Category: Sexual Health

5 Ways to Be an Advocate for Lesbians and other WSW in South Africa

In South Africa we are free. But in the communities that we are living in, we are not free”, Valisa Jara claims, referring to the targeted violence against lesbians, bisexual and women who have sex with women (WSW) in South Africa. Since 1998, at least thirty-one lesbians have been killed in attacks, many of which began with “corrective rape”- an assault in which a man rapes a lesbian, bisexual or WSW in an attempt to “cure” her sexual orientation.

According to research done by the Johannesburg based Forum for the Empowerment of Women, black lesbians who live in isolated townships, are particularly vulnerable. In addition, alarming rates of rape and sexual violence have resulted in high rates of HIV among lesbians and bisexual women in South Africa.

Despite the stigma and discrimination lesbian and other WSW experience in South Africa, they are still fighting for their human rights to be acknowledged and protected. So, with these challenges on the ground, what can we do to combat this violence and advocate for Lesbian and other WSW in South Africa?

1. Recognize South Africa’s homophobia is a colonial export. Same- sex relationships were historically prohibited in South Africa because of the sodomy laws inherited from the Dutch colonists. These laws impacted same-sex relations among various South African groups. We need to recognize the colonial underpinnings of homophobia and have honest discussions on human sexuality in the African context before, during and after the colonial period.

2. Be an Advocate and Act. President Cyril Ramaphosa recently said, “The LGBTI community in South Africa, as much we all have rights, is a community that still needs to be properly supported, properly positioned”. We can be engaged and empowered in the fight against WSW /lesbian stigma by joining advocacy and victim empowerment organizations like OUT, Coalition of African Lesbians (CAL), and others.

3. Educate children on sexual diversity through online platforms. According to a report by The Other Foundation, there is modest support for more education about the human rights and social inclusion of lesbian people in South Africa, both for learners in school as well as community based education. Mila, a website and app, which hosts a large series of videos that feature South Africans, tackling South African-centric issues, can be used to teach children about sexual diversity.

4. Support Reform Initiatives. In recent years, gruesome stories of murder and rape have grabbed South African headlines, but little has been done to improve the mechanisms to monitor hate crimes incidents. We can support multi-sectoral coalitions like the Hate Crimes Working Group which can act to prevent and to combat hate crimes by improving the policing of, and judicial responses to hate crimes; and assist in the development of effective mechanisms to monitor hate crimes incidents.

5. Be an Ally. Many Lesbian and other WSW feel confined by the complexity of intersecting injustices: lack of education, joblessness, powerlessness in family or community, and poverty. Donating to non-profit organization like Micro Rainbow International can help Lesbians and other WSW boost their income and economic opportunities through crowd-sourcing platforms.

By:

Marie Guiraud

 

For information, check out:

https://pulitzercenter.org/reporting/south-africa-fight-acceptance-rainbow-nation

https://bit.ly/2DpI8sQ

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3696027

https://www.out.org.za/index.php/about-out/programmes/advocacy

Home

https://www.outrightinternational.org/content/directory-organizations-relevant-human-rights-lgbt-people

 

New Technology: Consenting Condoms

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that approximately 30% of women will experience physical or sexual violence by either a partner or stranger. Organizations like the WHO, the United Nations, and Equality Now have all declared sexual violence as a global epidemic that needs to be addressed.

An Argentinian company, Tulipan, has attempted to answer this call. Tulipan developed a new condom to emphasize the importance of consent.  The innovative condom requires four hands to open; ideally this translates to two people working together to open the condom. Tulipan promoted their new product on social media with ads what quickly went viral.

While some are praising the company for considering consent when developing condoms, others are critiquing the product. One of the issues people have identified is the four handed approach itself, noting that not everyone has two hands or have the mobility to move their hands in the motions required by the packaging. Another common criticism is the idea of one-time consent versus ongoing consent. The act of consenting and opening the condom together could give the illusion that consent cannot be withdrawn, which is not only false, but a dangerous misunderstanding about what consent means.

Beyond consent, making condoms more difficult to use could result in decreased usage. If this were to happen, then rates of sexually transmitted diseases could increase. Regardless, Tulipan is helping start the conversation about consent and ending sexual violence. We are excited to see more from this company in the future!

By: Abbey Schneider

For more information, check out:

http://www.tulipan.com.ar/

https://www.who.int/reproductivehealth/publications/violence/VAW_infographic.pdf?ua=1

https://nypost.com/2019/04/04/this-consent-condom-takes-four-hands-to-open/

https://www.equalitynow.org/the_global_rape_epidemic_campaign?locale=en

https://www.chicagotribune.com/lifestyles/stevens/ct-life-stevens-thursday-consent-condom-criticism-0411-story.html

Erectile Dysfunction Meds: Should You Order Them Online?

You may have seen advertisements online or on your favorite podcast recently for new online services that promise to provide easy access to medicines for erectile dysfunction (ED) without the “embarrassment” of going in-person to a doctor. The websites for these companies are highly stylized, with a seeming desire to appeal to young adults, particularly web-savvy millennials. But is getting these medications online a good idea?

Drugs for ED available through these sites include sildenafil (both generic and as branded Viagra) and tadalafil (generic of the brand Cialis). Citing statistics that between 25-40% of men under age 40 experience ED, these websites promise to help manage this condition by making sure men get the right treatment.

But what if the treatment you get online for ED is not addressing the true cause of the condition? While a recent scientific review did estimate the prevalence of ED in young men as high as 30%, the key causes  are both psychogenic (depression, anxiety, and partner-related issues) and organic (more likely to be physiologically linked). In addition, some physicians caution that ED in young men may actually indicate an underlying health concern which may remain untreated if people simply seek drugs online.

The American Urological Association’s clinical guidelines  for ED recommend a “thorough medical, sexual, and psychological history; a physical examination; and selective laboratory testing” for evaluation and diagnosis (before treatment). Online companies do not provide this. In response to criticism, these companies say they are reducing the stigma associated with talking about these issues, as well as encouraging the identification of possible health conditions through screening.

This conversation will surely continue, with telemedicine access to drugs expanding. In fact, investors are betting on the size of the market for these medications online, with the latest valuation of one of the companies estimated at $1 billion dollars. In the future, getting your medication online without a visit to the doctor may be commonplace. Currently, though, medical associations have not made formal statements on the safety and quality of these websites. It might be more convenient to order your ED medication from one of these websites, but it still makes sense to go and visit a provider in person if you suspect an underlying health condition is impacting your sex life.

By: Alice Cartwright

December 1st is World AIDS Day

Yesterday was World AIDS Day, a global event that takes place each year on December 1st to raise awareness about HIV/AIDS, to honor those who have died from AIDS-related illness, and to show support for those living with HIV.

Globally, we have made advances in addressing the HIV/AIDS epidemic. New HIV infections have decreased by 47% since 1996, and deaths from AIDS-related illnesses have fallen more than 51% since 2004. We have made advances in HIV testing and prevention as well as antiretroviral treatment. Pre-exposure antiretroviral prophylaxis or “PrEP” has been shown to be an effective form of HIV prevention. PrEP is a pill that, when taken consistently, can reduce HIV infection risk in high-risk individuals by up to 92%. And when used with other HIV prevention methods such as using condoms, can offer even more protection. In 2015, the World Health Organization recommended use of pre-exposure antiretroviral prophylaxis or “PrEP” for high-risk individuals to prevent HIV.

However, while we have made tremendous progress in understanding the HIV virus and how to both treat and prevent it, there is still more to be done. About one in four people with HIV do not know they are infected. 1.8 million people are newly infected each year with HIV, any people across the globe lack access to the critical HIV prevention and care that they need to live long, healthy lives.

To learn more about HIV and how you can support people living with the virus, please visit the following resources:

CDC: About HIV/AIDS | https://www.cdc.gov/hiv/basics/whatishiv.html

HIV.gov | https://www.hiv.gov/

HIV/AIDS World Health Organization | http://www.who.int/hiv/en/

San Francisco AIDS Foundation | http://www.sfaf.org/hiv-info/

References

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2018, November 1). Pre-exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP). Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/hiv/risk/prep/index.html

Kaiser Family Foundation. (2018, July 25). The Global HIV/AIDS Epidemic. https://www.kff.org/global-health-policy/fact-sheet/the-global-hivaids-epidemic/

National AIDS Trust: World AIDS Day. (2018). About World AIDS Day. https://www.worldaidsday.org/about/

UNAIDS. (2018). Global HIV & AIDS statistics  – 2018 fact sheet. Retrieved from http://www.unaids.org/en/resources/fact-sheet

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2018, November 20). Global Statistics. Retrieved from https://www.hiv.gov/hiv-basics/overview/data-and-trends/global-statistics

World Health Organization. (2015). Guideline on when to start antiretroviral therapy and on pre-exposure prophylaxis for HIV, web supplement: annex 2: evidence to decision-making tables and supporting evidence (No. WHO/HIV/2015.36). World Health Organization.

World Health Organization. (N.d.). WHO and HIV: 30-Year Timeline. Retrieved from http://www.who.int/hiv/mediacentre/news/WAD_Timeline.jpg

FDA Expands HPV Vaccine for People Ages 27 to 45

Earlier last month, the FDA announced it has approved Gardasil 9, a vaccine for Human Papillomavirus (HPV) for people between the ages of 27 and 45. Previously, the FDA approved the HPV vaccine for individuals aged 9 through 26 years.

Gardasil 9 protects against nine types of HPV, a virus that is transmitted sexually and through intimate skin-to-skin contact. HPV is a very common virus and many individuals will get it at some point in their lives. While most HPV infections go away on their own, some may stick around and cause genital warts and cancer. This may be cancer of the cervix, vulva, vagina, penis, or anus, as well as cancer of the back of the throat.

It is recommended that all children aged 11 or 12 receive the HPV vaccine series. The vaccine is most effective at this age, before children are exposed to HPV.

Still, however, individuals up to age 45 years can now get the HPV vaccine. Older individuals can protect themselves against nine types of HPV. And even if one has been exposed to a few types, the vaccine will protect against the other strains they have not been exposed to.

HPV vaccination is cancer prevention. Why not consider protecting yourself?

For more information, check out the following Centers for Disease Control and Prevention resources:

What is HPV? 

HPV and Cancer

HPV Cancer Screening

References

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2018, August 23). Human Papillomavirus: Questions and Answers. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/hpv/parents/questions-answers.html

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2016, December13). What is HPV? https://www.cdc.gov/hpv/parents/whatishpv.html

U.S. Food & Drug Administration. (2018, October 9). FDA approves expanded use of Gardasil 9 to include individuals 27 through 45 years old. Retrieved from

https://www.fda.gov/NewsEvents/Newsroom/PressAnnouncements/UCM622715.htm?utm_campaign=10052018_PR_FDA%20approves%20expanded%20use%20of%20Gardasil%209%20to%20include%20individuals%2027%20through%2045%20years%20old

Grady, D & Hoffman, J. (2018, October 5). HPV Vaccine Expanded or People Ages 27 to 45. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2018/10/05/health/hpv-virus-vaccine-cancer.html

Health and the midterm elections

Today is election day. Across the country there are numerous elections which are weighing in on important health issues. There are several important health topics in the ballots, including: abortion rights, Medicaid expansion, marijuana usage, grocery taxes, and laws related to drug use and possession charges. Due to the political leanings of the current national administration, abortion rights are particularly vulnerable during this time.

Alabama, West Virginia, and Oregon are voting on legislation which will seriously affect access to abortion. On Alabama’s ballot, a newly proposed Amendment 2 is trying to change the wording which defines a fetus’ rights on the state Constitution. The amendment is aiming to grant a fetus the same rights and protections as a baby who has been born. If passed, this issue could have serious implications on further legislation which may eventually outlaw abortion in the state. In addition, this ballot measure doesn’t include the right to an abortion in the case of rape, incest, or if the mother’s life is at-risk.

West Virginia and Oregon are voting on measures which attempt to withhold state funding for abortion cases in respect to state employees and Medicaid recipients. However, in contrast to Alabama’s measure, these states do grant the right to victims of rape, incest, or when the mother’s life is in danger.

It is important to consider how our votes can act as determinants for health issues like these and many others. Voting at a state level can have a much larger impact on both national and local issues – especially pertaining to public health and medicine. Go out and vote today!

Look up your registration status, local polling place, and sample ballot here:

https://vt.ncsbe.gov/RegLkup/

 

 

https://www.cnn.com/2018/11/05/health/health-ballot-initiatives/index.html

https://ballotpedia.org/Alabama_Amendment_2,_State_Abortion_Policy_Amendment_(2018)

 

meet the new, self-lubricating condom

It’s no secret that the U.S. still has a long way to go in the field of contraceptives and STI prevention. According to the CDC in 2017, only about one-third of sexually active Americans use condoms, and it has been a long-term public health issue. Abstaining from condom use (or other forms of protection) during sex can lead to a myriad of health concerns, including unwanted pregnancies, bacterial and viral infections. These new troubling statistics beg questions as to why condom use is so low, especially amongst those who aren’t opting for other birth control or protective options.

Scientists at Boston University have acknowledged this issue, and have responded with a new, friction-lowering self-lubricating condom that may up condom usage. Some of the reasons people abstain from use is due to complaints that condoms are uncomfortable, painful and detract from sensation and sexual pleasure. The team at BU has found a way to eliminate some of these negative qualities with their new technology. This new condom has the ability to self-lubricate when it comes into contact with moisture – such as bodily fluids – making sexual experiences more comfortable and enjoyable.

Their study showed that 73% individuals surveyed preferred the texture of their new condom, and also noted that they would be more inclined to use condoms such as this one. The condom still has to be tested during sex, but if introduced to the market, it could increase the prevalence of safe-sex behaviors and contraceptive use.

 

 

 

https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nhsr/nhsr105.pdf

https://consumer.healthday.com/sexual-health-information-32/condom-health-news-154/only-about-one-third-of-americans-use-condoms-cdc-725436.html

https://www.cnn.com/2018/10/17/health/condoms-self-lubricating-prevent-stds-intl/index.html

http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1258/ijsa.2008.008120?journalCode=stda

http://rsos.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/5/10/180291

 

 

 

 

Dr. Leana Wen Selected as New President of Planned Parenthood

Last week, it was announced that Dr. Leana Wen, Baltimore City Health Commissioner, will serve as the new president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, an organization that provides vital sexual and reproductive health care and education to millions of people around the world. Dr. Wen will be the first physician in almost 50 years to serve in this role. She will succeed Cecile Richards, who has served as president of Planned Parenthood for the past 12 years.

Dr. Wen, an emergency medicine physician, has led the Baltimore City Health Department since January 2015. She is a passionate public health leader and active champion for communities and patients. During her tenure as Baltimore City Health Commissioner, Dr. Wen led a lawsuit against the Trump administration after its abrupt decision to cut funding for teen pregnancy prevention programs, resulting in $5 million of funding being restored to two of these programs in Baltimore. Additionally, Dr. Wen has fought to preserve Title X in Baltimore, which funds a variety of health care services for low-income women.

Dr. Wen is no stranger to Planned Parenthood. After she and her family immigrated to the U.S. from China, they depended on Planned Parenthood for their health care. Dr. Wen also volunteered at a Planned Parenthood health center in St. Louis during medical school.

In a recent statement posted on the Baltimore City Health Department website, Dr. Wen wrote:

“A core principle in public health is to go where the need is. The single biggest public health catastrophe of our time is the threat to women’s health and the health of our most vulnerable communities.”

She continues, in referring to Planned Parenthood, writing:

“I have seen firsthand the lifesaving work it does for our most vulnerable communities. As a doctor, I will ensure we continue to provide high-quality health care, including the full range of reproductive care, and will fight to protect the access of millions of patients who rely on Planned Parenthood.”

Dr. Wen’s last day as Baltimore City Health Commissioner will be Friday, October 12th, where she will then begin her new role as President of Planned Parenthood.

References:

Planned Parenthood. (N.d.). Dr. Leana Wen. Retrieved from  https://www.plannedparenthood.org/about-us/our-leadership/dr-leana-wen

Planned Parenthood. (N.d.). Cecile Richards. Retrieved from  https://www.plannedparenthood.org/about-us/our-leadership/cecile-richards

Zernike, Kate. (2018, September 12). Planned Parenthood Names Leana Wen, a Doctor, Its New President. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2018/09/12/us/politics/planned-parenthood-president-wen.html?rref=collection%2Fsectioncollection%2Fpolitics

Wen, Leana S. (2018, July 6). Trump’s family planning dystopia. Retrieved from http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/opinion/oped/bs-ed-op-0708-wen-dystopia-20180703-story.html

Baltimore City Health Department. (2018, September 12). Statement from Baltimore City Health Commissioner, Dr. Leana Wen. Retrieved from https://health.baltimorecity.gov/news/press-releases/2018-09-12-statement-baltimore-city-health-commissioner-dr-leana-wen

Revised Cervical Cancer Screening Guidelines Offer Women More Options

New recommendation guidelines for cervical cancer screening were published this month in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA). These guidelines are an update to the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) 2012 recommendations on cervical cancer screening. The new screening guidelines now offer women more options and longer screening intervals when it comes to their preventative care. One of the most notable guideline changes is that women aged 30-65 can now get an HPV test alone every 5 years instead of just a Pap smear alone every 3 years, or in combination with a Pap smear every 5 years.

According to the guidelines:

  • Women aged 21-29 years should get a Pap smear every 3 years
  • Women aged 30-65 years can get:
    • A Pap smear alone every 3 years
    • An HPV test alone every 5 years
    • A combination of a Pap smear and HPV test every 5 years

The USPSTF does not recommend screening for women younger than 21 years as well as women older than 65 years who have received adequate screening before and are not at high-risk for cervical cancer.

Cervical cancer was once a major cause of death among women. However, with the advent of screening tests, such as Pap smears, cervical cancer rates have fallen considerably over the years. Still, the American Cancer Society estimates 13,240 women will be diagnosed with cervical cancer in 2018.

Almost all cervical cancers are caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV), a common sexually transmitted infection. There are many types of HPV, some low-risk and some high-risk. Low-risk HPV types can cause warts that can be treated. High-risk types, however, can cause cancer. While the body can often fight off HPV infection, this is not always the case. Some HPV infections can become chronic, and chronic infections with high-risk HPV types can lead to cancer in both men and women if left untreated. However, there are vaccines that can prevent cancers, like cervical cancer in women, caused by HPV. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends that all children get vaccinated against HPV at age 11 or 12. For young women in particular, the CDC recommends they get vaccinated through age 26.

Because it can take years for cancer caused by HPV to develop and for symptoms to appear, the CDC encourages women to regularly screen for cervical cancer. This includes both women who have and have not vaccinated against HPV, as the HPV vaccine does not protect against all types of HPV that can cause cancer.

References

U.S. Preventive Services Task Force. (2018). Cervical Cancer Screening. Retrieved from  https://www.uspreventiveservicestaskforce.org/Page/Document/UpdateSummaryFinal/cervical-cancer-screening2

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2017, December 16). The Link Between HPV and Cancer. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/hpv/parents/cancer.html

National Institutes of Health. (2018, June 30). Cervical Cancer. Retrieved from

https://report.nih.gov/nihfactsheets/viewfactsheet.aspx?csid=76

American Cancer Society. (2017, November 1). What Are the Risk Factors for Cervical Cancer? Retrieved from

https://www.cancer.org/cancer/cervical-cancer/causes-risks-prevention/risk-factors.html

U.S. Preventive Services Task Force. (2012). Archived: Cervical Cancer: Screening. Retrieved from

https://www.uspreventiveservicestaskforce.org/Page/Document/UpdateSummaryFinal/cervical-cancer-screening

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2018, August 23). HPV Vaccines: Vaccinating Your Preteen or Teen. Retrieved from

https://www.cdc.gov/hpv/parents/vaccine.html

American Cancer Society. (2015, February 19). HPV and Cancer. Retrieved from https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/causes-prevention/risk/infectious-agents/hpv-fact-sheet

American Cancer Society. (2017, October 9). HPV and Cancer. Retrieved from

https://www.cancer.org/cancer/cancer-causes/infectious-agents/hpv/hpv-and-cancer-info.html

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