Category: Sexual Health

What’s the Deal with Male Birth Control?

By: Aria Gray MPH: Maternal and Child Health candidate 2017

I have been on many different types of birth control in the past 10+ years, all with varying levels of success and each with a new set of side effects including migraines. It has never been a question of if I should try a new method since no there is no effective reversible male birth control available.

Recently, it has made headlines that a male birth control shot has been found to effectively prevent pregnancy in a newly published study. Unfortunately, participants in the study reported adverse side effects including mood changes, depression, and increased and 20 participants dropped out of the study leading researchers to stop the study earlier than planned.

These reports come very soon after another recently published study that was in the news, which cited that hormonal birth control can cause depression in women.

While this particular study was cut short, it is my hope that research continues to search for a safe and effective method of male birth control. Over 80% of the male participants in the study responded that they would use this method of contraception outside of the study, which is hopeful for the future, and a sign that this method is very much wanted and needed. Both women and men deserve to have reproductive freedom without having to jeopardize their health or mental health.

But for now, until male birth control that is safe and effective is developed and approved, women must bear an unequal burden to prevent unwanted pregnancies.

Read more about this interesting topic here.

Could Your Birth Control be Making You Depressed?

depressed

By: Aria Gray MPH: Maternal and Child Health candidate 2017

Could your birth control be making you depressed? A new study was released a few weeks ago claiming just that.

A nationwide study in Denmark was conducted to analyze the potential link between depression and hormonal birth control. What was found was that users hormonal birth control were more likely than non-users to be prescribed anti-depressants, though the risk is very small. The main conclusion of the study found that use of hormonal contraception, was associated with the subsequent use of anti-depressants and a first diagnosis of depression, and the authors of the study concluded that depression might be a potential adverse effect of hormonal contraceptive use. Currently, mood swings, and not clinical depression are listed as a potential adverse effect of hormonal birth control.

When this study was first published, I woke up to see news articles about it posted all over my Facebook timeline and my Twitter feed. Many of the people posting about this study felt vindicated after not feeling believed about how their birth control was making them feel. I also felt like my past bad experiences with hormonal birth control could potentially be explained by this study. For years, doctors had told me that there was no way that my birth control could be making me depressed, but my doctor’s explanation did not seem consistent with how my friends felt on their birth control or how much better I have felt after discontinuing certain methods in the past.

What I also saw online was great dissent and controversy about the study and the reporting about the study online from various news organizations and outlets.

While I did not agree with some of the comments I read online, I do agree that further research needs to be done on this topic, but I am excited that steps are being taken to further understand women’s health, especially in this context, and hope that this study sparks more research and discussion on this topic.

Time for a Change (in birth control)?

By: Aria Gray MPH: Maternal and Child Health candidate 2017

Over the summer I got married and moved into a new apartment and if that was not enough change combined with the start of the Fall semester, I am thinking about changing my birth control method. This is a common struggle that many women who rely on contraceptives often face. There is no “One size fits all” birth control, and often we must try several different options before finding our perfect method. It is sometimes very obvious when changes in your health or negative effects on your quality of life are a result of your birth control method, and other times it is not as apparent. Your health needs may also have changed since the last time you started a new method or you may have new priorities in your life.Birth control

If you are having trouble remembering to take your pill or change your method every month you may want to consider a new method that is easier to use. Additionally, if you are experiencing mood swings or depression, acne, a decrease in libido, headaches or migraines, and heavier periods it may time to schedule an appointment with your doctor to discuss your current method and options for switching. nuvaring

When faced with dissatisfaction with their method ofbirth control, many women choose to discontinue their current method without immediately starting a new method or without consulting their doctor, which places them at increased risk of unintended pregnancy. Click here for more specific information for how to switch your birth control method, and don’t forget to make an appointment with your doctor to discuss your options.  IUD

This new period tracking app is “Spot On”

By: Aria Gray MPH: Maternal and Child Health candidate 2017

Adjusting to the start of the school year and being back on campus can be very stressful and overwhelming. It can start to seem like you don’t have time to take care of everything on your list, including keeping track of your own health and your body including keeping track of your period. Your period is a normal (though not always fun) part of life, and tracking can be helpful to understand your own unique cycle and to observe if your cycle is changing at all. To help keep track of your menstrual cycle and your birth control method, consider downloading the new Planned Parenthood Spot On app.

Spot On is for anyone who gets a period or who uses birth control and does not make assumptions about your gender identity or sexual orientation. You can track your flow, symptoms, mood, and also daily activities. The app also has features that help you remember to take your01 birth control. Unlike other period tracking apps that are available, Spot On does not assume that you are trying to get pregnant and doesn’t treat your period like a part of your life that should stay hidden.

The app also includes FAQs and other helpful period resources as well as statistics based on information tracked in the app, which will make filling out forms at your next doctors appointment so much less stressful.

World AIDS Day: who is at-risk?

As the World AIDS Day is approaching on December 1, AIDS is more discussed openly and with compassion instead of in secrecy and shame.
Do you still believe population with high-susceptibility are sexual workers, drug users, and men who have sex with men? Yes or No!
Yes. They do have high risk of being infected by HIV.
No. There is a large number of teenagers being infected by HIV. According to CDC, youth aged from 13 to 24 accounted for a substantial number (estimated 26%) of all new HIV infections in the United States in 2010.
However, although previous research studied the knowledge, attitudes, practice, and influencing factors concerning AIDS among teenagers in the United States,  a group of teenagers is missing.
Chinese international students, a vulnerable group, need to be taken care!

With high-susceptibility of being infected by HIV, Chinese international students did not be studied before. Based on the report published by National Center for AIDS/STD Control and Prevention (China), there was an increasing number of students who were infected by HIV. Those students accounted for 1.64% of the total HIV carriers and people living with HIV/AIDS in 2011, increased from 0.96% in 2006. Of those students, almost half of them (49%) were aging from 20 to 24. Therefore, teenagers, especially college students, are the most vulnerable group concerning the chance of getting AIDS (He et al., 2008; Liu, 2006; Wang, 2002). Unfortunately, most of the previous research in China studied the knowledge, attitudes, and practice (KAP) concerning AIDS among college students in mainland China, instead of studying Chinese international students in the U.S.. Similarly, there is no study mainly focus on this group of students in the U.S.. Therefore, study on Chinese international students is in demand.

Additionally, the number of Chinese students studying in the United States is increasing according to the data published by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Nearly 100,000 Chinese students came to U.S. universities between 2009 and 2012, which contributed to a quarter of all foreign students in the U.S..

With an increasing number and high-susceptibility of being infected by HIV, Chinese students in the United States deserve research to learn their KAP, and develop effective preventions.

 

Photo credit: https://top5ofanything.com/list/ecdb3c65/Countries-with-The-Highest-HIV-AIDS-Prevalence-Rates

 

He et al.. (2008). Analysis to the effect of health education for college students’ AIDS-related knowledge and attitude. Chinese Journal of Health Education 24 (2): 102-104

(贺莉萍, et al. “健康教育对大学生艾滋病相关知识态度的影响.” 中国健康教育 24.2 (2008): 102-104.)

Liu, L.R.. (2006). Summary of health education of AIDS prevention in Beijing. Chinese Journal of Health Education 22 (2): 146-148

(刘利容. “北京地区预防艾滋病健康教育研究综述.” 中国健康教育 22.2 (2006): 146-148.)

Wang, Q.L.. (2002). 全球艾滋病流行进展. 中国艾滋病性病, 1, 000.

UNC Student’s Global Experience

By Hillary Murphy, UNC-CH MPH:Health Behavior candidate 2016

Summer of 2015 I found myself unexpectedly working in sub-Saharan Africa on a pilot intervention involving breastfeeding practices among mothers with HIV.

File:Malawi in Africa.svgJust to help you, the reader, understand how out of my element this was, here is a little background on me. My public health experience up to this point involved local food movements, health disparities in rural North Carolina, and, for a few months, community engagement and education in permaculture practices in Java, Indonesia.  Despite my obvious lack of experience, I was lucky enough to be offered a practicum position, and less than a month later, I began working in Malawi, a small country in southern Africa.

Currently in Malawi, 13% of pregnant women are HIV positive. Without intervention, 5-20% of their children will become infected from HIV exposure though breastmilk, suggesting that prevention of mother-to-child transmission is of critical importance.

During my time in Malawi our goal was to tailor and pilot test an Infant and Young Child Feeding (IYFC) promotion intervention among HIV+ Malawian women in community-based village savings and loan associations (VSLAs). We tailored training materials and IYFC learning sessions on 1) breastfeeding, and 2) complementary feeding for use with Malawian trainers and VSLA volunteers, and pilot tested these materials to further refine them for use in Malawi.

Although this practicum certainly helped build my skills in program implementation and tailoring, and gave me a deep love for sub-Saharan Africa, it most importantly was a reminder to be open to unexpected experiences. There is no way to know what your true passions in life are unless you welcome opportunities that are out of your element.

Photo source: Wikimedia

Immediate HIV treatment can save additional millions, WHO says

 

The World Health Organization (WHO) recently came up with new guidelines that could expand population on HIV drugs by millions.

In the past, the HIV infected would start treatment when their viral load reaches a certain level of severity. Under the new guidelines, however, anyone infected with HIV is recommended to begin treatment immediately after diagnosis. This expands the number of people who are eligible for anti-retroviral drugs to about 28 million to 37 million over the world.

In addition, the guidelines recommend protective medications for those who are at substantial risk of HIV infection as studies on pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PrEP, have shown to be effective to lower the risk of becoming infected.

The WHO hopes that the revised guidelines will help halt the epidemic, but who will pay for the cost to execute those remains questionable.

 

Bias on using HIV-blocking drug

The Boston attorney, as a gay man, thought he was discriminated for having HIV-blocking drug.

The attorney tried to ask his doctor to prescribe Truvada, an HIV-blocking drug, to be responsible for preventing himself from being infected by HIV. But he failed to get long-term care insurance from Mutual of Omaha. The reason why Mutual of Omaha turned him down is it does not cover anyone who takes the drug. As a result, the man will sue the insurer for the discrimination of being gay. He already filed a complaint with the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination this Wednesday.

According to the article published in the associated press, the man said:”I thought maybe they misunderstood me. I’m HIV-negative. I’m not HIV-positive. I was taking Truvada as a prophylactic.” The objective for him to sue the insurer is to ensure that people like him will not be worried about the discrimination for using Truvada.

Truvada, a preventive drug, was approved for reducing the risk of being infected by HIV among uninfected people by FDA. Moreover, in accordance with the data published by CDC, Truvada is able to largely reduce the risk in people at-risk.

However, there are a group of critics of Truvada claim that the use of Truvada may increase the prevalence of risky sexual behavior such as condom-less sex, though it is effective to some extent.

What do you think about the advantages and disadvantages of HIV-blocking drug? Will it really increase risky sexual behaviors in people at-risk?

Photo credit:http://www.wehoville.com/2014/04/08/worth-read-truvada-lifesaver-party-drug/

Drug Shown to be Effective in Preventing HIV Infection

What if there was a pill that could protect against the HIV virus?

What many people don’t realize is that such a drug already exists and has proven to be incredibly effective at blocking the spread of the virus.

Last week, Kaiser Permanente published their findings for a 2.5 year study of Truvada, the pre-exposure prophylaxis drug for HIV. Truvada is actually a combination of two medicines, tenofovir and emtricitabine, that when taken daily can prevent HIV infection in an HIV-negative person if they are exposed to the virus.

Of the 657 people who began using PrEP over the 32-month observation period, none contracted HIV during the study. Previously conducted clinical trials had shown efficacy rates as high as 92% for preventing infection when the drug was taken properly, but the Kaiser Permanente study was the first to produce evidence supporting the drug’s efficacy in a real world setting.

It is important to note that Truvada is only recommended for people who are continually at high risk for contracting HIV (due to sexual practices or injection drug use)*. It is also a promising option for HIV discordant couples (in which one partner is HIV positive and the other is negative).

Also, to be effective Truvada needs to be taken very consistently each day which raises questions of practicality and concerns about the regular access to healthcare services that successful management requires. Still, PrEP remains a very promising tool for the continued battle to control the spread of HIV worldwide.

You can find more information on PrEP from the CDC: http://www.cdc.gov/hiv/prevention/research/prep/

 

*If a person is exposed to HIV in a single high-risk event, they could begin treatment with postexposure prophylaxis (PEP) within 72 hours of their exposure to the virus to mitigate the chance of infection.

Early treatment saves more lives

The benefits of early treatment are clear for both people living with HIV (PLWH) and the whole society. Last Wednesday, based on the findings of the largest clinical trial, federal health officials announced that the benefits of the early treatment are obvious. Besides, they also said that people with HIV should take antiretroviral drugs as soon as they are diagnosed.

This trial is a strong evidence to show that those who got treatment immediately were 53 percent less likely to be infected and develop AIDS or die during the trial. Therefore, the early treatment saves more lives. At present, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (C.D.C.), 450,000 of the estimated 1.2 million with HIV are on treatment. Although the influence of early treatment is sound and profound, only 37 percent of infected Americans had the access to get the prescriptions of the drugs. This small percentage is partly due to the limited access to HIV testing, health insurance. Therefore, people infected by AIDS could not afford the drugs or did not see doctors.

In addition, though the substantial evidence of the benefits of early treatment is defining, the shortage of funding is the main cause of a small amount of people living with HIV have the access to the early treatment — antiretroviral medicines. For instance, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria constantly struggle to raise money.

It’s true that antiretroviral treatment (early treatment) is the best way to curb AIDS. The shortage of money is the mainly daunting challenge facing organizations targeting at HIV.

Photo credit from: http://www.bchdmi.org/cchs/hiv