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Cablegate: Madrid Public Health Tidbits

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

UNCLAS MADRID 003835

SIPDIS

DEPARTMENT FOR OES/IHA, EUR/WE, AND THE OFFICE OF THE
GLOBAL AIDS COORDINATOR

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: SOCI KHIV SP
SUBJECT: MADRID PUBLIC HEALTH TIDBITS

REF: MADRID 3817

1. Madrid's ESTH Officer periodically groups together and
reports ESTH developments that might otherwise "fall below
the reporting bar." Key issues will continue to be reported
via "stand alone" cables. ESTH Officer Ken Forder welcomes
feedback at forderk@state.gov.

2. INDEX:

A. HIV infection rate continues to decline.
B. Euthanasia Debate.
C. 46 percent of Spain's Children Obese or Overweight.

-------------------------------------------
A. HIV INFECTION RATE CONTINUES TO DECLINE
-------------------------------------------

3. The Health Ministry announced that 2,190 persons were
diagnosed as carrying the HIV virus in 2003, a 5.2 percent
decline from the 2,311 new infections reported in 2002.
Approximately half of the new infections were believed to
have been caused by drug addicts sharing syringes. The
infection rate peaked in 1994 with 7,401 new infections
diagnosed. The Health Ministry acknowledged, however, that
its figures under-report the "real" infection rate, which
some claim could be as high as approximately 4,000 new
infections a year. Perhaps even more alarming, the Ministry
reported that 60 percent of those diagnosed with AIDS had
been unaware that they had been carrying the HIV virus. This
supports the arguments of those who believe Spain's official
HIV infection rate underestimates the true gravity of the
nation's HIV/AIDS situation.

---------------------
B. EUTHANASIA DEBATE
---------------------

4. Vice President Maria Teresa Fernandez de la Vega, Spain's
number two ranking leader, told a press conference that her
Socialist Party Government would not/not soon propose the
legalization of euthanasia, given that it is a "complicated
and very delicate subject" on which there is "no social
consensus." Other PSOE leaders supported de la Vega, but
indicated that the ruling party would propose that the issue
be debated in Congress. Euthanasia in Spain has received
much attention in the aftermath of an award winning Spanish
film ("The Sea Within") portraying one man's battle with the
State for permission to be euthanized. Article 143 of the
Spanish Penal Code proscribes punishments of six to ten years
for persons who assist others to die. However, the same
article permits lesser sentences in cases where it was clear
that the deceased consented and had been suffering from a
terminal condition. Many persons within the ruling PSOE and
some of Spain's smaller leftist parties have long pressed for
changing Article 143 to decriminalize euthanasia. De la
Vega's comments appear to rule that out, at least for now.

--------------------------------------------- ---------
c. 46 PERCENT OF SPAIN'S CHILDREN OBESE OR OVERWEIGHT
--------------------------------------------- ---------

5. A study released by the "Spanish Society for the Study of
Obesity" reported that 16 percent of Spanish children between
the ages of six and 12 suffered from obesity, a five-fold
increase over the past 20 years. The obesity rate of
children in Spain has now reportedly surpassed that of adults
(14.5 percent). An additional 30 percent of Spanish children
were considered overweight. According to the study, within
the EU, only the United Kingdom (18 percent) has a higher
child obesity rate than Spain. Health Minister Elena Salgado
was reported to be "very worried" by the results of the
study.
ARGYROS

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