Apr. 2nd, 2009

joreth: (Dobert Demons of Stupidity)

So, at some point in the past, I filled out one of the Planned Parenthood forms to send a pre-written email to various government officials complaining about the Abstinence Only program.  The other day, I got a response back from the office of Governor Charlie Christ.  It wasn't from him directly, but it claims to come from his office.  Here, I'll post it in full:

From: "Governor Charlie Crist" <Charlie.Crist@eog.myflorida.com>    
To: "Governor Charlie Crist" <Charlie.Crist@eog.myflorida.com>
Subject: Thank you for contacting Governor Charlie Crist
Date: Mon, 30 Mar 2009 10:53:24 -0400
Thank you for your recent e-mail to Governor Charlie Crist regarding the
federally-funded Title V, Section 510 Abstinence Education Program.
Governor Crist appreciates hearing your views and has asked me to reply
on his behalf.

Governor Crist believes in a comprehensive approach and supports
programs that emphasize personal responsibility and quality abstinence
education.  Abstinence education is only one of the strategies included
in a continuum of services provided by the Florida Department of Health
to protect the health and safety of Floridians, more specifically its
teenage population.  Teens in the state of Florida may receive services
through the state's Family Planning  program which provides a wide range
of family planning methods including abstinence only education.

The overall goal of the Abstinence Education Program is to prevent and
reduce teen sexual activity, teen pregnancy and births, and the spread
of sexually transmitted diseases by promoting abstinence as the expected
norm for unmarried teens.  As such, the Florida Abstinence Education
Program implements programs and services that stress abstinence until
marriage as the most effective way to prevent unwanted pregnancies,
sexually transmitted diseases, and other health problems associated with
the early initiation of sexual activity.

The Abstinence Education Program has been well received in Florida since
its formation in 1999. As of June 30, 2008, the Florida Abstinence
Education Program has served more than 559,000 youth and 50,000 parents
and significant adults.  Additionally, the program averages in excess of
5,500 unique visitors per month to its "Great to Wait" website with more
than 160,000 unique visits having occurred since February 2006.  More
than 10,000 individuals and organizations have signed up for the
program's mailing list and 6,000 individuals have placed their e-mail
addresses on the program's e-mail distribution list.

The Executive Office of the Governor and Florida Department of Health
monitor changes in this program.  Florida's Abstinence Education Program
will continue to apply for Federal funding using the Title V guidance
offered, while ensuring all proposed programs are in keeping with the
needs of their local communities and the State as a whole.  All funded
abstinence programs in Florida are expected to address the risks
associated with early sexual activity, equip youth with the decision
making skills and support needed to make healthy, responsible choices,
and to focus on education and healthy relationships during their teen
years.  Additionally, the program equips parents and significant adults
with the information, skills, and resources necessary to support and
educate their children in decisions related to sexual activity.

Thank you again for taking the time to contact Governor Crist.  To
receive Governor Crist's weekly newsletter, "Notes from the Capitol,"
please visit www.flgov.com and click on "Subscribe to Notes from the


Warren Davis
Office of Citizen Services


Notice how all his statistics could only say how many people have gone through the program?  Notice how there isn't a single statistic to show how many of those people remained abstinent once having completed the program, or how many of them didn't get pregnant or have an STD?  Notice how there isn't one single mention about the efficacy of this program?  Just that "people like it".

Yeah, well, people seemed to like hanging black men a couple hundred years ago too ... doesn't mean it was a good policy.

Now, please, don't confuse that statement with me attempting to compare the tragedy of slavery and racism to the Abstinence Only program, my only point is that "people like it" doesn't mean that something works.  And all the evidence so far shows that Abstinence Only not only doesn't work, but it's actively harmful because of its misinformation, lack of information, and the fact that teenagers are the least-likely demographic to refrain from doing something just because a grown up said "don't do that".  Facts?  What facts?  We don't need no stinkin' facts!

So, there is his email address if anyone wants to write in and tell him what a stupid policy this is.
joreth: (Nude Drawing)

So, not too long ago, I posted about how HPV is now the leading cause of oral cancers, primarily due to a drop in smoking making tobacco use a decreasing cause of cancer.  But this sort of implies that the total number of oral cancers is more or less stable and only the causes have shifted.

Well, a Swedish study says otherwise.

This is merely a preliminary study and more research with larger sample populations needs to be done, but it's implications are frightening.

Not only is HPV the leading cause of oral cancers, but oral cancers in general are on the rise in spite of tobacco use declining.  This means that the rate of HPV infections of oral tissue is even faster that we thought.

None of my research so far has given me hard and fast numbers as to the probability of catching HPV orally, which activities transmit it, nor how often that oral infection turns into cancer.  I can only get vague words like "low risk" or "moderate risk", which are highly subjective words.  Just how easy is it to catch HPV in oral tissue?  And does it transfer by giving oral sex to someone with HPV on their genitals or can it transfer by kissing too?  This information is just not readily available in the journals I have access to.

But, according to a study done in Stockholm, which they admit limits their results to Stockholm residents but claim that Stockholm is a representative city for Europe in general, the number of tonsil cancers caused by HPV in 1970 were only 23%, but the number of tonsil cancers caused by HPV today are a whopping 93%.  This makes HPV as the cause of tonsil cancer just as prevalent as HPV being the cause of cervical cancer.  And since tonsil cancer is on the rise in general, that makes for a shit-load of HPV-caused oral cancer.

This is not a woman's disease.  Because there is no regular screening in place for oral cancer, most oral cancers are not diagnosed until they are already well advanced, which lowers the survival rate.  And, the average age of HPV-postive tonsil cancer victims is ten years younger than those with HPV-negative cancer.  The good news is, however, that the cancers caused by HPV have a better prognosis than HPV-negative tonsil cancer patients.  According to this study, 81% of HPV-postive cancer patients have a 5-year survival rate, as opposed to 36% of the HPV-negative patients.

Once again, this article does not make any mention at all about how the HPV is transmitted to the oral tissue, or how easily.  It also doesn't say how common tonsil cancer is in general, so it could be that HPV-positive cancer is on the rise but only .01% of the general population gets it.  Personally, I'm inclined to believe (lacking any other data) that the rate of cancer from HPV in oral tissue is probably similar to the rate of cancer forming from HPV in genital tissue.  So until I see contradictory data, that's the hypothesis I'm running with.  Which means that the majority of HPV infections probably do not turn into cancer, but the number of infections that do is similar to the number of women who get cervical cancer from HPV.

But for those who have it, it's small consolation to tell them "well, you were statistically unlikely to get this, so sorry".

Fortunately, Gardasil, the vaccine, protects against the only strain this article mentioned, which is HPV-16.  Gardasil is also showing signs of protecting against 10 other strains that it was not specifically designed to protect against.  Apparently those other strains have something in common with the 4 included in the vaccine, that the vaccine is somewhat effective against them too.  This article even specifically claims that they expect to see a decline in oral cancers following the rise of vaccinations.

And, there is finally talk about vaccinating boys.  My inbox has been flooded with articles about this issue for the past week or two, but I haven't written about it because I get too pissed off every time I start.  Many feminists and those of an egalitarian mindset have made not-really-jokes that if men had to get pregnant, we wouldn't have this whole debate about abortions - they'd be legal and cheap and easy and only a small minority of people would be shouting about "life is sacred".

Well, the double standard certainly seems true in the vaccine debate.  The debate over giving Gardasil to boys is heated, and revolving around the efficacy of the vaccine, but no one anywhere seems to be concerned that this vaccine will make boys more promiscuous.  No one has made that complaint, no one is calling for a protection of boys' virtue, nothing.  The debate is based on the evidence of whether or not the vaccine is effective enough to be worth the cost, just as the debate should.

So, since I've already posted that trials have begun over giving the vaccine to boys, I haven't posted much about the debate itself, because it's not really much of an STD issue - at least, not any more than I've already said about the vaccine with regards to girls, the same issues apply.  I haven't posted because it's more of a gender issue, and I'm just so fed up with defending equal treatment for both genders that I can't quite stomach even getting into another rant about it.

So, the bottom line for this post is that HPV is proving to be a rising danger for both men and women, and for health issues other than cervical cancer.  The days of "well, the odds are that you'll get it eventually, so just don't worry about it" are coming to a close as we learn that more and more cases of cancer are caused by this once-thought "harmless", "easily-treatable", and "woman's issue" virus, and more and more medical researchers are pushing for better screening processes and proactive treatments like the vaccines.

It's about time someone started listening.  I've been yelling about this for about 15 years and everyone looks at me like "dude, what's the big deal?  So you get warts, that's just annoying.  So you get a virus, it doesn't *always* turn into cancer so relax.  And besides, it won't hurt me, I'm a guy".  It's certainly not an automatic death sentence, the vast majority of people survive this virus.  But it is also most certainly not "not a big deal".

As someone pointed out, the above article talks about a pretty small study, so here's another one.  This was done by John Hopkins University on about 300 people that seems to suggest that HPV is a "much stronger risk factor than tobacco or alcohol use".  Those who had HPV in the past had a 32-fold increased risk of throat cancer. 


A strange factoid is that smoking and alcohol are not additional risks, "suggesting that the virus itself is driving the cancer".

This article is unique in that it explicitly addresses the question of how HPV is transmitted, although it is still vague and doesn't give any hard statistics.  They know that oral sex is the "main mode of transmission", but this article specifically states that transmission from oral-to-oral (i.e. kissing) is unknown, but could not be ruled out.  Great.

This article also points out that it is unknown how well the vaccines prevent oral cancers, since they were specifically tested for cervical cancer, but the researchers still recommend that girls and boys get the vaccine.  This article also points out that this type of throat cancer is extremely rare. 

joreth: (Default)
Dear Joreth,

When I visit Planned Parenthood affiliate health centers, I like to ask the educators and nurses what they think is the most important thing we can do to improve reproductive health in our communities. After all, they're on the frontlines every day, so they know better than anyone.

Here's what they say: Expanding access to preventive care, including contraception and STD testing, will do more than anything else to improve reproductive health for young people.

That's why I'm so proud to announce Get Yourself Tested 2009, and why I want you to join in today.

Get Yourself Tested is Planned Parenthood's biggest effort ever to make sure everyone who should get tested for STDs has access to the services they need. In partnership with the Kaiser Family Foundation and MTV, many of our affiliate health centers are offering low cost or no cost STD testing. Click here to learn more.

If you or someone you know is at risk for an STD, click here to find your nearest participating health center. Sexually active but not sure what tests you might need? We've created a simple online quiz to help you decide — just click here.

I want to make sure that everyone, especially teens, can get tested, get care, and get the information they need to protect their health. Along with contraception, it's the best way we can slow the spread of HIV and other STDs among sexually active people. Please visit www.GYT09.org to learn more — and share information about this important program with everyone you know.

Our affiliate health centers always strive to provide the best care regardless of the patient's ability to pay. This April, we are doing everything we can to make sure we encourage as many people as possible who may be at risk to come in and get tested. This is why Planned Parenthood exists — to protect and promote reproductive health for women, men, and teens.

If you or someone you know has been waiting for the right time to come in to a Planned Parenthood affiliate health center — the time is now. Click here to find the nearest participating health center. And even if you or those you know are not in need of care, there's plenty more you can do. Visit www.GYT09.org to find out how you can help, and stay tuned for more details throughout the month of April.

Thank you for supporting Planned Parenthood and all our efforts to protect and promote reproductive health for women, men, and teens.


Cecile Richards, President
Planned Parenthood Federation of America
joreth: (Super Tech)

So, a while ago, I made a post using dancing as an example of people's fears, of emotional vulnerability.  I pointed out three celebrities in particular in the show Dancing With The Stars - a rodeo champion, a football player, and a gymnast - who were terrified of what other people would think of them and who were afraid to be vulnerable.

The two macho men were so afraid of looking foolish, of not being "masculine", of being vulnerable, that they were inhibiting their own abilities.  Their dancing suffered and their performance suffered.

But then a surprising thing happened.

The football player discovered he actually had rhythm, when he stopped worrying about what his buddies would think, and the gymnast gets her highest scores and best compliments when she puts emotion into her dancing.  In fact, she's only 17, but her best dance so far was a very sophisticated and adult foxtrot, where she exhibited elegance and grace and a connection to the spirit of the dance.  She's a powerful and athletic dancer, but she tends to lack the more refined details, such as the performance and the subtle elegance, because she draws too much on her gymnastics background, which is *all* power and strength.  But when she takes it down a notch, when she doesn't come charging onto the floor, when she lets us see her softer side, she is rewarded by showing us a refined performance, worthy of a dancer much older than her 17 years, someone who has experienced something about life.  It's a much richer performance and much more interesting to watch.

The cowboy, Ty, who I especially singled out as being most concerned about not being masculine, received several phone calls after his, really, very poor performance.  All from his macho, masculine friends, all supportive.  Hmm, let's see, a good-looking guy, getting to dance with one of the hottest women in the country, in very skimpy outfits, performing feats of athleticism and rhythm, leading her around, mastering a physical skill ... who woulda thought that might be a masculine activity?

So, with a burst of confidence, he came back the next week ...

and blew the judges away with his improvement.

For his second week, he took a risk of not being "masculine" and he was rewarded for it with a good performance.  The next week he took those positive comments from the judges, and the confidence from his improved performance, and did something even riskier.  He showed vulnerability.  He showed emotion.  He let the audience see his fears, he connected to his partner on the dance floor, and he was rewarded with the comments "the most improved dancer". 

Now, Ty is not the best dancer on the show.  He will not win the competition.  And I don't care.  Ty is taking a risk.  He is letting himself get over this idea of what a "man should be" and he is allowing himself to lower those barriers and be vulnerable on the floor.  And he is being rewarded for it.  Now, as I said, he will not win the competition because there are other dancers out there who are just physically more able than he is.  He's still a bit too stiff in his movements and I do not believe he will catch up to the fluidity and grace that some of the other dancers have already acheived.

But that's not the point.  I want to dance with Ty.  I find him charming and endearing and I enjoy watching him, seeing his improvement, seeing his confidence grow and watching him get more comfortable with who he is, and I enjoy watching him enjoy himself on the dance floor.  He makes me want to share that experience with him.  He won't take home the trophy for best dancer, but he's the one I want to dance with.


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