(VIDEO) Cyndi Lauper and Lady Gaga Team Up on HIV Prevention

Jodi Jacobson

Two female rock icons join together to fight the rise in HIV infections among women and girls worldwide.

Cyndi Lauper and Lady Gaga appear on Good Morning America with George Stephanopoulos to discuss HIV prevention and focus on the high rates of new HIV infections among women and girls.

 

 

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Roundups Sexual Health

This Week in Sex: Advances in Infertility, HIV Prevention, and Treatment for Gonorrhea

Martha Kempner

This week, a novel approach to infertility is announced, a new vaginal ring might be able to protect from HIV transmission, and the answer to preventing drug-resistant gonorrhea may be in our own immune systems.

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

New Infertility Treatment Removes Ovaries to Harvest Not-Yet-Matured Eggs

Researchers in Japan announced on Monday that a new method to help women suffering from one form of infertility has resulted in one healthy baby boy and another pregnancy. The women suffered from a condition known as primary ovarian insufficiency in which the ovaries prematurely stop releasing eggs. About one percent of women of reproductive age suffer from this condition, they are often thrown into early menopause and cannot become pregnant. Because they are no longer producing mature eggs of their own, their only option for infertility treatments has been to use a donor egg.

This new experimental procedure seems a bit like science fiction: doctors remove ovaries from the woman, cut them into small cubes, treat the cubes with egg-stimulating drugs, treat the woman with similar drugs, and then put the cubes back into the woman’s abdomen to wait for the eggs to mature.

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To picture this, it helps to remember that ovaries are about the size and shape of a large Greek olive. Inside, they have thousands of microscopic little chambers called follicles. Each follicle holds an unmatured egg (or oocyte). A woman is born with all the eggs she will ever have but they are suspended in this immature state. In a working ovary, one of these oocytes typically matures every other month (the two ovaries usually take turns) leading to ovulation and then either pregnancy or menstruation.

Of the 27 women who underwent this new treatment for the study in Japan, five produced mature eggs. Like in other in vitro procedures, a woman’s eggs were then fertilized with her partner’s sperm and the resulting embryo (if one developed) was transplanted into her uterus.

The study’s author, Dr. Kazuhiro Kawamura, told the press, “I always felt emotional anxiety [about the treatment approach] … but when I saw the healthy baby, my anxiety turned to delight. The couple and I hugged each other in tears.”

It will likely be years before this procedure is widely available.

New Vaginal Ring May Prevent HIV Infection

A study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences has shown that a new vaginal ring developed by researchers at Northwestern University in Illinois may be able to protect women from HIV transmission. The ring is actually a polymer tube filled with the powdered form of the antiretroviral drug Tenofovir. It is designed to be worn continuously for 30 days. When the ring gets moist, which would happen naturally during most acts of intercourse, the polymer expands and some of the drug is released into the vagina.

Tenofovir is a nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitor (NRTI), which works to reduce the amount of HIV in a person’s blood. Studies have found that oral Tenofovir can also dramatically reduce a person’s risk of acquiring HIV. In 2012, the Food and Drug Administration approved the use of a combination drug containing Tenofovir. As part of a prevention method known as PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis), the drug can be taken once a day by adult men who do not have HIV but are at high risk because of their sexual behavior or intravenous drug use.

Though Tenofovir is usually taken orally, the researchers who invented the vaginal ring, which is known as TDF-IVR, believe that by delivering the drug topically right to where it is needed, they can use a lower dosage. Moreover, women would not have to remember to take a pill each day, nor would they have to remember to insert a ring right before intercourse. Public health experts have been wanting a prevention method that women across the world can use without necessarily having to inform a partner who would object.

The researcher recently tested TDF-IVR in non-human primates and found that it was able to block 100 percent of the simian version of HIV. Human trials will likely start next month.

Currently, there are also trials taking place to see if a gel form of Tenofovir can prevent HIV transmission when applied rectally prior to anal sex.

Researchers Boost Immune Systems to Fight Gonorrhea Reinfection

As Rewire reported, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently named antibiotic-resistant gonorrhea an urgent threat, noting that almost 30 percent of the current 800,000 cases that occur each year are resistant to one or more of the drugs used to treat the infection. One reason that the bacteria that causes gonorrhea has been so resilient and adaptable is the high rates of reinfection among individuals. New research, published in the Journal of Infectious Diseases, suggests that the answer to preventing reinfection and ultimately antibiotic-resistance may be boosting the immune system’s response to the bacteria.

Michael Russell, a microbiologist at the State University of New York, Buffalo has been studying gonorrhea for 20 years. In a press release, he explains his belief that the bacteria that cause gonorrhea is able to re-infect individuals easily because it alters a person’s immune system and prevents them from developing long-term resistance to the bacteria the way they would to other germs.

Our immune systems generally have two responses to illness: the innate or immediate response that lets us fight off a current infection and the adaptive response that develops antibodies to help better fight later infections. Russell found that people with gonorrhea infections had a high rate of a chemical in the body known as IL-10 and believes that this suppresses the adaptive response. He and a colleague then devised a way to use a different chemical, IL-12, to counteract IL-10.

So far, the treatment has only been used in laboratory mice (who were first infected with gonorrhea) but it has been very effective. Those mice who were given IL-12 responded better to antibiotics and were less likely to get re-infected when re-exposed than the control group of mice. Russell believes that IL-12 prevents the immune system from being “tricked” into suppressing its own adaptive immune response.

As the CDC notes, the best way to hold back the tide of antibiotic resistant gonorrhea is to prevent gonorrhea infections in the first place. Preventing re-infections, obviously, is also important.

Commentary Sexual Health

Learning and Teaching About HIV and AIDS: Video Resources for World AIDS Day

Bianca I. Laureano

A list of resources for educators and parents for World AIDS Day.

December 1st is World AIDS Day. There are many resources and media educators can use in the classroom to draw attention to and teach about HIV and AIDS. Often I’ve noticed that educators use forms of media and activities that honor those who have died of complications of AIDS, focus on rates of HIV infection worldwide, and are only discussed for one day or week. Forgotten are those who are living positive with HIV, especially youth, honest discussions about transmission and treatment of HIV and AIDS, and on how the ideas of young people can be used to raise awareness and educate others in an inter-generational way.

In the past I’ve shared some resources I’ve found useful for educational and community space for World AIDS Day and for discussions about living positive and remaining HIV negative. These include suggestions for National Women and Girls HIV Awareness Day March 10th, how I approach and discuss conspiracy theories around HIV with students who bring them up, the myths and messages youth have around HIV and AIDS,  interview with Miss Kings County 2011 whose platform was “de-stigmatizing getting tested for HIV,” a history of HIV and AIDS media messages, and examples of how I teach and discuss HIV and AIDS in a human sexuality class.

One of the first things I hope we as educators remember is that although there is one day worldwide we focus on HIV and AIDS; these are conversations that must occur year round. The most comprehensive film about the history of HIV and AIDS in the US and internationally is the PBS Frontline documentary Age of AIDS. The full program is online  and over 3 hours long. Often I have students watch the first hour and a half at home as homework and then watch the last hour to get an idea of how the views of HIV and AIDS emerged and have shifted today. Below are a few sources of media that may be useful for educators and those working with youth or planning interactive programs for HIV and AIDS in general and for World AIDS Day.

“I’m Positive” Documentary

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This year MTV has partnered with The Kaiser Family Foundation, Octagon Entertainment, and DrDrew Productions to present the documentary “I’m Positive” focusing on three young people living positive and will air on World AIDS Day. If the communities you are working with have access to cable or the internet, it may be a good idea to mention this documentary and ask them to watch. I’m not a huge fan of Dr. Drew’s work with youth, but believe there may be a lot of useful discussions we can have with viewers pre-and post-watching the documentary. I have no doubt that MTV will have this documentary on their website within 24 hours of it being aired and that it will air more than once. 

TheSEROProject

Sero is a non-profit human rights organization that centers people living positive. Their mission includes “promoting the empowerment of people with HIV, combating HIV-related stigma and advocating for sound public health and HIV prevention policies based on science and epidemiology rather than ignorance and fear.  Sero is particularly focused on ending inappropriate criminal prosecutions of people with HIV for non-disclosure of their HIV status, potential or perceived HIV exposure or HIV transmission.” 

Sero has created an online library of video testimonies of people living positive. These videos go well with The Body’s publication by writer Dave R. “Crime and Punishment: An International HIV Disclosure Dilemma.”  Dave R. follows and reports on some of the cases occurring worldwide around HIV disclosure. Below is the story of Monique Moree, an Army veteran who was prosecuted for non-disclosure. 

TeachAIDS HIV/AIDS Prevention Tutorial 

TeachAIDS is a project at Stanford University focusing on creating interactive approaches to educating folks on HIV and AIDS. The have a strong library of videos on their YouTube channel with videos on Mandarin,  Swahili,  Kinyarwada,  Hindi,  Telugu, and Spanish. Below is a cartoon style clip featuring Southeast Asian communities. The video also has built in subtitles in English. I appreciate their representations, especially of the white blood cells as soldiers. This is one way I explain to youth what white blood cells do and how they keep us healthy. If you only have a hour long session and want to get good information into your time with students, this video covers all of the HIV 101 needs.

BrainPop

I’m one of those educators who believes it’s important to discuss HIV and other aspects of our bodies and sexuality with youth in age appropriate and honest ways throughout our lives. As a result, I loved when the online teaching site BrainPop created a short video for HIV. They have a full space devoted to health topics and one of their free videos each year for World AIDS Day is on HIV. They also feature BrainPop Jr. for grades K-3 and BrainPop en español. If your school or space does not have the funds to subscribe to BrainPop they offer a free 3 day trial offer where you an explore the site and watch the films and take the short quizzes offered.  

Apps

Finally, encouraging youth to find locations to get tested now has an app! The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has created the HIV/AIDS Prevention & Service Provider Locator which can be used as an app or on other mobile devices. I admit I was very surprised when I used the locator for my area and discovered there were NO testing locations in my community, which is also the community where I teach. Although there were several testing areas in other communities near my neighborhood, they were all over several miles away. I wonder what does this mean for the youth and students I work with on a daily basis who want to know their HIV status and need testing services.

To remind those of us who remember a time when HIV and AIDS were not widely known about that we are living in the future, researchers re also looking to create an app that can test for HIV via a cell phone. These approaches to using media, popular culture, technology, and medicine to test for HIV can have an impact on youth today. I’m sure they would have a lot to say about if this would work for informing partners, communicating with a partner, and issues of hacking.  

What are some of the sources you use in the classroom or with your community? If you’ve used any of these what have been the reactions? Here’s to supporting one another as educators. If your students and faculty haven’t told you that you are appreciated I want you to know I appreciate all the work and education that is being done worldwide.