Tag Archives: HIV/AIDS

STI Test Innovation: US vs. UK

In STI testing news over the weekend, the FDA halted over-the-counter sales of a testing service offered through Rite-Aid called Identigene and UK residents may soon be able to buy a cell-phone chip that, after spitting or peeing upon, can be plugged in and test for STIs.

First: how is the US lagging on this insanely cool nanotechnology? Consumers in the US only have access to urine-sample kits sent into a lab for processing. (I wrote about one such private service earlier this year.) The future of STI testing may be arriving soon, but not on this side of the pond.

Second: there is a big conceptual gap evidenced in these government agencies concerning STI testing.

Snip from the NYT Blog:

F.D.A. officials said they needed to first confirm the test was accurate.

There are “a lot of social implications if there is a false result, as you can imagine,’’ said Dr. Sally Hojvat, director of microbiology for the medical device division at the agency.

Another concern of the F.D.A. is whether people who test positive will have access to a doctor. Mr. Smith said Identigene has doctors on contract who will approve each test ordered and release the result. But he said the company could not ensure the doctors would talk to patients.

Snip from the Guardian:

Prof Noel Gill, head of HIV and STIs at the Health Protection Agency, the government agency that monitors infections and advises on containment strategies, said: “HPA surveillance has shown that the impact of STIs is greatest among young people and we hope that the application of new technology will help to reduce transmission of infection in this age group.

“This is an exciting research and development consortium which will develop new technologies that both improve and expand testing for STIs. As innovations become available, the HPA will co-ordinate large-scale evaluations within a network of collaborating STI clinics,” Gill added.

While there is no way to ensure with either technology that users will seek medical treatment, there is also no way to ensure a patient will take the antibiotics given to them. (Or follow any of a health professional’s advice. How many times has your dentist told you to floss?) The level of control exercised by the FDA on this matter seems mistrustful of consumers and favoring doctors. In contrast, the message from the UK agencies seem to simply be: “We’ll do whatever we can to get you tested.”

Personally, I don’t think the FDA should be restricting the public’s access to reliable STI tests. The most important thing is that the tests are accurate, accessible and results come with information on how to obtain treatment.


Sex Ed Ignorance

Yesterday, one of my high school students asked me a curious question about unprotected anal sex.

“Can having unprotected anal sex, like, make HIV?”

“What? I don’t understand your question.”

“Like, if two people that don’t have HIV have unprotected anal sex… my health ed teacher at my other school told me you can make HIV by having unprotected anal sex.”

My eyebrows climbed up my face for safety and my eyes went wide.

“No. Absolutely not. If the virus is not present in either person it will not just appear. One person must be a host and to pass it to the other person. It’s like saying you’ll create a sweater if you have two knitting needles but no yarn.”

My friends were horrified when I told them about this conversation. One big humanity failure, they said. Weep for all of us, they proclaimed. What a bunch of ignorant people, they mumbled.

Yes and no. I have frequent facepalm moments in sex ed but every uttered myth is a moment for education. Honestly, I like it when students or clients ask me questions that many would consider dumb or ignorant. This is why I strive to remain calm in the face of others’ panic. If a person has misinformation it is not their fault.

So much of our media spreads false studies and rumors-as-fact. Pseudo-experts go on Dr. Phil and Maury to scare parents about sexual trends that are verified urban myths. Of course the general public is miseducated.

What sucks is that schools leave teachers without resources and don’t encourage any fact-checking practices. This is when misinformation spreads like a SoCal fire.

I am happy when I hear questions that might make others weep. Our conversation blossomed into information about sexual viruses in general, stigmas and what we really need to be concerned about. Next week I’m going to teach them about media literacy and how to spot bullshit media reports on flawed research.

Better Sex in 2010

Someone, somewhere is turned on by this picture.

I raise my mimosa this morning to bid adieu to 2009, the worst year ever. The world seems at its lowest right now, so things can only get better. Right?

Many of my friends mark 2009 as a learning year. I sure as hell hope so. If we as individuals, cities, nations, cultures and subcultures stroll into 2010 padded with willful ignorance and blind to the lessons of the last decade, there is no hope for anyone.

But I’m an optimistic cynic. Here are my hopes for the world of sex in 2010. Continue reading Better Sex in 2010

Gendered HIV/AIDS PSAs

Only in France can this be a condom PSA.

I love watching PSAs about sex. The medium communicates much more than just the message. Let’s check out my favorite condom use/HIV/AIDS Awareness campaign from France.

The Pub AIDES campaign created three animated PSAs, each centering around a protagonist’s love/sex life: a straight man, a straight woman and a gay man. (View all ads at this Wired.com post. Due to mature content Daily Motion disabled embedding.) Continue reading Gendered HIV/AIDS PSAs

HIV Prevention Project in Peace Corps

Because I am, as one friend put it, “[t]otally feather-pluckingly insane” I am applying to the Peace Corps. This is not a decision I am taking lightly nor is this something that will happen right away. I’ve spent hours at this point reading blogs from returned volunteers and researching the type of work volunteers do in other countries. Continue reading HIV Prevention Project in Peace Corps