Ask and You Shall Receive

Amie Newman

Rewire's reader survey results are in! Thanks to the tremendous feedback, we're building on our successes and rising to the challenges. Read on...

We asked and you responded!

Rewire's first reader survey was a resounding success, thanks to you!

"Rewire is an AMAZING resource–I can't believe it has only existed for such a short time. I send links to it all the time. I love that there is content appropriate to people well-versed in the issues as well as contextualized material for those without a background in reproductive health, rights, and/or justice."

It's not just that many of you made us feel all warm and fuzzy with your verbal high-fives and encouraging comments. It's that we had no idea so many of our readers (almost 500 of you!) would spend precious time reflecting critically on how Rewire fits into your news and information world. We truly appreciate it and have read, re-read, studied, discussed and analyzed your comments so that we can use your feedback to build an even better resource for countering the misinformation and false facts that spill daily from anti-choice web sites and advocacy organizations.

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"Keep up the good work – you are a light in the darkness."

"We need as much information as possible given to the public considering how government does not want us to be able to educate our youth and adults about the most vital part of our lives, human sexuality."

"I love the policy-related blogs from the national folks that I believe helps to inform our state level work."

Here's some of what you told us:

1. How do you identify yourselves?

Let's just say we should have included a check-box for "concerned parent/mother/citizen/progressive." Many of you self-identified as simply being a concerned person who cares about human rights. What more could we want in a reader?! In addition, one-third of you identify as "avid readers of blogs and other online media outlets" (sites you visit most often in addition to Rewire: The New York Times online, The Nation, Alternet and Mother Jones), just as many identify as "reproductive rights activists" with almost 20% of you working as a professional reproductive or sexual health advocate. But we've got freelance writers, mainstream media journalists, school teachers, doctors, scientists, artists, psychologists, environmental activists, and religious leaders in our community as well!

Here's my blog-love section: the blogs you all visit most often? Feministing, UN Dispatch, Pandagon, Our Bodies, Our Blog, ColorLines and Wiretap are all up there. But other sites listed also include Shakesville, Grist, TomPaine, Womens Enews, Raw Story, Firedoglake, Carpetbagger, Bush v. Choice, TalkingPointsMemo and Feministe. Most of these sites have been unerringly helpful to Rewire in our young life thus far so please continue to read them and tell them you read us!

2. This is for those of you who think Rewire is just a fantastic source for news:

No, no, no. I mean, yes, sure, we are an award-winning news site. However, an astounding 69% of you rated our wiki-able sections (Reckless Rhetoric, Fact v. Fiction, Policy Watch, About The Right and Issue Briefs) as "excellent" or "interesting."

"You have an excellent site. I like your Reckless Rhetoric and Fact vs. Fiction sections, and I think you should do more to debunk the myths, misconceptions and outright lies that are out there. But overall, great website!"

If you haven't already, isn't it time you visited these sections? We've got an incredible team of brand new volunteer Wiki Editors who keep these pages up-to-date and chocked full of exciting and new sources and information (thank you Wiki Editors!). But you can join the team and contribute content to these sections whenever you like. You don't need to volunteer as a wiki-editor to use our wiki. Anyone can do it! And your work helps organizations like the California Coalition for Reproductive Freedom:

"I love the wikipedia editing project!!! I sent it out to the California Coalition for Reproductive Freedom and from there the Commission on the Status of Women sent it everywhere!!!"

If you're not already a registered user, just register on our site from the "About Us" page. Then visit one of the wiki-able sections of the site and go for it. Read a particularly infuriating quote from James Dobson? Add it to the Reckless Rhetoric page! Notice we don't have a key piece of legislation detailed in our Policy Watch section? Wiki it for us! Don't know what the heck a "wiki" is? Read all about how simple it is to edit our content and become a key information source for your fellow progressive news readers!

3. If I were an Rewire editor, I'd add __________to the site.

Since Rewire launched in 2006, we have worked consistently to build a site that is relevant and useful not just to the reproductive health and rights movement but to individuals – people like you who want to read evidence-based information, challenge the misinformation on sexual and reproductive health and rights that gets perpetuated, and enjoy engaging and informative commentary on these issues.

We are bringing you content from amazing contributors from around the world, including our Global Perspectives writers; we have new features like RealityCast, hosted by the inimitable Amanda Marcotte and focused on the politics and the lives behind reproductive and sexual health and rights; and our RealTime posts highlight the latest, breaking news. But we are primed to do more!

You told us, far and away, that you want more Election 2008 coverage. Rewire offers an Election 2008 special section (which over 50% of you rated as "excellent") with the low-down on each candidate's stance on an array of reproductive and sexual health issues. Video included! Our New Journalist Fellow Lynda Waddington keeps you clued into how these issues are playing out on the campaign trail in Iowa.

But we are continuing to ramp up our Election coverage as we move into the New Year. Look for our Election 2008 graphic on our homepage and on the right-bar on our inside pages; it will lead you to any candidate's personal page or any of our stories that mention a particular candidate. If it's about reproductive health and rights on the campaign trail, Rewire will cover it!

In January 2008, stay tuned for new weekly reporting from Rewire's exclusive news reporter, writing on the news coming out of Washington, DC, on the reproductive and sexual health issues that affect all of our lives.

Cristina Page keeps you informed and (productively) enraged with her commentary about contraception and the presidential candidates. Stay tuned for her in-depth reporting on this issue!

Check out TV Reality on our home page for daily viewing of the best video on the web about sexual and reproductive health and rights. Right now, we're featuring video questions for our GOP candidates from citizens around the country – including our own readers!- and video of all of the candidates talking about reproductive health and rights. From policymakers discussing the global gag rule to clips of the Family Guy on the failings of abstinence-only programs, TV Reality has something for everyone.

You also let us know that you want to see more interviews with community leaders ("I really like the idea of doing interviews with activists and community leaders"). In January 2008, Rewire will feature a weekly column – personal, entertaining and informative – which will include interviews with advocates on the forefront of reproductive rights.

4. You Told Us What You Think.

There was no shortage of opinions shared in the survey. And we thank you for taking the time to offer suggestions, constructive criticism and, our favorite, praise. Remember, you don't have to wait for a survey to offer your feedback. Below are some comments and what we're doing to meet your challenges and live up to the acclaim!

I have a really hard time FINDING old posts on Rewire – I don't think your search engine works very well!

For those of you who told us that the search feature on our site wasn't working efficiently, we've made the fix! Our search engine is powered by Google and works like a charm (it's at the very top of every page on our site). We've also got a customized Google search option which you'll find in the drop-down menu of our site search option. Doing research for a report and need to wade through the top sexual and reproductive health web sites? Try our customized Google search. We've gathered many of the leading reproductive health and rights research and advocacy sites on the web so when you search for something, you know you're getting vetted, top quality information. Go ahead and try it and let us know what you think!

We heard from many of you that while you enjoy receiving our weekly eNews (you can sign up for our eNews at the top of every page) which brings many of you to the site weekly, it's packed full with too much information:

"Please add more "white space" to your emails – too much info squeezed in. If there's an action you recommend we take, give it prominent space."

"…Better to just have headlines so that we can easily tell what the content is and go to it directly. Current format is too cluttered and hard to scan quickly."

We hear you! We are in the process of switching over to a new program to handle our emails and newsletter sign-ups. This new program will facilitate a new design and lay-out where we'll pare down information and include only the highlights for you.

"Send us emails more often – with headlines – reminds me to check out the site."

We are also discussing short, pithy and useful daily emails so you know what's new each weekday on Rewire. Stay tuned for more details on that in our weekly eNews and on our site!

"Great site. Shorter, quicker posts covering real news is good to balance with thought pieces. I love the variety of people writing for the site."

We have recently begun writing our RealTime posts that cover breaking news stories in shorter posts!

"I subscribe to RHRealityCheck through my newsreader, so I read daily. I love your articles; my only real qualm with them is I wish there were more "and here's what you can do" links/suggestions at the end of more of the posts."

Thanks to the many of you who said you want more ways to take action through Rewire. We have started adding links at the end of many of our posts to advocacy organizations that are taking action on our issues. In addition, we have rallied our readers to submit video questions for the GOP CNN/YouTube debate and launched successful petitions to lobby Congress on abstinence-only funding. We are continuing to explore ways to actively engage our community on these crucial issues!

Finally, I'll leave you with Rewire's favorite comment from one of our readers. It really does say it all.

"Rewire – Good."

We think so too. Because of you, our growing community!

News Politics

Clinton Campaign Announces Tim Kaine as Pick for Vice President

Ally Boguhn

The prospect of Kaine’s selection has been criticized by some progressives due to his stances on issues including abortion as well as bank and trade regulation.

The Clinton campaign announced Friday that Sen. Tim Kaine (R-VA) has been selected to join Hillary Clinton’s ticket as her vice presidential candidate.

“I’m thrilled to announce my running mate, @TimKaine, a man who’s devoted his life to fighting for others,” said Clinton in a tweet.

“.@TimKaine is a relentless optimist who believes no problem is unsolvable if you put in the work to solve it,” she added.

The prospect of Kaine’s selection has been criticized by some progressives due to his stances on issues including abortion as well as bank and trade regulation.

Kaine signed two letters this week calling for the regulations on banks to be eased, according to a Wednesday report published by the Huffington Post, thereby ”setting himself up as a figure willing to do battle with the progressive wing of the party.”

Charles Chamberlain, executive director of the progressive political action committee Democracy for America, told the New York Times that Kaine’s selection “could be disastrous for our efforts to defeat Donald Trump in the fall” given the senator’s apparent support of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). Just before Clinton’s campaign made the official announcement that Kaine had been selected, the senator praised the TPP during an interview with the Intercept, though he signaled he had ultimately not decided how he would vote on the matter.

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Kaine’s record on reproductive rights has also generated controversy as news began to circulate that he was being considered to join Clinton’s ticket. Though Kaine recently argued in favor of providing Planned Parenthood with access to funding to fight the Zika virus and signed on as a co-sponsor of the Women’s Health Protection Act—which would prohibit states and the federal government from enacting restrictions on abortion that aren’t applied to comparable medical services—he has also been vocal about his personal opposition to abortion.

In a June interview on NBC’s Meet the Press, Kaine told host Chuck Todd he was “personally” opposed to abortion. He went on, however, to affirm that he still believed “not just as a matter of politics, but even as a matter of morality, that matters about reproduction and intimacy and relationships and contraception are in the personal realm. They’re moral decisions for individuals to make for themselves. And the last thing we need is government intruding into those personal decisions.”

As Rewire has previously reported, though Kaine may have a 100 percent rating for his time in the Senate from Planned Parenthood Action Fund, the campaign website for his 2005 run for governor of Virginia promised he would “work in good faith to reduce abortions” by enforcing Virginia’s “restrictions on abortion and passing an enforceable ban on partial birth abortion that protects the life and health of the mother.”

As governor, Kaine did support some existing restrictions on abortion, including Virginia’s parental consent law and a so-called informed consent law. He also signed a 2009 measure that created “Choose Life” license plates in the state, and gave a percentage of the proceeds to a crisis pregnancy network.

Regardless of Clinton’s vice president pick, the “center of gravity in the Democratic Party has shifted in a bold, populist, progressive direction,” said Stephanie Taylor, co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, in an emailed statement. “It’s now more important than ever that Hillary Clinton run an aggressive campaign on core economic ideas like expanding Social Security, debt-free college, Wall Street reform, and yes, stopping the TPP. It’s the best way to unite the Democratic Party, and stop Republicans from winning over swing voters on bread-and-butter issues.”

Roundups Sexual Health

This Week in Sex: The Sexually Transmitted Infections Edition

Martha Kempner

A new Zika case suggests the virus can be transmitted from an infected woman to a male partner. And, in other news, HPV-related cancers are on the rise, and an experimental chlamydia vaccine shows signs of promise.

This Week in Sex is a weekly summary of news and research related to sexual behavior, sexuality education, contraception, STIs, and more.

Zika May Have Been Sexually Transmitted From a Woman to Her Male Partner

A new case suggests that males may be infected with the Zika virus through unprotected sex with female partners. Researchers have known for a while that men can infect their partners through penetrative sexual intercourse, but this is the first suspected case of sexual transmission from a woman.

The case involves a New York City woman who is in her early 20s and traveled to a country with high rates of the mosquito-borne virus (her name and the specific country where she traveled have not been released). The woman, who experienced stomach cramps and a headache while waiting for her flight back to New York, reported one act of sexual intercourse without a condom the day she returned from her trip. The following day, her symptoms became worse and included fever, fatigue, a rash, and tingling in her hands and feet. Two days later, she visited her primary-care provider and tests confirmed she had the Zika virus.

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A few days after that (seven days after intercourse), her male partner, also in his 20s, began feeling similar symptoms. He had a rash, a fever, and also conjunctivitis (pink eye). He, too, was diagnosed with Zika. After meeting with him, public health officials in the New York City confirmed that he had not traveled out of the country nor had he been recently bit by a mosquito. This leaves sexual transmission from his partner as the most likely cause of his infection, though further tests are being done.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)’s recommendations for preventing Zika have been based on the assumption that virus was spread from a male to a receptive partner. Therefore the recommendations had been that pregnant women whose male partners had traveled or lived in a place where Zika virus is spreading use condoms or abstain from sex during the pregnancy. For those couples for whom pregnancy is not an issue, the CDC recommended that men who had traveled to countries with Zika outbreaks and had symptoms of the virus, use condoms or abstain from sex for six months after their trip. It also suggested that men who traveled but don’t have symptoms use condoms for at least eight weeks.

Based on this case—the first to suggest female-to-male transmission—the CDC may extend these recommendations to couples in which a female traveled to a country with an outbreak.

More Signs of Gonorrhea’s Growing Antibiotic Resistance

Last week, the CDC released new data on gonorrhea and warned once again that the bacteria that causes this common sexually transmitted infection (STI) is becoming resistant to the antibiotics used to treat it.

There are about 350,000 cases of gonorrhea reported each year, but it is estimated that 800,000 cases really occur with many going undiagnosed and untreated. Once easily treatable with antibiotics, the bacteria Neisseria gonorrhoeae has steadily gained resistance to whole classes of antibiotics over the decades. By the 1980s, penicillin no longer worked to treat it, and in 2007 the CDC stopped recommending the use of fluoroquinolones. Now, cephalosporins are the only class of drugs that work. The recommended treatment involves a combination of ceftriaxone (an injectable cephalosporin) and azithromycin (an oral antibiotic).

Unfortunately, the data released last week—which comes from analysis of more than 5,000 samples of gonorrhea (called isolates) collected from STI clinics across the country—shows that the bacteria is developing resistance to these drugs as well. In fact, the percentage of gonorrhea isolates with decreased susceptibility to azithromycin increased more than 300 percent between 2013 and 2014 (from 0.6 percent to 2.5 percent).

Though no cases of treatment failure has been reported in the United States, this is a troubling sign of what may be coming. Dr. Gail Bolan, director of CDC’s Division of STD Prevention, said in a press release: “It is unclear how long the combination therapy of azithromycin and ceftriaxone will be effective if the increases in resistance persists. We need to push forward on multiple fronts to ensure we can continue offering successful treatment to those who need it.”

HPV-Related Cancers Up Despite Vaccine 

The CDC also released new data this month showing an increase in HPV-associated cancers between 2008 and 2012 compared with the previous five-year period. HPV or human papillomavirus is an extremely common sexually transmitted infection. In fact, HPV is so common that the CDC believes most sexually active adults will get it at some point in their lives. Many cases of HPV clear spontaneously with no medical intervention, but certain types of the virus cause cancer of the cervix, vulva, penis, anus, mouth, and neck.

The CDC’s new data suggests that an average of 38,793 HPV-associated cancers were diagnosed each year between 2008 and 2012. This is a 17 percent increase from about 33,000 each year between 2004 and 2008. This is a particularly unfortunate trend given that the newest available vaccine—Gardasil 9—can prevent the types of HPV most often linked to cancer. In fact, researchers estimated that the majority of cancers found in the recent data (about 28,000 each year) were caused by types of the virus that could be prevented by the vaccine.

Unfortunately, as Rewire has reported, the vaccine is often mired in controversy and far fewer young people have received it than get most other recommended vaccines. In 2014, only 40 percent of girls and 22 percent of boys ages 13 to 17 had received all three recommended doses of the vaccine. In comparison, nearly 80 percent of young people in this age group had received the vaccine that protects against meningitis.

In response to the newest data, Dr. Electra Paskett, co-director of the Cancer Control Research Program at the Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center, told HealthDay:

In order to increase HPV vaccination rates, we must change the perception of the HPV vaccine from something that prevents a sexually transmitted disease to a vaccine that prevents cancer. Every parent should ask the question: If there was a vaccine I could give my child that would prevent them from developing six different cancers, would I give it to them? The answer would be a resounding yes—and we would have a dramatic decrease in HPV-related cancers across the globe.

Making Inroads Toward a Chlamydia Vaccine

An article published in the journal Vaccine shows that researchers have made progress with a new vaccine to prevent chlamydia. According to lead researcher David Bulir of the M. G. DeGroote Institute for Infectious Disease Research at Canada’s McMaster University, efforts to create a vaccine have been underway for decades, but this is the first formulation to show success.

In 2014, there were 1.4 million reported cases of chlamydia in the United States. While this bacterial infection can be easily treated with antibiotics, it often goes undiagnosed because many people show no symptoms. Untreated chlamydia can lead to pelvic inflammatory disease, which can leave scar tissue in the fallopian tubes or uterus and ultimately result in infertility.

The experimental vaccine was created by Canadian researchers who used pieces of the bacteria that causes chlamydia to form an antigen they called BD584. The hope was that the antigen could prompt the body’s immune system to fight the chlamydia bacteria if exposed to it.

Researchers gave BD584 to mice using a nasal spray, and then exposed them to chlamydia. The results were very promising. The mice who received the spray cleared the infection faster than the mice who did not. Moreover, the mice given the nasal spray were less likely to show symptoms of infection, such as bacterial shedding from the vagina or fluid blockages of the fallopian tubes.

There are many steps to go before this vaccine could become available. The researchers need to test it on other strains of the bacteria and in other animals before testing it in humans. And, of course, experience with the HPV vaccine shows that there’s work to be done to make sure people get vaccines that prevent STIs even after they’re invented. Nonetheless, a vaccine to prevent chlamydia would be a great victory in our ongoing fight against STIs and their health consequences, and we here at This Week in Sex are happy to end on a bit of a positive note.