Author: Josh Boegner

What you need to know about SESTA and the recent seizure of Backpage

Late last week, classified ad website Backpage.com went offline after being seized and disabled due to an “enforcement action by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, and the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation Division”. Backpage.com is known for personal ads, and was considered by many to be the dominant online platform for sex workers to advertise their services.

Various websites have been shutting down their personal ads section in response to the Stop Enabling Sex Trafficking Act (SESTA), which has taken aim at online platforms as a playing a perceived role in sex trafficking and prostitution. While many advocates have been fighting SESTA for a large part of the year, awareness seems to be low of the laws implications among the general population.

Advocates against SESTA argue that the act will do more harm than good in regards to the safety of sex workers. Online platforms for sex work have been viewed as safer than street based sex work, allowing for screening of potential clients. Others have argued that SESTA would limit online free speech, arguing that it would require platforms to put strong restrictions on users’ speech, extending beyond the space of personal ads. If you’re interested in seeing what you can do stop SESTA, check out https://stopsesta.org for more information on how to contact your elected officials.

 

Sources – Buzzfeed News: Backpage Has Been Taken Down By The US Government And Sex Workers Aren’t Happy – https://www.buzzfeed.com/blakemontgomery/backpage-service-disruption?utm_term=.mceyodXp#.bkjAQmNK

App Grindr under scrutiny over privacy concerns

In an article published yesterday by BuzzFeed News, it was released that Gay Dating App Grindr has been sharing its users’ HIV status with two outside companies, a move which many consider dangerous to the queer community that the app claims to serve.

The sites, Apptimize and Localytics, work with Grindr to optimize the app and user experience. While it has been noted that these companies do not share information with third parties, there are still concerns with the sharing of sensitive information of a historically vulnerable population. This could raise flags for users sharing their HIV status on the app, which could negatively impact public health interventions that work to reduce HIV transmission and stigma.

Grindr recently announced that they would remind users to get tested for HIV every three to six months, offering a cue to action for users to be more aware of their HIV status. Knowing ones status is a crucial component for reducing the number of new HIV infections, such as by offering the opportunity to those who are living with HIV to be connected to care and achieve viral suppression.

 

Sources:

BuzzFeed News: Grindr Is Sharing The HIV Status Of Its Users With Other Companies –https://www.buzzfeed.com/azeenghorayshi/grindr-hiv-status-privacy?bfsplash&utm_term=.eu9v16ZaQ#.akvOQgNJj

Medicaid Expansion and the Opioid Epidemic in the U.S.

As the United States continues to be embattled in an ongoing opioid overdose epidemic, new research is showing the benefits that Medicaid expansion has had under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA). According to a recent study out of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, the rate in which patients who were hospitalized due to opioid-related health issues, who were uninsured dropped in states that expanded Medicaid, from 13.4% in 2013 to 2.9% the following year. The same study also showed that Medicaid expansion had not contributed to the ongoing opioid crisis, showing that opioid-related hospitalizations were higher in states that expanded Medicaid three years before expansion occurred, and that the rates had been steady in expansion and non-expansion states. As we can see, Medicaid expansion has had a profound impact in reducing the rate of uninsured, and in the case of the ongoing Opioid epidemic, Medicaid plays a key and vital role in working to help curb the epidemic. For more information on this study from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, please check out the link below.

Sources:

Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, Medicaid Expansion Dramatically Increased Covered for People with Opioid-Use Disorders, Latest Data Shows – https://www.cbpp.org/research/health/medicaid-expansion-dramatically-increased-coverage-for-people-with-opioid-use

Achieving Health Equity and Justice through the Reproductive Justice Framework: keynote by Monica Raye Simpson

This past Friday marked the 39th annual Minority Health Conference, which is the largest and longest run student-led health conference in the world. This year’s 20th annual William T. Small Jr. keynote speaker was Monica Raye Simpson, who is the executive director of SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective, gave a keynote address titled: “Achieving Health Equity and Justice through the Reproductive Justice Framework”. In the talk, Simpson gave an energetic and powerful where she gave a history of the Reproductive Justice framework, and how her own life experiences shaped how she approaches her work. One of her main points was how the Reproductive Justice Framework’s focus on centering those who are the most marginalized is critical for the field of Public Health, in order to overcome health inequities. In case you were not able to attend the event in person, the keynote speech is available for broadcast in the link below, moderated by yours truly.

Sources: https://sph.unc.edu/sph-webcast/2018-02-23_mhc/

Adam Rippon: America’s Olympic Sweetheart

During the 2018 Winter Olympics that have been happening in Pyeongchang, South Korea, American Figure Skater Adam Rippon has stolen the hearts and minds of many, including this writer. But beyond his charming persona and impressive skating abilities, Rippon has brought visibility to other queer athletes by being the first openly gay athlete to compete in the Games.

Rippon presents by what is defined as stereotypically gay: often using more “feminine” mannerisms and speaking with what can be called the “gay lisp”. At the same time, he is being praised not just for his personality and looks, but also his athleticism, a praise that is often withheld from gay men who do not present in ways that are more heteronormative.

I look forward to seeing what other heights Rippon can reach, and what he will continue to do with the platform that he has amassed. If you’re interested in more reading on this topic, I would highly recommend the article below.

Sources:

them. How a Fabulous, Femme Gay Man Finally Became America’s Sweetheart – https://www.them.us/story/how-a-femme-gay-man-became-americas-new-sweetheart

STOP Act: Implementation and Effects on the Opioid Epidemic in North Carolina

The rise of the opioid epidemic nationwide has led to an increase of attention from both media and policy makers. Here in North Carolina, a recently passed policy is the Strengthen Opioid Misuse Prevention, or STOP Act, which aims to reduce the amount of Opioids prescribed a one approach to tackle the epidemic. The STOP Act was signed into law by Governor Roy Cooper on June 29, 2017, and since then its four stage implementation has been put into effect, which will continue until 2020.

The first step of implementation occurred almost immediately after the law’s passage, on July 1st 2017, requiring Physician Assistants (PAs) and Nurse Practitioners (NPs) to personally consult with a supervising physician. This applied to Pas and NPs at facilities that primarily engage in treating pain, and the prescription will, or is expected to, last longer than 30 days. Additionally, PAs and NPs have to consult with a supervising physician every 90 days for patients for are continuously prescribed opioids.  Providers are also required to provide information on the disposal of controlled substances, both written and orally, when a patient concludes a course of treatment. The second aspect, implemented on September 1st, 2017, requires that pharmacies report targeted prescriptions to the North Carolina Controlled Substance Reporting System within a day of the prescription is dispensed.

The most recent aspect of the STOP Act was implemented on January 1st, 2018, and limits the amount of opioids prescribed for acute pain. Practitioners are not able to prescribe more than five days’ worth of any Schedule II or III Opioid or Narcotic, with an exception to things like pain after surgery, where the prescription cannot for longer than seven days. The final part of the law will be implemented on January 1st, 2020, and will require practitioners to electronically prescribed targeted controlled substances, with a few exceptions.

While it is still unclear what impact the law will have on overdose deaths in the state, it appears that the State government is attempting to address this issue. While more resources could be devoted to mental health services, naloxone access and syringe exchanges, and more programs geared toward injecting drug users rather than only those who use prescription drugs, it’s commendable that a joint effort was reached to combat this ongoing epidemic.

 

Sources:

New! Summary of NC’s new opioids law, the STOP Act: North Carolina Medical Board – https://www.ncmedboard.org/resources-information/professional-resources/publications/forum-newsletter/notice/new-summary-of-ncs-new-opioids-law-the-stop-act

FAQs: The STOP Act of 2017: North Carolina Medical Board – https://www.ncmedboard.org/resources-information/professional-resources/publications/forum-newsletter/article/faqs-the-stop-act-of-2017

STOP Act Provision Takes Effect Jan. 1, Will Limit Opioid Prescriptions: NC Governor Roy Cooper – https://governor.nc.gov/news/stop-act-provision-takes-effect-jan-1-will-limit-opioid-prescriptions

STOP Act Bill Summary: North Carolina Medical Board – https://www.ncmedboard.org/images/uploads/article_images/The_STOP_Act_summary-OnLetterhead.pdf

 

In 2018, is “Time Up” for the Grammy Awards?

Last Sunday marked the 60th Annual Grammy Awards presented by the Recording Academy. After the show ended, a number of pieces were shared across the web regarding the breakdown of winners. While Award Shows such as this year’s Golden Globes offering a timely critique of the violation of power, with bold statements of (TimesUp), the Grammys seemed to stumble to acknowledge the inherent misogyny in the Music Industry.

Lorde, who was nominated for Album of the Year for (Melodrama), did not perform because she was not offered a space to perform a song from her album. All of the other nominees in the category were men, and were offered a space to perform (Important to note: Jay-Z reportedly declined an offer to perform).

At a mid-point of the evening, the President of the Recording Academy addressed viewers, and gave a speech where women were encouraged to [come forward and share their truth]. But these words did not seem to correlate with the evening’s award winners. Of the categories awarded on the live broadcast on CBS, only one went to a female artist, with Alessia Cara taking home the trophy for Best New Artist. Even this win has had its fair share of criticism, with break-out star SZA having lost to Cara, and failing to take home a single award, after being the female artist with the most nominations at five.

At the very least, this year’s Grammy Awards felt dated. Some may argue that those who are voting members of The Recording Academy are out of touch with modern music, instead basing artistic value in forms of music that are more “respectable” and “tolerable” to white male audiences. If you have yet to read about this controversy in the Music Industry, I have included some further reading below.

 

Sources:

The New York Times- Grammy 2018 Winners: Full List – https://www.nytimes.com/2018/01/28/arts/music/grammy-winners.html

Spin Magazine – Grammys Producer on Lorde-Less Show: “There’s No Way We Can Really Deal With Everybody – https://www.spin.com/2018/01/grammys-lorde-snub-theres-no-way-we-can-deal-with-everybody/

Vox – 3 Reasons Why The 2018 Grammys Fell So Flat – https://www.vox.com/culture/2018/1/29/16943952/2018-grammys-recap-awards-winners-losers-boring

Practicing Mindfulness for the Holidays

In last week’s blog, I shared a series of articles by Kesha, one of which was an essay she wrote regarding how the holidays can be a time of added stress for those living with mental illness. It’s the time of the year we are encouraged to spend with family and friends, surrounding ourselves with people who love us. But in getting caught up with all of the hustle and bustle, with all the lights and gifts, it can be easy to forget about finding time to take care of ourselves in the process.

There have been a number of posts that have appeared this semester on this blog regarding mindfulness, including one from Andrew regarding The Magic of Mindfulness, where he shared some of the benefits of practicing mindfulness meditation.

Below I have some more resources regarding practicing mindfulness, with a specific emphasis on this time of the year. I hope that they can be of some help to all of you for taking some time for some self-care, I know I need it after this semester. With that in mind, I look forward to sharing more posts again starting in January, and wish you all a safe and wonderful holiday season.

Mindfulness Resources –

Huffington Post: The 2 C’s Of Mindfulness For Healthier, Happier Holidays – https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/the-4-cs-of-mindfulness-for-healthier-happier-holidays_us_5853eb22e4b0d5f48e164e76

8 Mindfulness Tips During the Holidays – https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/urban-survival/201612/8-mindfulness-tips-during-the-holidays

5 Mindful Tips for Navigating Holiday Stress – https://www.mindful.org/5-mindful-tips-navigating-holiday-stress/

From Ke$ha to Kesha: A Glitter Queen’s Ascension to Self-Care Goddess

Last week, pop-artist Kesha authored a piece for Time on the added pressure of the Holiday season for those living with Mental Illness. In the piece, she discusses the added pressures that this time of year can add, but you might be asking yourself, who is Kesha to give me life advice?

Following a year that included a highly publicized comeback single, accompanied by her second Number One album, a critically proclaimed tour, and her first Grammy nominations, one could say things are going well for the artist who’s early career was built on electro-pop and a quirky party girl aesthetic. While her new album highlights overcoming personal struggles and finding self-acceptance, it has not been all Rainbows for Kesha.

While promoting her albums upcoming release over the summer, Kesha released a series of letters to fans regarding each single that dropped, sharing an intimate and personal look into the process of how she turned her pain into art. She touched on her time in rehab for an eating disorder, her struggles with mental illness, and her decision to drop the $ from her name. Starting with a piece published in Lenny Letter opening up about depression, finding empathy, and the process of turning pain into art through Praying, to a piece from Rolling Stone where she shared about her idols and Female Empowerment in Woman, to Learning to Let Go and defining her own mantras in Huffington Post, to sharing in Mic on feeling like an outcast and her passion for equality on Hymn, and finishing with a piece in Refinery29 regarding the album’s title track, Kesha provided fans with a detailed look into her songwriting process and personal life.

In being vulnerable, Kesha not only reminds us that there is a reason to keep fighting when things are not going well, but also continues an ongoing effort to destigmatize mental health. Through her songs and her form of blogging, Kesha showed the world the destruction of perfectionism and the benefits of radical self-love.

But rest assured: I can speak from seeing her in concert this fall that our girl still loves her glitter. Here’s to continue to rooting for her to continue reaching for the stars and shining bright for her fans in years to come.

Sources:

Kesha: The Holidays Are Hard If You Struggle With Mental Illness. Don’t Blame Yourself: http://time.com/5041017/kesha-self-care-holidays/

Kesha Fights Back in Her New Single, “Praying”: http://www.lennyletter.com/culture/a904/kesha-is-back-with-a-new-single-praying/

Read Kesha’s Poignant Essay About Celebratory New Song ‘Woman”: http://www.rollingstone.com/music/premieres/read-keshas-poignant-essay-about-celebratory-new-song-woman-w491950

Learn to Let Go: https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/kesha-learn-to-let-go_us_59790480e4b02a8434b3841f

Read Kesha’s essay on her new single “Hymn” – a song for “people who feel like outcasts”: https://mic.com/articles/183195/kesha-essay-new-single-hymn-for-people-who-feel-like-outcasts#.D1hhvBGGM

Kesha: “What’s Left Of My Heart Is Fucking Pure Gold & No One Can Touch That”: http://www.refinery29.com/2017/08/167127/kesha-rainbow-lyrics-meaning-album-inspiration

World AIDS Day 2017

Friday, December 1st marks the annual observation of World AIDS day. Since starting in 1988, World AIDS Day has provided an opportunity to support those living with HIV, and to commemorate individuals who have died from AIDS-related illnesses. It is estimated that there are nearly 37 million people worldwide living with HIV, and more than 35 million people have died of HIV or AIDS.

The theme for this year’s World AIDS Day is Let’s End It, to promote ending isolation, stigma, and HIV transmission. With advances in HIV treatment and prevention continuing to increase, the fight against stigma and discrimination that people living with HIV experience. This stigma also discourages people from getting tested for HIV. Regular HIV testing is important, since early detection of the virus, and subsequent early treatment, are vital from both an individual and a public health perspective. Those with an undetectable viral load, where the amount of HIV in their blood cannot be detected with current technologies, are unable to transmit the virus to others.

Here at UNC, the Student Health Action Coalition (SHAC) HIV is partnering with Student Wellness to provide Free HIV testing on Friday. The event will be in the Great Hall in the Student Union from 10:00 am – 4:30 pm, testing in confidential and quick. Stop by, get tested, know your status, and help fight HIV stigma! #LetsEndIt #TarHeelsGetTested

 

Sources –

World AIDS Day – https://www.worldaidsday.org/