HIV Diagnosis Rate Fell by a Third in U.S. Over a Decade

This is wonderful news! This drop could be due to a number of things:

  • fewer new infections are occurring
  • most infected people already have been diagnosed so more testing won’t necessarily find many more cases
  • education and outreach is working!

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"HIV is the virus that causes AIDS, which destroys the immune system. The World Health Organization estimates 35 million people globally have the virus. In the United States, 1.1 million people are thought to be infected, though many don’t know it." (more info here)

Young gay men and bisexual men are still at the greatest risk of new infection than any other group however, so we haven’t won yet.

In any case, this makes me hopeful that we can continue to make great strides towards helping others achieve a meaningful and healthy sex life without putting others at risk. Keep it up!

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Tuesday Jul 22 3pm  6 notes

 
 

'Stop The Beauty Madness' Brands Ads With Brutally Honest Messages

Originally seen on  | By 

It’s a psychological itch that the most enlightened, successful and even beautiful women still tend to scratch: if I look better, I am better.

Now one campaign is trying to convince others to break free from that line of thought. The Stop The Beauty Madness campaign wants you to “feel like you’ve been socked in the gut” when you see its jarringly frank ads, says its founder Robin Rice.

Stop The Beauty Madness is a series of 25 advertisements branded with honest messages that highlight the true “madness” involved in creating and meeting beauty standards. Rice, an author and the founder of Be Who You Are Productions, started the campaign to challenge an internalized belief that a woman’s beauty determines her value.

Rather than attempt to fit more diverse types of women into an already narrow definition of beauty, Stop The Beauty Madness questions the value we place on beauty in the first place. “My main mission is to say if women are worried about their weight and their looks to the point that they’re not actually putting themselves in the world, then we’re missing out on some really extraordinary individuals and some really important conversations we need to be having,” Rice told HuffPost. “Women need to be helping the world move in a more beautiful direction — a genuinely beautiful direction.”

Beauty, Rice reminds us, can be both meticulously arranged or totally accidental. And yet, we privilege “effortless” beauty free of the true effort (and anguish) often required to achieve it, while criticizing those who happen to be very thin for succumbing to beauty standards. “Even if you fit the mold, you get in trouble for fitting the mold,” Rice said. “You can’t win.”

This double-edged sword is why Stop The Beauty Madness takes a broad approach, addressing all elements of a woman’s appearance from race, to age, to weight, to several at once. “Naturally thin women, or women who choose to work out and have really buff bodies, or elderly women, are not excluded from this conversation. They get their own backlash,” Rice said.

The campaign intentionally uses stock photos, the type of images used to illustrate many glossy magazine articles. “We wanted to use what was out there,” Rice told HuffPost. “There’s not lot of stock photos of African-American women compared to white women. There’s not a lot of edgy photographs of women. There were countless pictures of women on scales trying to lose weight. That shapes our conversation,” she said.

Attaching a brutally honest inner monologue to an image typically used to sell things — whether it’s a product, a lifestyle, or romance — reveals their true costs. Ultimately, Rice hopes the campaign will provide a corrective lens for how women perceive certain images.

"We look at beauty magazines and fashion photographs and whether we theoretically believe in them or not, we’ve seen so many of them and they’ve been put into exactly the right light and ratio that something inside of us has said ‘That’s beautiful,’" Rice told HuffPost. "Whether or not we believe in it intellectually, something deeper has set in and we compare ourselves to that."

Changing beauty culture won’t happen overnight. But for now, Rice hopes women can rely on themselves not to fall victim to it.

"Maybe the next time you look at a magazine, you may have a split second in which you question whether or not that gets in your head again," said Rice. "We want to create that split second where you think, ‘Wait a minute. Do I really believe in this?’"

The campaign also features audio and video series, a slam poetry contest and blogs. See some of the images below and visit Stop The Beauty Madness to see the full campaign.

Wednesday Jul 16 10am  

 
 

Obsessed with this cover. Not because he’s nude (although that helps), but because you NEVER see this type of body on a cover, nude, representing a very body-conscious population like athletes, particularly males.
We all look different, but that doesn’t mean we’re not all capable of achieving greatness.
bedsider:

“You don’t have to look like an Under Armour mannequin to be an athlete. Just because you’re big doesn’t mean you can’t be an athlete.”
—Prince Fielder making us all tingly with so much body love in ESPN the Magazine’s 2014 Body Issue. 

Obsessed with this cover. Not because he’s nude (although that helps), but because you NEVER see this type of body on a cover, nude, representing a very body-conscious population like athletes, particularly males.

We all look different, but that doesn’t mean we’re not all capable of achieving greatness.

bedsider:

“You don’t have to look like an Under Armour mannequin to be an athlete. Just because you’re big doesn’t mean you can’t be an athlete.”

—Prince Fielder making us all tingly with so much body love in ESPN the Magazine’s 2014 Body Issue. 

View HD • Posted Saturday Jul 12 10am  277 notes

 
 

Watch

I totes dig this awesome lady, Laci Green. Gender equality is a NECESSARY thing. She can’t explain feminism any better than what you see in this video.

Learn first, then apply to life.

Posted Thursday Jul 10 9am  1 note

 
 

Gaps in sexual health care for male teens

By Jackie Powder (May 15, 2012)

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He was 17 and had come to Johns Hopkins’ Harriet Lane Clinic for a routine physical. The pediatric resident who took the young man’s medical history asked him if he was a father or had ever gotten somebody pregnant. The teen said his girlfriend was due to have a baby in a couple weeks.

“We congratulated him, reviewed with him his needs and any concerns but made sure that we discussed his reproductive life plan and, based on this, provided him and his partner with appropriate family planning services,” recalled Arik Marcell, MD, MPH, assistant professor with the Bloomberg School’s Center for Adolescent Health and a teen health expert with the Hopkins Children’s Center, who was supervising the clinic visit. 
   
When it comes to male , this type of doctor-patient interaction is hardly typical. Far too often, said Marcell, medical providers fail to initiate discussions about sexual and reproductive health with adolescent males, a subject that care providers frequently raise with teen girls.

Had the doctor not asked his 17-year-old patient about fatherhood and pregnancy, he would not have known about the imminent and transformative event facing this young father-to-be.

“They’re not routine questions for boys, and I don’t see why they shouldn’t be,” said Marcell, whose recent lecture on the topic at the School was entitled “Sexual and Reproductive Health Care: What About the Young Male?”

“It’s really on us to bring these topics up as part of our work with young men in clinical settings,” he said.

Marcell pointed to gaps in research, the absence of uniform clinical practice guidelines and care providers’ lack of knowledge as contributing factors to a health care environment in which male teens often don’t receive basic sexual and reproductive health care—services that he said should be standard in primary care settings. These include taking a sexual history, STI/HIV screening and testing, a sexual development physical assessment, including a genital exam, and discussion of the male role in contraception and STI/HIV prevention. 

Read More

Thursday Jul 3 9am  

 
 

The Freedom to Choose Your Pronoun (on NYT.com)


A FEW weeks ago, Katy Butler, 16, updated her status on Facebook with an enthusiastic shout-out for Google+, the social network’s latest rival. “Oh my God Google! I love it! I was signing up for Google+ and they asked me my gender and the choices were male, female or OTHER!!!!! Oh ya Google!”

Katy, a high school junior in Ann Arbor, Mich., first encountered “other” as a gender option at a meeting of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Questioning and Allies (LGBTQQA) in seventh grade. “For those of us in the nonconforming gender community, it is great to see Google make the option more mainstream,” she said.

Though Google created the “other” option for privacy reasons rather than as a transgender choice, young supporters of preferred gender pronouns (or P.G.P.’s as they are called) could not help but rejoice. Katy is one of a growing number of high school and college students who are questioning the gender roles society assigns individuals simply because they have been born male or female.

“You have to understand, this has nothing to do with your sexuality and everything to do with who you feel like inside,” Katy said, explaining that at the start of every LGBTQQA meeting, participants are first asked if they would like to share their P.G.P.’s. “Mine are ‘she,’ ‘her’ and ‘hers’ and sometimes ‘they,’ ‘them’ and ‘theirs.’ ”

P.G.P.’s can change as often as one likes. If the pronouns in the dictionary don’t suffice, there are numerous made-up ones now in use, including “ze,” “hir” and “hirs,” words that connote both genders because, as Katy explained, “Maybe one day you wake up and feel more like a boy.”

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Tuesday Jul 1 10am  1 note

 
 

Watch

This short, simple PSA says so much in just a few seconds. It’s easy to forget that the World Cup often correlates with increased levels of domestic violence (as I’d imagine many major sporting events do). For some people, the games are less about fun and more about living in fear. The PSA is part of Tender Education and Arts’ #StandUpWorldCup campaign, which aims to spread awareness about domestic violence during the World Cup, and to remind fans that a loss (anything else for that matter) is no excuse for hurting someone.

The World Cup should be a carefree time for every fan, but until that day arrives, it’s important to keep sharing ads like this one. If you’re interested in helping, more information about the campaign is available here. Victims shouldn’t have to suffer in the dark while the rest of the world celebrates. [Tender UK]

Originally posted on The Frisky.

Posted Saturday Jun 28 10am  1 note

 
 

5 Things We Must Teach Young Boys About Rape, Right Now (on Time.com)

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Posted originally here, by Chris Ferguson.

It’s time to end the ambiguity on “ambiguous” encounters — we need better sex education for our young men 

George Will has added to the litany of facepalm-worthy statements by men about rape, implying that, due to university policies, victim status is “privileged” and “coveted.” In his June 6 column—which has gotten him fired from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch—he recounts a story from Swarthmore College in which a woman experienced date rape. The woman had been “hooking up” with a guy but then decided to just be platonic friends, a decision she thought was mutual. One night he fell asleep in her bed and she put on her pajamas and climbed in as well, thinking nothing of it. However, he began to pull off her clothes. She said ‘No’ but he persisted and she relented and let him do his thing. Six weeks later she filed rape charges. 

Mr. Will seems to offer this case as an ambiguous scenario in which the woman is partly to blame for A) hooking up with the guy in the past and B) saying “No” only once. If we actually think this scenario is ambiguous—as apparently many young men do—then we need better sex education for boys.

According to one study in the journal “Sex Education”, coverage of rape and dating violence in many school districts remains spotty. The Centers for Disease Control has an initiative to promote rape prevention programs, including in educational settings. A plethora of dating and sexual violence programs exist, although the Office for Justice Programs notes that research on their effectiveness remains lacking. Outcome assessments tend to focus on knowledge gained rather than behavioral change.

We need to end the ambiguity of “ambiguous” scenarios. Every young man should know exactly what rape is. And there are some critical issues that need to be reinforced in sex education programs to help get there:

1. Start early. Teaching general respect for women and girls should start in elementary school, with discussions about dating violence and rape taking place by middle school at the latest. This needs to happen in formative adolescence, before boys start dating.

2. “No” means no, and indecision means “no,” and silence means “no”—not “keep trying until I say ‘fine’.”

3. Programs need to keep focus. Some wander off into moralizations about rap music and pop culture. Let’s stay focused on real-world relationships and real problems.

4. Being bystanders to harassment or violence toward girls and women is not acceptable. Intervening when a girl is being harassed or expressing displeasure at sexist jokes or language, even when only in the company of other males, can help change the culture one person at a time.

5. How to handle rejection respectfully. What should a young man do when a female says “no”? How should he handle the end of a romantic relationship constructively? How does he manage a series of rejections? The emphasis here should be on constructive responses that remain respectful of women, even ones who reject them.

That males might not clearly see certain behavior as rape, when in fact it is, is obviously worth emphasizing. Yet people tend to respond better overall to positive persuasion rather than alarmism. Rather than teaching boys that they are all teetering on the edge of violence, emphasizing the benefits of romantic and sexual relationships founded on open communication, honesty, and mutual respect may provide more positive outcomes.

Ferguson is associate professor and department chair of psychology at Stetson University. He has published numerous scientific articles on the topic of video games and mental health and recently served as guest editor for an American Psychological Association’s special journal issue on the topic. Ferguson is also the editor of Violent Crime: Clinical and Social Implications and the author of The Suicide Kings.

Thursday Jun 26 10am  6 notes

 
 

Why Victims of Rape in College Don’t Report to the Police (originally on Time.com)

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Demonstrators protest sexual assault on college campuses at the #YesAllWomen rally in solidarity with those affected by violence in Seattle on May 30, 2014.Alex Garland—Demotix/Corbis

Senator Claire McCaskill hosts a round table to address how and when law enforcement should be brought into campus sexual assault cases

The frustration in the room was palpable on Capitol Hill on Monday afternoon where a group sexual assault victim advocates and law enforcement experts in sex crimes met to talk about how the police and college administrators could better together to handle campus sexual assault. Senator Claire McCaskill hosts a round table to address how and when law enforcement should be brought into campus sexual assault cases

The group had assembled for a roundtable hosted by Senator Claire McCaskill (D-Missouri), one of a team of three senators working to draft legislation that would address growing concerns about campus safety. As TIME wrote in a recent cover story, criticism of how college campuses have dealt with sexual assault has risen this year with accusations that officials have been sweeping the problem under the rug. But the tension over universities’ mishandling of these issues begs the question of why college administrators are expected to deal with these cases in the first place. A passive observer might wonder, shouldn’t these serious crimes be dealt with by the police? The answer, it turns out, is that administrators and police will have to work together to address the problem.

Yet the difficulty of building more effective partnerships became clear as the conversation unfolded at the round table today. Victim advocates articulated fears about anything that would make the relationship between law enforcement and the schools overly formal. For the advocates, doing right by the victim often means respecting her or his wishes not to report the crime to the police and even telling the victim about the possible downsides of the criminal justice system– which can lead to a months-long process that might threaten a victim’s confidentiality. In response, law enforcement officers explained how difficult it can be to pursue criminal action when they don’t collect evidence from the victim early in the process, making it difficult for them to get repeat offenders off the streets.

The question of when and how to involve the police in campus sexual assault is a salient one for administrators and politicians as they work together to overhaul the system of reporting and preventing these incidents. Alexandra Brodsky, a student at Yale law school and an organizer at Know Your IX, a grassroots organization that educates sexual assault survivors about their civil rights in the college setting, illustrated the tension beautifully during the discussion when she said: “When I reported violence to my school, I was told not to go to police. But I never would have told [the school] if I knew I was going to be forced into that option.”

If colleges are going to do a better job of handling sexual assault, college administrators are going to have to work together with police chiefs. But that collaboration is difficult, particularly because victims (especially those in college), are reluctant to report their assaults to the police.

Read More

Tuesday Jun 24 10am  2 notes

 
 

10 Scientific Ideas That Scientists Wish You Would Stop Misusing

10 Scientific Ideas That Scientists Wish You Would Stop Misusing

Many ideas have left the world of science and made their way into everyday language — and unfortunately, they are almost always used incorrectly. We asked a group of scientists to tell us which scientific terms they believe are the most widely misunderstood. Here are ten of them.

Image of two frustrated geneticists reading the internet, from Orphan Black.

1. Proof

Physicist Sean Carroll says:

I would say that “proof” is the most widely misunderstood concept in all of science. It has a technical definition (a logical demonstration that certain conclusions follow from certain assumptions) that is strongly at odds with how it is used in casual conversation, which is closer to simply “strong evidence for something.” There is a mismatch between how scientists talk and what people hear because scientists tend to have the stronger definition in mind. And by that definition, science never proves anything! So when we are asked “What is your proof that we evolved from other species?” or “Can you really prove that climate change is caused by human activity?” we tend to hem and haw rather than simply saying “Of course we can.” The fact that science never really proves anything, but simply creates more and more reliable and comprehensive theories of the world that nevertheless are always subject to update and improvement, is one of the key aspects of why science is so successful.

2. Theory

Astrophysicist Dave Goldberg has a theory about the word theory:

Members of the general public (along with people with an ideological axe to grind) hear the word “theory” and equate it with “idea” or “supposition.” We know better. Scientific theories are entire systems of testable ideas which are potentially refutable either by the evidence at hand or an experiment that somebody could perform. The best theories (in which I include special relativity, quantum mechanics, and evolution) have withstood a hundred years or more of challenges, either from people who want to prove themselves smarter than Einstein, or from people who don’t like metaphysical challenges to their world view. Finally, theories are malleable, but not infinitely so. Theories can be found to be incomplete or wrong in some particular detail without the entire edifice being torn down. Evolution has, itself, adapted a lot over the years, but not so much that it wouldn’t still be recognize it. The problem with the phrase “just a theory,” is that it implies a real scientific theory is a small thing, and it isn’t.

10 Scientific Ideas That Scientists Wish You Would Stop Misusing

3. Quantum Uncertainty and Quantum Weirdness

Goldberg adds that there’s another idea that has been misinterpreted even more perniciously than “theory.” It’s when people appropriate concepts from physics for new agey or spiritual purposes:

This misconception is an exploitation of quantum mechanics by a certain breed spiritualists and self-helpers, and epitomized by the abomination, [the movie] What the Bleep Do We Know? Quantum mechanics, famously, has measurement at its core. An observer measuring position or momentum or energy causes the “wavefunction to collapse,” non-deterministically. (Indeed, I did one of my first columns on “How smart do you need to collapse a wavefunction?”) But just because the universe isn’t deterministic doesn’t mean that you are the one controlling it. It is remarkable (and frankly, alarming) the degree to which quantum uncertainty and quantum weirdness get inextricably bound up in certain circles with the idea of a soul, or humans controlling the universe, or some other pseudoscience. In the end, we are made of quantum particles (protons, neutrons, electrons) and are part of the quantum universe. That is cool, of course, but only in the sense that all of physics is cool.

4. Learned vs. Innate

Evolutionary biologist Marlene Zuk says:

One of my favorite [misuses] is the idea of behavior being “learned vs. innate” or any of the other nature-nurture versions of this. The first question I often get when I talk about a behavior is whether it’s “genetic” or not, which is a misunderstanding because ALL traits, all the time, are the result of input from the genes and input from the environment. Only a difference between traits, and not the trait itself, can be genetic or learned — like if you have identical twins reared in different environments and they do something different (like speak different languages), then that difference is learned. But speaking French or Italian or whatever isn’t totally learned in and of itself, because obviously one has to have a certain genetic background to be able to speak at all.

10 Scientific Ideas That Scientists Wish You Would Stop Misusing

5. Natural

Synthetic biologist Terry Johnson is really, really tired of people misunderstanding what this word means:

"Natural" is a word that has been used in so many contexts with so many different meanings that it’s become almost impossible to parse. Its most basic usage, to distinguish phenomena that exist only because of humankind from phenomena that don’t, presumes that humans are somehow separate from nature, and our works are un- or non-natural when compared to, say, beavers or honeybees.

When speaking of food, “natural” is even slipperier. It has different meanings in different countries, and in the US, the FDA has given up on a meaningful definition of natural food (largely in favor of “organic”, another nebulous term). In Canada, I could market corn as “natural” if I avoid adding or subtracting various things before selling it, but the corn itself is the result of thousands of years of selection by humans, from a plant that wouldn’t exist without human intervention.

6. Gene

Johnson has an even bigger concern about how the word gene gets used, however:

It took 25 scientists two contentious days to come up with: “a locatable region of genomic sequence, corresponding to a unit of inheritance, which is associated with regulatory regions, transcribed regions and/or other functional sequence regions.” Meaning that a gene is a discrete bit of DNA that we can point to and say, “that makes something, or regulates the making of something”. The definition has a lot of wiggle room by design; it wasn’t long ago that we thought that most of our DNA didn’t do anything at all. We called it “junk DNA”, but we’re discovering that much of that junk has purposes that weren’t immediately obvious.

Typically “gene” is misused most when followed by “for”. There’s two problems with this. We all have genes for hemoglobin, but we don’t all have sickle cell anemia. Different people have different versions of the hemoglobin gene, called alleles. There are hemoglobin alleles which are associated with sickle cell diseases, and others that aren’t. So, a gene refers to a family of alleles, and only a few members of that family, if any, are associated with diseases or disorders. The gene isn’t bad - trust me, you won’t live long without hemoglobin - though the particular version of hemoglobin that you have could be problematic.

I worry most about the popularization of the idea that when a genetic variation is correlated with something, it is the “gene for” that something. The language suggests that “this gene causes heart disease”, when the reality is usually, “people that have this allele seem to have a slightly higher incidence of heart disease, but we don’t know why, and maybe there are compensating advantages to this allele that we didn’t notice because we weren’t looking for them”.

7. Statistically Significant

Mathematician Jordan Ellenberg wants to set the record straight about this idea:

"Statistically significant" is one of those phrases scientists would love to have a chance to take back and rename. "Significant" suggests importance; but the test of statistical significance, developed by the British statistician R.A. Fisher, doesn’t measure the importance or size of an effect; only whether we are able to distinguish it, using our keenest statistical tools, from zero. "Statistically noticeable" or "Statistically discernable" would be much better.

10 Scientific Ideas That Scientists Wish You Would Stop MisusingExpand

8. Survival of the Fittest

Paleoecologist Jacquelyn Gill says that people misunderstand some of the basic tenets of evolutionary theory:

Topping my list would be “survival of the fittest.” First, these are not actually Darwin’s own words, and secondly, people have a misconception about what “fittest” means. Relatedly, there’s major confusion about evolution in general, including the persistent idea that evolution is progressive and directional (or even deliberate on the part of organisms; people don’t get the idea of natural selection), or that all traits must be adaptive (sexual selection is a thing! And so are random mutations!).

Fittest does not mean strongest, or smartest. It simply means an organism that fits best into its environment, which could mean anything from “smallest” or “squishiest” to “most poisonous” or “best able to live without water for weeks at a time.” Plus, creatures don’t always evolve in a way that we can explain as adaptations. Their evolutionary path may have more to do with random mutations, or traits that other members of their species find attractive.

9. Geologic Timescales

Gill, whose work centers on Pleistocene environments that existed over 15,000 years ago, says that she’s also dismayed by how little people seem to understand the Earth’s timescales:

One issue I often run into is that the public lacks an understanding of geologic timescales. Anything prehistoric gets compressed in peoples’s minds, and folks think that 20,000 years ago we had drastically different species (nope), or even dinosaurs (nope nope nope). It doesn’t help that those little tubes of plastic toy dinosaurs often include cave people or mammoths.

10. Organic

Entomologist Gwen Pearson says that there’s a constellation of terms that “travel together” with the word “organic,” such as “chemical-free,” and “natural.” And she’s tired of seeing how profoundly people misunderstand them:

I’m less upset about the way that they are technically incorrect [though of course all] food is all organic, because it contains carbon,etc. [My concern is] the way they are used to dismiss and minimize real differences in food and product production.

Things can be natural and “organic”, but still quite dangerous.

Things can be “synthetic” and manufactured, but safe. And sometimes better choices. If you are taking insulin, odds are it’s from GMO bacteria. And it’s saving lives

Posted originally here.

Tuesday Jun 17 12pm  2 notes

 
 
 
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