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Highlights from the world's press

Compiled by Ravi Agrawal for CNN
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(CNN) -- The announcement yesterday about the results in two African studies of male circumcision may be the most important development in AIDS research since the debut of antiretroviral drugs more than a decade ago, says The New York Times.

The National Institutes of Health halted studies in Uganda and Kenya when it became overwhelmingly clear that circumcision significantly reduces men's chances of catching HIV.

"Until now, efforts at AIDS prevention have largely failed. Little wonder. It requires people to resolve -- every day -- either not to have sex or to use condoms. Circumcision, by contrast, is a one-time procedure. It is familiar and widely accepted all over the world, even by groups who do not practice it. And safe circumcision does not require a doctor. Community workers and traditional healers can be trained to do the operation safely and given the correct tools.

"For years, the holy grail of AIDS prevention has been a vaccine, even one that is only 50 to 60 percent effective. A real vaccine is years away. But as of yesterday, we know its near equivalent exists. International donors and governments should join together to spread the good news about circumcision and make the procedure available everywhere."

And South Africa's Mercury says the country's Treatment Action Campaign cautions that being circumcised does not mean men are wholly protected from HIV.

"Even if circumcision reduces the risk of infection during any one sexual encounter, risky behaviour such as sex with multiple partners without using a condom is likely to lead to HIV infection. Any circumcision campaign in Africa would also have to navigate complicated ethnic terrain. Some tribal groups use traditional circumcision to mark the transition to manhood, others reject it."

Ipswich Murders

In the UK, the murder of five women in the vicinity of Ipswich, eastern England, has prompted the biggest police investigation since last year's London bombings, says The Independent. The paper says the fact that the women who died were all described as prostitutes reflects how far British attitudes have changed.

"It was striking that no sooner had the second woman's body been found than the victims were being described at first mention as prostitutes rather than as women. Some felt that this was to define them by their way of life rather than their humanity, and that their lives were somehow seen as being worth less because of their line of business. Since then, the discussion has broadened. Should the women be referred to as prostitutes at all, or would it be preferable to refer to them as 'sex workers'?"

An editorial in The Times says epithets tend to push a person away, and needn't be used at all.

"I am not advocating euphemism. Woolly words such as 'sex worker' will soon attract the same opprobrium as the terms they replace, and lose their wool. Nor am I suggesting we hide what those women in Suffolk did for a living. It is central to the case, it is what has linked the murders, and in a grisly way it fascinates. Any report should be unsparing and the language honest... But in the headline, in the opening sentence, couldn't we at least start by calling a victim what she mainly was: a woman?"

The Guardian says the reaction to the murders shows tentative signs that Britain is now readier to see street prostitutes as victims, rather than as perpetrators or people responsible for their own position.

"The front of today's Daily Mirror shows one of the women murdered with her three children -- as a family women first, and a prostitute only second. The Sun's coverage still sets 'vice girls' on the one hand, against 'ordinary women' on the other. But, perhaps reflecting changes in its readers' outlooks, even this most reactionary of papers takes care to chart the individual histories of these women, explaining their predicament on the streets in terms of difficulties in their past."

Annan's Legacy

The UAE's Khaleej Times says it is not easy to judge if outgoing U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan is leaving the organization stronger than the one he inherited.

"[Annan] accepts that the U.N. has been largely ineffective in dealing with some of the most pressing crises on the international arena, like the violence in Africa and the never-ending Arab-Israeli conflict. Having said that, it can be argued that there are ways in which the U.N. has made considerable strides forward under him. He was quick to reinvigorate the organization's lazy bureaucracy. And even though the success of his initiatives can be debated, he has done more than most people to divert world attention and much needed money to the suffering African continent, especially the AIDS problem there."

Newsday says that in his farewell speech as the U.N.'s leader Annan was right to warn the U.S. that's its' lead in the global human-rights movement can only be maintained if America remains true to its principles, as well as chiding Washington for its unilateral approach to diplomacy.

"But Annan leaves a murky legacy. He has conceded he has failed to summon up effective action against the genocide in Darfur. And his reputation has been tarnished by his role in the multibillion-dollar Iraq oil-for-food boondoggle, the biggest scandal in U.N. history. Too bad."

Annan leaves a "murky legacy" at the U.N., says Newsday.

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