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      3.1 Million Venezuelans Cast Votes in Primaries for United Socialist Party of Venezuela

      29 June, 2015 (TeleSUR English)

      Ahead of national legislative elections that will be held Dec. 6, the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) held its primary election Sunday, with over 3.1 million casting their vote to select the party’s candidates.

      The president of Venezuela’s National Assembly, Diosdado Cabello, reported the turnout, with other officials and socialist supporters going to social media to post pictures of the long queues at polling stations.

      The right-wing opposition coalition, known as MUD, also held its primaries in May, but registered a lower turnout with 543,000 voters. From the 1,162 candidates registered for these primary elections, 98 were chosen to run as candidates on behalf of the PSUV, the largest political party in Latin America with over 7 million members.

      The primaries were staged in 87 districts across the country with gender and age quotas to facilitate female and younger candidates. During his speech on Sunday, Cabello added that around 30 percent of the elected PSUV candidates were women.

      The PSUV has gone to great lengths to promote inclusiveness in these primary elections, especially among women and youth, with only 15 percent of candidates above the age of 50 and more than half being women. In contrast, more than 80 percent of the candidates for the right-wing MUD were above the age of 50.

      The PSUV must win at least two thirds of the National Assembly — some 111 seats — to maintain the absolute majority required to approve laws, among other legal instrument.

      Illiteracy Rate Drops to Historic Lows in Bolivia

      17 June 2015 (TeleSUR English)

      Bolivia recorded this week that its illiteracy level has fallen to 3.12 percent of the population, the lowest the country has ever seen, Education Minister Roberto Aguilar announced Monday, adding that it is a major achievement for the country whose illiteracy rate was closer to 13 percent less than 10 years ago.

      “In 2005 we started with an illiteracy rate of nearly 13 percent,” said Aguilar. “This year the illiteracy rate is 3.12 percent. Out of 100 people, three are illiterate, and of these three, two are over 65.” However, the education minister regretted that illiteracy rates are highest among women, with three out of every four illiterate persons being female.

      Aguilar attributed Bolivia’s educational success to the social policies of President Evo Morales – who has been in power since 2006 – and his creation of a Plurinational State, which granted more power to the various cultures and ethnicities within the country.

      Bolivia was declared officially illiteracy free in 2008 when it recorded that only 3.8 percent of its population was unable to read or write. Since 2008, that number has been getting progressively lower. According to UNESCO, the cultural branch of the United Nations, countries are deemed free of illiteracy when the rate is less than four percent.

      Cuba Has Officially Eradicated HIV Transmission to Babies: WHO

      June 30, 2015 (Granma News)

      The World Health Organization says Cuba has just scored a huge victory in the global battle against HIV and syphilis. Cuba became the first country in the world Tuesday to be recognized by the World Health Organization (WHO) for eliminating mother- to-child transmission of HIV and syphilis.

      “This is a major victory in our long fight against HIV and sexually transmitted infections, and an important step towards having an AIDS-free generation” said Margaret Chan, WHO Director-General.

      According to the WHO, Cuba’s mother-to-child transmission rate of HIV is now below 2 percent of births, while syphilis transmission is less than 0.5 percent. Just two babies were born with HIV in Cuba in 2013, while 5 were born with syphilis, according to figures verified by the WHO and the Pan American Health Organization. Michel Sidibe, Executive Director of the United Nations program UNAIDS, described Cuba’s achievement as “a celebration for children and families everywhere.” “It shows that ending the AIDS epidemic is possible and we expect Cuba to be the first of many countries coming forward to seek validation that they have ended their epidemics among children,” Sidibe said.

      The WHO first announced they believed Cuba would be eligible for recognition in March, but until now has withheld confirmation while it conducted an in-depth review of the country’s health data.

      Worldwide, close to 1.4 million women with HIV become pregnant every year. Without specialized treatment, there is a 15-45 percent chance a HIV positive mother will pass the disease to their baby, either before birth or during breast feeding. Comparably, around 1 million women with syphilis become pregnant, according to the WHO. In a statement, the WHO said Cuba’s milestone in combating these two diseases was achieved through guaranteed comprehensive prenatal care for mothers, including testing for HIV and syphilis.

      “These services are provided as part of an equitable, accessible and universal health system in which maternal and child health programs are integrated with programs for HIV and sexually transmitted infections,” the statement read.

      The milestone shows that the fight against some of the world’s worst diseases is winnable, according to Pan American Health Organization director Carissa Etienne. “Cuba’s success demonstrates that universal access and universal health coverage are feasible and indeed are the key to success, even against challenges as daunting as HIV."

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