Sexually Transmitted Infections

Jessica Biel and WomanCare Global team up for funny sex ed videos.

In response to the mostly piss-poor sex education in the states, Jessica Biel, Joy Bryant, and Whitney Cummings teamed up with WomanCare Global (a nonprofit women's sexual health service provider) and Funny or Die to produce a series of educational comedy clips that address some misconceptions related to sex. The clips have received a lot of attention, and for good reason.

From an article in Slate:

Today, Biel and WomanCare Global, an international nonprofit that works to improve access to products such as contraception and menstrual cups, released a series of videos on Funny or Die called “If You Don’t Tell Them, Then Who Will?” Named to encourage parents and other informed adults to speak honestly with the kids in their lives about reproductive health, the three clips feature Biel kibitzing with fellow actresses Joy Bryant and Whitney Cummings about hetero sex, birth control, dudes, and periods in someone’s kitchen.
The three women cite some messed-up ideas of how female bodies work—e.g., if a condom gets stuck in your vagina, it cannot travel up and out your mouth, contrary to the anatomical fantasies of one Idaho lawmaker—which work as straw men for on-screen text to bat down. “We thought the best way to encourage women to get educated and start the conversation around our bodies was to make it comically clear that people like me, and other non-experts, should not be the source for this information,” said Biel in a statement.

Read the rest here.

Check out WomanCare Global here.

And the videos:

Gardasil for men who have sex with men.

In class, I only mentioned the relationship between certain sexually transmitted strains of the human papilomavirus (HPV) and cervical cancer (I think?). Those same strains of HPV can also lead to anal/colorectal cancer. Following class, a student emailed me this, which is a good heads-up to those males who have sex with males, and would like to be protected:

I want to mention that although Gardasil is not offered at school immunization clinics for men, it is offered at youth clinics around Vancouver. Also, men who have sex with men are at an increased risk of HPV/anal cancer compared to men who have sex with women, based on anal sex rather than vaginal sex. Therefore, Gardasil can be used to decrease the risk of HPV/anal cancer for men who have sex with men. I got this information from a nurse at a youth clinic who suggested that I get Gardasil to protect myself against HPV.  

Documentary on sexual health program in Uganda: When a Mother Lives.

Passed along by Miranda (thanks!) with this comment:

I came across a really interesting video a while ago and thought it was super relevant to today’s lecture. It is about a project happening in Uganda where they are getting women to self swab to screen for cervical cancer in hopes to catch it early, as cervical cancer is the number one cancer in Uganda and it is very preventable if caught early. I thought it was relevant to what we were talking about today with women's reproductive health being taboo in some cultures and those barriers that exist in getting these women adequate health care. I thought the approach that this project takes is great to break down those barriers and still be respectful of the cultural norms.

The description, from the BC Centre of Disease Control, which collaborated on the project:

What happens to a family, community and country when a mother lives instead of dies? This is the fundamental question at the heart of When a Mother Lives, a 23 minute documentary from ASPIRE, a global health initiative about cervical cancer from the BC Centre for Disease Control.  Set in Kisenyi, Uganda, the story is told through the lives of three women who live in Kisenyi as well as by interviewing various stakeholders in the project, including Ugandan researchers, clinicians, and the Ministry of Health.  The goal of the documentary is to spread a positive message to funders and policy makers on how practical and sustainable action around cervical cancer screening can be taken in places where no screening currently exists. By transporting the viewer into the lives of the women, the video also brings greater understanding to their experiences and provides motivation to move forward for change.  

When a Mother Lives was inspired by the idea of pairing a ‘tried and true’ model of community engagement and mobilization with a new and novel ‘leapfrog’ screening technology called HPV DNA testing.  The video outlines “The ASPIRE Process” as an ecosystem consisting of six distinct, yet mutually reinforcing steps: Educate, Mobilize, Collect, Test, Treat, and Grow. Taken together, these steps layout a road map for how a cervical cancer screening program might be realized in low income settings like Kisenyi and provide a potential ‘recipe for success’ in further reducing the burden of cervical cancer in sub-Saharan Africa.

And the documentary:


Updated HPV vaccine.

Trial Shows New Vaccine Safe And Effective Against 9 Strains Of HPV by Justine Alford
Despite being effective and invaluable weapons against several different types of cancer, the vaccines for HPV have received a lot of undeserved negative attention. Perhaps that’s because there’s a stigma attached to HPV, given that it’s the most common STI. Alternatively, it could be due to misinformation spread about vaccines in general, but in particular about one of the HPV vaccines, Gardasil, which was wrongly attributed to numerous deaths during its trial (the real causes were things like drowning and malaria).
Regardless, as ars technica points out, uptake has been disappointedly low in some countries—particularly the United States—and it’s time that changed, especially since we now have an even more powerful weapon on our side: Gardasil 9. This new vaccine protects against five more strains of HPV than its predecessor and seven more than the first HPV vaccine Cervarix. It’s just been put through its paces in a huge trial, and the positive results showcase its effectiveness.
According to the study, this vaccine has the potential to prevent around 90% of cervical cancers and might even be suitable for use in boys, which could further reduce the incidence of cancers associated with HPV. The results of the trial have been published inNEJM.
Human papillomavirus (HPV) is not one virus, but a group of more than 150 related viruses. It’s the most common viral infection of the reproductive tract and most sexually active people will be infected at some stage in their lives. Although many types of HPV don’t cause problems, a small percentage of infections with certain types can persist and lead to cancer. At least 13 are known to be able to cause cancer, which are the so-called high risk, or oncogenic, types.
Almost all cases of cervical cancer are attributable to HPV and two types in particular, HPV-16 and 18, cause 70% of cervical cancers. But it’s not just women that are affected. HPV-6 and 11, for example, cause genital warts in men and women, and some types have been associated with other cancers, such as mouth, anus and penile cancer.
The first HPV vaccine to be invented, Cervarix, addressed 16 and 18, but it was followed shortly by an improved version, Gardasil, which bestowed added protection against 6 and 11. Now, scientists have added five more oncogenic HPV types to the vaccine, producing the most effective agent yet.
This new vaccine, Gardasil 9, was tested on more than 14,000 women between the ages of 16 to 26. Because an effective vaccine already exists against HPV, it was considered unethical to compare the new vaccine against a placebo, so the study used the earlier Gardasil instead.
Participants given Gardasil 9 were found to have the same amount of protection against the strains that Gardasil defends against alongside additional protection against other genital cancers. Overall, Gardasil 9 has the potential to protect against 90% of cervical cancers, a 20% improvement on Gardasil. Given that the new virus contains more bits of virus, side-effects were more common in those given Gardasil 9, but these were generally minor, such as pain at the injection site.
Taken together, Gardasil 9 seems to be a promising addition to our ever-growing vaccine arsenal, and further studies will shed light on whether it would also be useful in boys.

Pubic lice an endangered species.

From Bloomberg:

Brazilian Bikini Waxes Make Crab Lice Endangered Species

Pubic lice, the crab-shaped insects that have dwelled in human groins since the beginning of history, are disappearing. Doctors say bikini waxing may be the reason.

Waning infestations of the bloodsuckers have been linked by doctors to pubic depilation, especially a technique popularized in the 1990s by a Manhattan salon run by seven Brazilian sisters. More than 80 percent of college students in the U.S. remove all or some of their pubic hair -- part of a trend that’s increasing in western countries. In Australia, Sydney’s main sexual health clinic hasn’t seen a woman with pubic lice since 2008 and male cases have fallen 80 percent from about 100 a decade ago.

“It used to be extremely common; it’s now rarely seen,” said Basil Donovan, head of sexual health at the University of New South Wales’s Kirby Institute and a physician at the Sydney Sexual Health Centre. “Without doubt, it’s better grooming.”

[...]

Brazilian waxing took off internationally in the early 2000s, possibly spurred by the attention it was given on television shows such as Sex and the City, said Spring Cooper Robbins, a senior lecturer and sexual health researcher at the University of Sydney.

[...]

“Pubic grooming has led to a severe depletion of crab louse populations,” said Ian F. Burgess, a medical entomologist with Insect Research & Development Ltd. in Cambridge, England. “Add to that other aspects of body hair depilation, and you can see an environmental disaster in the making for this species.”

Read the rest of the article here.

STI cupcakes.

From the Huffington Post:

STD Cupcakes Meant To Shock, Educate, Perhaps Entice Visitors At Unique London Exhibition

HIV, syphilis, gonorrhea, genital warts and other sexually transmitted diseases adorn a set of specially prepared -- and painstakingly anatomically correct -- cupcakes that will be part of an exhibition this weekend at the London St. Bart's Pathology Museum.

The second annual Eat Your Heart Out exhibition features a wide array of bizarre and grotesque goodies curated by "evil genius" public relations manager "Miss Cakehead" aka Emma Thomas (HuffPost Food has featured some of her other work previously). The goods are available for purchase by non-squeamish pastry lovers.

The STD cupcakes are meant to do more than shock, however. Besides having audiences admire the obvious skill of the chef behind the sugar-spun boils and warts, the event aims to help raise awareness about the dangers of unprotected sex.

Jenni Powell of Two Little Cats Bakery designed the cupcakes (which come in lemon, vanilla and chocolate flavors) for The Evil Cake Shop's exhibition and told The Huffington Post the experience was certainly a memorable one.

"I already knew a fair bit about STDs and their symptoms," Powell wrote in an email to HuffPost, explaining that she had worked as a "sexpert" on her university's sexual health outreach team. "A lot of diseases don't have visible symptoms, so I wanted to pick ones that would really make a statement on a cupcake!"

Despite her background, researching the symptoms was still a challenging process, one she called both "fascinating and disgusting in equal parts."

"I wanted to make the symptoms as true to life as I possibly could, so used medical journals and the good old internet....seriously my google image history is quite stomach churning," she said.

Response to the cakes has been mixed, according to Powell, but the best emails have been from people who said "they didn't realize that the swellings, scabs etc. look like that, and they're off to buy some condoms," Powell wrote. "Even if one person takes away the educational message then we've done a good job!"

Customers wishing to purchase the cupcakes can buy STD boxsets, available for £12 (about $19) each at the Pathology Museum.

Buyers will not be able to choose the cakes they get, however -- a purposeful choice, according to Thomas.

"It's like having unprotected sex with a stranger," she told The Sun. "You never know what you'll get!"

See the rest of the cupcakes in the gallery at the bottom of the page, here.

The older generations and STIs.

From Time Magazine:

Sex and older generations: it's not a topic that gets discussed much, not even in the doctor's office. But some physicians say that needs to change, because older patients are leading active sex lives — and their rates of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) may be on the rise.

Whatever the cause — Viagra, midlife divorce, online dating or simple ignorance — studies suggest that STDs are no longer just an affliction of the young. A study published online last week by the journal Sexually Transmitted Infections adds to that growing body of evidence. Researchers at England's West Midlands Health Protection Agency found that in less than a decade, STD rates had more than doubled among people ages 45 and older. And Dr. Babatunde Olowokure, an author of the study, thinks that figure may be low. "These observations are based on a small proportion of people who actually attend clinics," he says. While that proportion of the population has increased overall over the past decade, Olowokure points out that middle-aged and older people tend to delay visiting a doctor for treatment of an STD, or they avoid it altogether, in large part due to the stigma associated with sexually transmitted infections.

Read the rest of the article here.

inSPOT now in BC.

From the CBC:

The B.C. Centre for Disease Control is launching an online partner notification service for people diagnosed with a sexually transmitted infection.
"Notifying sexual partners that they may have been exposed to a sexually transmitted infection so they can get tested is a critical component of disease prevention and control," said Dr. Mark Gilbert, a physician epidemiologist with the BCCDC.
"And now, thanks to inSPOT, it just got easier in British Columbia."
The inSPOT website allows users to tell their sexual partners to get tested for STIs by email through an electronic postcard.
The e-cards, which can be sent anonymously, are pithy and to the point.
"Sometimes there are strings attached," reads one. "I got diagnosed with STDs since we were together. Get checked out soon."
Another says: "It's not what you brought to the party, it's what you left with. I left with an STI. You might have, too. Get checked out soon."
E-cards can be sent to up to six partners at a time, and users have the option of including a personal message.
"Anyone can use inSPOT. It doesn’t require visitors to login or register to use the service," Gilbert said. "It’s free, simple and easy to use."
Developed in San Francisco in 2004, inSPOT also provides information related to specific STIs and treatment, as well as a list of local STI and HIV testing sites.
The inSPOT website is being used throughout North America, and has already been customized for Ottawa and Toronto.
Officials say the service is not intended to act in place of telling sexual partners in person or with the assistance of a public health nurse, but is "an additional tool people can use to notify their partners when they know their partners' email addresses."

Tell a partner via the inSPOT site here.

More about the program here.