This Week in Sex is a weekly summary of news and research related to sexual behavior, sexuality education, contraception, STIs, and more.
Could the Answer to the HIV Epidemic Already Be in Your Foot Cream?
Researchers at Rutgers University in New Jersey announced this week that a common anti-fungal drug is able to “kill” HIV cells, or more accurately make the cells kill themselves. The drug, Ciclopirox, is a topical cream frequently prescribed by dermatologists and gynecologists to treat fungal infections. In cultures, the researchers found that it inhibits the expression of HIV genes and blocks the essential function of the mitochondria, which reactivates the cell’s suicide pathway.
As the researchers explain, cells naturally have a tendency to destroy themselves when they become damaged or infected in order to protect healthy cells, but one of the things that makes HIV so persistent is that it blocks this altruistic natural instinct. In cultures, Ciclopirox
was able to reactivate the suicide pathway of infected cells without affecting healthy cells in any way.
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Even more promising is that the HIV cells did not rebound after the treatment was stopped. The researchers point out that while antiretroviral medication can suppress HIV, an individual must take them for life as the effects wear off quickly once the medication is stopped. Michael Mathews, the lead researcher on the study, told CNET, “The key thing these drugs do is, unlike anti-retrovirals in the current clinical arsenal, and there are lots of them and they have controlled this disease pretty successfully, these drugs kill the HIV-infected cell. That’s what’s so new and so promising about it.”
It is not yet clear how this drug ultimately will be used in the fight against HIV—it could be a topical application that prevents transmission, or researchers could try to find a way to administer the drug throughout the body’s systems as a way to cure HIV. This discovery is still a long way from being used as a treatment or prevention method, but researchers hope they can move forward at a more rapid pace than human trials usually do, because the drug has already been approved by the Food and Drug Administration and proven safe in humans.
Transgender Student Named Homecoming Queen
Cassidy Lynn Campbell had a very emotional night last Friday when she won the popular vote among students and became this year’s homecoming queen at Marina High School in Huntington Beach, California. Campbell is transgender; she has been living her life as a girl for the last three years. She has been very public about her transition, posting frequent YouTube videos that show her putting on make-up and making her own long-haired wig. She told local news channel KTLA that when she won, “I instantly just dropped to the ground and started crying. I realized it wasn’t for me anymore and I was doing this for so many people all around the county and the state and possibly the world and I am so proud to win this not just for me, but everyone out there.”
Unfortunately, her joy was somewhat short-lived as she says she was subjected to a good deal of bullying and “ignorant lies” that night. She posted a tearful video to her YouTube channel in which, still wearing her sash and tiara, she cries, “I’m always judged and I’m always looked down upon. … Sometimes I wonder if it’s even worth it and if I should just go back to being miserable.”
Campbell, however, seems to have bounced back quickly. She told Reuters that she realized the comments other people made about her were “based on ignorance” and not something she would dwell on or take too personally. “I’m fine,” she said. “I’ve had the time to look at the situation and evaluate it more.”
Campbell is not the first transgender girl to have won the homecoming queen title—in 2009, Jessee Vasold was named homecoming queen at the College of William and Mary—and she will likely not be the last. Her victory comes just a month after California Gov. Jerry Brown signed legislation requiring public schools to allow transgender students to choose which restrooms to use and whether to join the girls’ or boys’ sports teams.
Former President George H.W. Bush Witnesses Same-Sex Marriage
Though his press office was quick to say that his presence was the act of a private citizen and was not meant to be not a political statement, it was still interesting to see pictures of former President George H.W. Bush at a same-sex wedding (in two different colored socks no less).
Bonnie Clement and Helen Thorgalsen, owners of HB Provisions, a Kennebunk, Maine, general store, got married last weekend in Maine, where same-sex marriage became legal last December. The former president and his wife, Barbara Bush, who have a compound in the town and strong ties to the community, not only accepted their wedding invitation, but President Bush served as an official witness and signed their marriage certificate.
Same-sex marriage had not yet become a hot-button issue when Bush was in office, and he has not vocalized an opinion, but members of his very political family have differing thoughts on the subject. His son, President George W. Bush, supported a constitutional amendment that would permanently ban same-sex marriage. The younger Bush’s wife, Laura, and daughter, Barbara, however, have both come out in support of marriage equality, as has his vice president, Dick Cheney, who has an openly gay daughter. Jeb Bush, who may try to follow in the footsteps of his father and brother and run for president, has taken the political middle ground, saying the decision should be left up to the states.