Public Service Commission must require the utility companies to develop long-term plans to ensure reliable electric service at the least possible cost and develop a plan for public power in Maryland.

Fundamentally, we also need to use energy more wisely.

New York Gov. Elliot Spitzer recently announced that his state would reduce energy use by 15 percent from forecast levels by 2015 through improved energy efficiency.

I call on Gov. Martin O'Malley to pledge a 20 percent reduction in Maryland's energy use by 2020 through efficiency and conservation.

Johanna E. Neumann

Baltimore

The writer is a policy advocate for the Maryland Public Interest Research Group.

O'Malley's PSC works just like the old one

Does Fred Mason, the president of the Maryland and District of Columbia AFL-CIO, actually believe that Gov. Martin O'Malley's Public Service Commission will do any better for consumers than former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.'s did, in light of the fact that Constellation Energy gave large contributions to both the O'Malley and Ehrlich gubernatorial campaigns ("BGE rates arrive quietly," June 1)?

It is unfortunate that liberal groups such as the Maryland Public Interest Research Group, the AFL-CIO and Progressive Maryland seem more concerned with staying on the good side of Mr. O'Malley than in truly fighting for the right of ratepayers to have a regulated or publicly owned market.

Aren't citizens tired of such behavior from folks who are supposed to be on our side?

Cindy Sheehan recently spoke of her sense of betrayal by the national Democratic Party concerning the war.

On the energy deregulation issue, we are seeing this very same kind of betrayal by Democratic Party leaders and followers on the state level.

Brandy Baker

Baltimore

The writer is a member of the Maryland Coalition to Stop the Rate Hikes and a former Green Party candidate for state delegate.

ABATE is working to make roads safer

The Sun's editorial "Collision course" (May 31) suggests that instead of trying to modify the state's mandatory motorcycle helmet law, groups such as ABATE of Maryland should be "pushing for programs to make the roads safer."

Statements such as this one perpetuate the misguided notion that ABATE members are only "the helmet guys."

However, in fact, ABATE:

Was instrumental in the formation of Maryland's Motorcycle Safety Program, has fought to keep it viable and strongly suggests that all motorcyclists in the state take the course.

Has had some of its board members work with the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration assessment of the Maryland Motorcycle Safety Program.

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