Tuesday, October 31, 2006

The Good Death

Claude Monet
Camille on Her Deathbed
oil on canvas 90x68cm
Musee d 'Orsay

Jane Brody in her article
World Enough and Time for ‘a Good Death’
in today’s New York Times,
writes about the reach for the “Good Death”

"As sudden deaths from heart attacks continue to decline and more people leave this life after a protracted illness, the concept of a good death has become ever more important to both the dying and those who survive them."

The full article is at New York Times article

The article refers to a specific study by Dr. Karen E. Steinhauser and colleagues at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Durham, N.C., which examined the constituents of a good death for patients, their families and health care providers. The 85 study participants had no trouble describing a “bad death” — having inadequately treated pain while receiving aggressive but futile cure-directed therapy.

More helpfully, the study identified six components of a good death, (described in The Annals of Internal Medicine of May 16, 2000):

  • Pain and symptom management. Pain, more so than dying itself, is too often the cause of acute anxiety among patients and their families.
  • Clear decision making. Patients want to have a say in treatment decisions.
  • Preparation for death. Patients want to know what to expects as their illness progresses and to plan for what will follow their deaths.
  • Completion. This includes reviewing one’s life, resolving conflicts, spending time with family and friends, and saying good-bye.
  • Contribution to others. Many people nearing death achieve a clarity as to what is really important in life and want to share that understanding with others.
  • Affirmation. Study participants emphasized the importance of being seen as a unique and whole person and being understood in the context of their lives, values and preferences.

This study says that dying can, and should, be a much less painful experience for many more people and their loved ones than it now is.

Is it necessary to add a reminder about Living Wills and Treatment Advocates?

In Search of a Good Death: Observations of Patients, Families, and Providers
Karen E. Steinhauser, PhD et al
Annals of Internal Medicine - American College of Physicians
16 May 2000 - Volume 132 Issue 10 -
Pages 825-832
Link to Annals of Internal Medicine

Halloween British Style

According to today’s New York Times, the British have adopted an Americanized Halloween but it’s not universally popular:

A handout to help those who don’t want trick-or-treaters from Devon and Cornwall Police

New York Times article

Physicians' Thoughts

Our thoughts keep being drawn back to these letters, written by MDs to Newsweek, particularly the second. They speak for themselves.
[You will, of course, need to click on the image of the leters to enlarge it enough to read]

Monday, October 30, 2006

Secret Lovers

Craig Timberg, writing in the Washington Post (Sunday, October 29, 2006); describes Swaziland’s campaign

Your secret lover can kill you.

He writes the new-AIDS campaign arrived without warning one day in July, featuring a slogan both unusually explicit and dripping with implied accusations: Makhwapheni Uyabulala - Your secret lover can kill you.

Despite living in a country that has the world's highest rate of HIV, Swazis had grown accustomed to bland billboards suggesting that more condoms or a positive attitude toward the disease would curb its spread. These new ads were different.

By the time they disappeared two weeks later in a frenzy of controversy, they had sparked a passionate national debate about how best to combat a disease that, Swazis say, has pushed their country to the brink of collapse. And the ads forced many here to confront how freewheeling sex was fueling an epidemic of early death.

Read the whole article (and don’t miss out on the video clip)

Link to Washington Post article

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Copyright traps

“When I use a word”, Humpty Dumpty said in a rather scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean – neither more nor less”.
Alice Through the Looking Glass

This exploration comes from The Word section of The New Scientist (Oct 21 – 27)

The Steinlaus - "stone louse" in English - is a rodent-like mite. According to the German medical dictionary Pschyrembel, it can be used to break down bladder, gall bladder and kidney stones. Research into its uses has progressed rapidly since it was first listed in 1983, and homeopaths have adopted it as a remedy.

Hang on a minute. A rodent-like mite? Sound unlikely? That's because the Steinlaus doesn't exist.

Why would the compilers of a dictionary deliberately include a false entry. The Steinlaus may be an in-joke, but it also serves the function of protecting copyright. Dictionary editors face a problem protecting their work. They invest hugely in compiling lists of facts, which are then easily copied, especially from digital editions. Copyright does not apply to facts, only to the way they are expressed or assembled, and a fictitious entry is the perfect way to detect large-scale unauthorized copying of such a collection. If it turns up in someone else's dictionary, that's strong evidence of plagiarism.

Many dictionary compilers use copyright traps. The New Oxford American Dictionary, for example, defines "esquivalience" as "the willful avoidance of one's official responsibilities". In 2005 the editors confessed that they added it purely as a copyright trap. The word is deliberately badly formed because they were "trying to make a word that could not arise in nature". But ploughing through to result 112 of 51,800 Google search hits turned up the phrase "esquivalience in the Oval Office". Even if used for comedic effect, such an expression is likely to result in the word escaping into the wild.

Is it only dictionary compilers who use copyright traps? Computer security people have an equivalent that they call a "honeytoken". To detect the theft of a mailing list, for example, you create a false entry and do not reveal it anywhere else. You could use the name Jakob Maria Mierscheid, a fictitious Social Democrat representing the real town of Morbach in the German parliament, which has listed him in its official directory since 1979. Naturally, he now has a blog.

Map-makers also use copyright traps. In the 1930s, US map-maker General Drafting Company marked the fictitious settlement of Agioe at the intersection of two dirt tracks on its Esso maps of the Catskill Mountains in New York State. Years later Agioe turned up on a map from rivals Rand McNally. Gotcha? Actually, no. Rand McNally managed to prove that the county administration had supplied them with the name. Apparently, reports map collector Ian Byrne from Milton Keynes, UK, "someone built a general store at the intersection and called it Agioe because that's what it was marked as on the Esso map". The fictitious entry had autoreified. In caseyou were thinking of copying this article, don't. You might fall into our own copyright trap.

Darn it, we fell for it!

Lewis Black and the Children

Friday, October 27, 2006

National AIDS Strategy

Writing in the Chicago Defender, (October 25), Chris Collins puts the case that
The US Needs a National AIDS Strategy:

You cannot expect concrete results for your investments without a clear plan of action. So when the United States sets out to help a country tackle its AIDS epidemic, one of the first things we do is insist that a national AIDS plan is in place. Over a quarter century into the AIDS epidemic, we still don’t apply that same logic to the epidemic at home, and we have just the kind of results you would expect.

New HIV infections have remained at 40,000 a year for more than a decade ñ one new infection every 12 minutes. The outcomes in treatment are no better. The latest estimates are that only about half of Americans who have HIV are receiving appropriate medical care.

Link to Chicago Defender

It could be argued that the article does not make the case very strongly. Maybe the important point is that the issue is being raised at all. More significantly, Chris Collins also authored the new report HIV/AIDS Policy in the United States, published by the Public Health Watch project of the Open Society Institute

Link to HIV/AIDS Policy in the United States Report

More Drug Resistant TB Cases

Keith Alcorn, for Aidsmap (Friday October 27 2006), reports

XDR TB: now more cases than bird flu

South Africa has now detected 284 cases of Extensively Drug Resistant (XDR) tuberculosis (TB) in the province of Kwazulu Natal alone, a spokesperson for the South African Medical Research Council told reporters this week, exceeding the 256 cumulative cases of avian influenza worldwide reported by the World Health Organization up to October 16th.

XDR TB is defined as a form of TB that is resistant to at least three of the six classes of drugs that can be used in second-line treatment. XDR TB has proved rapidly fatal in many of the patients observed in South Africa, with all but one of the first 53 cases described resulting in death within three weeks of diagnosis.

Link to Aidsmap article

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Doubts on HIV's existence 'insane'

Clara Pirani, the Medical reporter of the newspaper The Australian reports in Friday’s edition (27 Oct 2006) AIDS experts have labeled claims by a Perth researcher that HIV does not exist as outrageous and dangerous nonsense.

Eleni Papadopulos-Eleopulos, a medical engineer at Royal Perth Hospital and a founder of the Perth Group of researchers who argue AIDS is not linked to HIV, said on Wednesday that HIV was not a retrovirus and could not be transmitted by sexual intercourse. It is perhaps significant that she appears as an expert witness at a leave-to-appeal hearing on behalf of Andre Chad Parenzee - an HIV-positive man convicted of endangering the lives of three girlfriends and sentenced to 15 years in prison.

The article goes into more details but it is enough to note the response from Andrew Grulich, associate professor in epidemiology at the Australian National Centre in HIV Epidemiology and Clinical Research, who described the group's claims as "insane".

A spokeswoman for the Royal Perth Hospital said yesterday that the hospital did not share the views of Ms Papadopulos-Eleopulos, who does not work in HIV research or with AIDS patients.

Link to .The Australian

HIV Testing: Public Health not Civil Liberties

Michael Carter, writing for Aidsmap (Wednesday, October 25, 2006) explores the issues raised in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMMA) commentary HIV Screening in Health Care Settings: Public Health and Civil Liberties in Conflict? by Lawrence O. Gostin, JD, LLD . He proposes that the interests of communities most affected by HIV will be best served by shifting from a civil liberties approach to HIV testing to a public health approach. It is his view that advances in HIV therapy combined with the individual and public health benefits of early HIV diagnosis justify the adoption of a new, “opt-out” approach to HIV testing.

The recent CDC removal of the requirement to receive counseling before an HIV test is a departure from a decades-old approach to testing that involved individuals receiving pre- test counseling and providing, written, informed consent. We take note that universal pre-test counseling has become more of a myth than a reality.

The civil rights approach to testing originated when the medical and social context for HIV were significantly different to those that exist today and was designed to “safeguard personal autonomy and privacy and to proscribe discrimination.”

This approach my no longer be justified. The HIV drug therapies have both individual and public health benefits and justifies the adoption of a new, public health approach to HIV testing.

Epidemiology supports the argument. As many as 250,000 Americans are living with undiagnosed HIV infection and late diagnosis of HIV is widespread. This represents “lost opportunities for linking people with medical care, reducing infectiousness, and encouraging safer behavior.” Universal testing would also be less stigmatizing “because it does not single out vulnerable populations and applies equally to all socio-economic classes and racial groups.”

But there is a note of caution. “For vulnerable communities, it may not be enough to focus absolutely on their rights, but also on their health and collective well-being. That may be the message for the evolution toward a public health model for combating HIV/AIDS.”

Link to the JAMA article (if you have access)

Link to the Aidsmap article (if you don’t)

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

The Worst Congress Ever

"There is very little that sums up the record of the U.S. Congress in the Bush years better than a half-mad boy-addict put in charge of a federal commission on child exploitation. After all, if a hairy-necked, raincoat-clad freak like Rep. Mark Foley can get himself named co-chairman of the House Caucus on Missing and Exploited Children, one can only wonder: What the hell else is going on in the corridors of Capitol Hill these days?

These past six years were more than just the most shameful, corrupt and incompetent period in the history of the American legislative branch. These were the years when the U.S. parliament became a historical punch line, a political obscenity on par with the court of Nero or Caligula -- a stable of thieves and perverts who committed crimes rolling out of bed in the morning and did their very best to turn the mighty American empire into a debt-laden, despotic backwater, a Burkina Faso with cable."

If you are still in doubt that it’s time for a change (change not substitute more of the same) or if you want an inside view.---Including the 10 Worst Congressmen – then look at the Rolling Stone article : The Worst Congress Ever -How our national legislature has become a stable of thieves and perverts -- in five easy steps by Matt Taibbi.

Link to Rolling Stone: The Worst Congress Ever

What are the Pharmaceuticals Buying?

The Kaisernetwork (Oct 25, 2006) explores the story that the Pharmaceutical Industry Contributed Millions of Dollars to Republican Congressional Campaigns, as reported in Wednesday’s Wall Street Journal which describes how pharmaceutical companies are "pouring millions of dollars" into congressional campaigns in close races, "giving some Republicans a financial edge." They note that, "with a Democratic victory increasing likely, few recent elections have been so critical "for pharmaceutical companies, in large part because Democrats have promised to revise the Medicare prescription drug benefit to "take away most of the advantages it handed to pharmaceutical companies." Democrats have proposed "lifting a ban on the broad-scale reimporting of inexpensive drugs"and they might seek to"toughen the drug-approval process. Democrats also have discussed "holding hearings into conflicts of interest among Republican now working" for the pharmaceutical industry. As of early September, pharmaceutical industry political action committees had contributed about $8.7 million to congressional campaigns, compared with $7 million for all of 2002, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonpartisan research group. Republicans have received 69% of the campaign contributions from the pharmaceutical industry this year.

What was it you asked ---- why do you have to mix health issues and politics?

Tuesday, October 24, 2006


More moral high ground!

Bush administration warned to keep condom info factual

The Advocate reports

Government auditors reminded the Bush administration Thursday that literature distributed by federally funded abstinence programs must contain medically accurate information about condoms' effectiveness in preventing sexually transmitted diseases.

The Government Accountability Office did not make any judgment about the accuracy of the literature. But the government watchdog did say the Department of Health and Human Services is required by law to ensure that materials addressing sexually transmitted diseases ''shall contain medically accurate information on condom effectiveness.''

Who would have any problem with that one might well ask? It should come as no surprise that the Bush administration has contended that materials prepared by the abstinence programs, which received about $170 million in 2006, did not fall within the scope of the statute.

Link to the Advocate article

Serosorting in California

Michael Carter’s article Serosorting 'not uncommon' amongst gay and bisexual men in California, (Aidsmap News Tuesday, October 24, 2006) reports the overwhelming majority of gay and bisexual men in California are aware of their own and their partner’s HIV status and many men choose to have unprotected anal sex with both primary and casual partners of the same HIV status, according to a study published in the October 24th edition of AIDS.

The researchers are suggesting that an increase in unprotected sex and the incidence of sexually transmitted infections should be interpreted in light of their findings and suggest that unprotected anal sex need not always imply that an individual is risking infection with, or transmission of, HIV.

The study has data to back the contention but some of the (almost axiomatic) assumptions produce dangerous conclusions. The quote

“We found that serosorting was not particularly an uncommon practice in this population,” write the investigators.

is flexible enough to be dubious in a study. And the afterthoughts are quite dire!

They note, however that serosorting was not without its risks as one man who believed he was HIV-negative tested HIV-positive and had been having unprotected sex with his HIV-negative partner, potentially exposing him to HIV.

Link to Aidsmap article: Serosorting

Monday, October 23, 2006

How Embarrassing

As you may have noticed, some contributors are drawing attention to Proposition 1 in the upcoming election. Other have been asking, "what is it?” So here it is. The emphasis in red has been added by us.



The Seattle City Council passed Ordinance Number 121952 concerning the licensing and regulation of adult entertainment. Voters filed a sufficient referendum petition to refer the ordinance to a public vote.
Among other things, Ordinance Number 121952 would: (1) add new provisions concerning license issuance, suspension and revocation; (2) prohibit adult entertainers from performing within four feet of customers, or directly accepting gratuities; (3) require specific lighting levels at adult-entertainment premises; (4) prohibit entertainment that is not visible from all public areas within the premises; (5) require premises to allow announced City inspections during business hours; and (6) allow the city attorney to file nuisance actions against adult-entertainment premises that violate the law.
Should this ordinance be:



Contributors offered this link which dissects the “need” for these regulations (and also links to article Nanny Seattle in The Weekly


Another contributor suggested a link to the blog Ask A Stripper. That should also help the moralists who are claiming to “save the girls”


Given the local problems we face (let alone the world issues) we are embarrassed for Seattle that we are obliged to waste time and energy on this. During a conversation last week, we ranged over some of the health issues that confront us here and now: Hepatitis C, the HIV Super-virus (not to mention the failure to continue confronting HIV/AIDS locally) TB and XDR-TB, Syphilis and resistant Gonorrhea, crystal meth and the associated risky behaviors. Someone raised the issue of what is the Mayor doing because “this is his city.” Nobody came up with an answer but now we know. He is cleaning up the naughty spots! Maybe it is a pilot project. If the four feet rule works it can be applied to the other problems. If only all Seattleites will keep that distance from each other there will be no STIs.

Concerns Over Limits of Medical Privacy Rule

According to the Daily Health Policy Report by The Kaisernetwork , an article in Saturday’s Wall Street Journal, Oct 23, 2006, examined how forms that outline the medical privacy rule under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA)"essentially detail the many ways a doctor can use and disclose medical information -- often without a patient's consent or knowledge" -- and how patients who visit physician offices, hospitals and pharmacies mistakenly "assume signing somehow protects their privacy" The HIPAA Federal Privacy Rule allows health care providers to share patient medical records for the purposes of treatment and other "health care operations." Providers do not have to obtain written consent before they disclose medical records but are required to inform patients of their rights and make a "good-faith effort" to obtain written acknowledgment from patients that they have received the information. Providers must obtain consent from patients before they can disclose medical records in "non-routine".

According to critics, the rule allows providers "to put medical information to myriad uses". For example, providers can hire outside companies to survey patients on customer satisfaction or hire third-party marketers to advertise their products. Although the rule allows patients to extend restrictions on the use of their medical records through written agreements, providers do not have to agree to the terms under federal law. In addition, although violation of the rule can result in fines, the Office for Civil Rights, which received more than 22,600 complaints between mid-April 2003 and Sept. 30, to date has not issued any fines.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Ooh, Vicar

Well I was surprised that my little reference to Madonna last week caused such a stir. It was interesting and instructive to hear from Malawians. We appreciated your comments. Thank You.

I just cannot let this pass without noting the question to the Human Rights groups from little David Banda’s father: where were you when he needed you? In case you may be one of the stubborn few who do not believe in the extent of the problems (and that Madonna and friends are helping practically and financially) here is a visual reminder:

A friend who has visited Malawi reminded us of this:

Another young boy named Banda born near Kasungu (when Malawi was Nyasaland), as a teenager left home and went with Hanock Msokera Phiri, an "uncle" who had been a teacher at the nearby Livingstonia Mission School, on foot to Hartley in Zimbabwe (then Southern Rhodesia) and then, in 1917 and again on foot, to Johannesburg in South Africa. In 1925, he went to New York, sponsored by Bishop W.T. Vernon of the African Methodist Church. Here he studied in the high school section of Wilberforce Institute (now Central State University) in Columbus, Ohio and graduated in 1928. He enrolled as a premed student at Indiana University and after four semesters transferred to the University of Chicago, where he majored in history, graduating with a B Phil in 1931. He studied medicine at Meharry Medical College in Tennessee, graduating in 1937, but in order to practice medicine in territories of the “British Empire” he was required to get a second medical degree; he attended and graduated in 1941 from the School of Medicine of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of the University of Edinburgh.

He is of course Hastings Kamuzu Banda, the first President of Malawi.Would it have been better if he had stayed at home?

Saturday, October 21, 2006

When We Were Young

When We Were Young by The Killers to a fanvideo of Get Real

Fashion Statement

A shopper stalked into the Barbour by Peter Elliot store on Madison Avenue, demanding of Maggie Archambault, the manager, “Have you seen the queen?”

“Actually, yes,” Ms. Archambault remembered telling her, “at a garden party in the 1970’s.”

“ No, The Queen, the movie,” the customer shot back. “I’d like the coat that the queen is wearing in it.”

New York Times: Fashion & Style: Ruth La Ferla

Friday, October 20, 2006

Seattle's New Slogan

Metronatural is the focus
for a new advertising campaign by the Seattle Convention and Visitors Bureau. It has been painted on top of the Space Needle. The bureau said the "brand concept was designed to highlight Seattle's rare and uniquely marketable combination of urban and outdoor experiences". Meanwhile Washington State (and the localities) have started a campaign to collect User Tax (from those who bought out of state --- including the Internet!) for purchases on which no Sales Tax was paid.

The slogan was developed over a year and
it only cost $200,000

The trouser snake?

Maybe it's a cultural thing but, for me, this would certainly not associate condoms with pleasure.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Why do you have to be political?


"I am so pissed off with all these politicians --- I just can't be bothered to vote." Go on add the old chestnut -- "my vote doesn't make any difference anyway." I am sick of hearing that. And, I'm more pissed off with those people than with the "politicians". We seem to have reached a point where everyone is looking for the magical kingdom. The fear factor has been played to the point of diminishing returns. The myth of the "axis of evil" has come back to haunt us. Thereligious right (or some of them) realize that they were "faith based" duped and now even the sop of "gay marriage" is not tempting them.

Then there are the idiots who say that blogs like this should avoid politics because it might cause offense. We find HIV/AIDS offensive -- particularly when the "nice" professional don't want to talk about, let alone deal with, the realities (or even generalities if it's sex we are thinking of). Somebody here was saying (off the record -- as usual) that there is lots of criticism that should be made about the Seattle Prevention Players but no one wants to rock the boat in the election season. If not now, when? If not in this season of discord when can anyone be critical? And just in case you have all forgotten -- the Don't Ask Don't Tell policy was the result of waiting quietly until after the election!

Then we are told that the dissatisfaction is with the current situation and that voters do not want to embrace the Democrats --- they are only Brand X. If you need to believe that so be it. But at least make the brand change. Some still cling to the tattered rags of ideology: "I'm against torture. I know Iraq is not going well. I still fear terror. I don't think Bush can handle North Korea --- but I can't vote for a party of Tax and Spend. It would ruin us”

Just to remind you, by the way, it was the Grim Reaper who made the first posting on this blog and, as I recall, he made it quite clear that this was not a place for words of comfort. But we do believe that facing the truth is the way through. It helps a nation when that comes from the Top down. If you have to hide the truth to survive it ends up only being a question time running out! That is true on the political and social levels.

Is it ironic that this administration and its Right to Lifers have done more than anyone to diminish life both in quality and quantity? No, not ironic, shameful. Shame on us if we cannot be bothered even to use our vote to say ENOUGH.

Olbermann: the beginning of the end of America

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Seeing Stars

So your Dad told you all rock stars were dumb and spaced out
Meet Brian May, (CBE, ARCS, FRAS) a founding member of Queen, a world-renowned guitarist, songwriter, producer and performer. Brian was forced to abandon his PhD studies on interplanetary dust at Imperial College, London when Queen's popularity first exploded, but has always retained his keen interest in astronomy, and is a regular contributor to The Sky at Night. With co-authors Patrick Moore and Chris Linton he is about to publish BANG! - The Complete History of the Universe. They have also set up the BANG UNIVERSE Web Site, “intended to build a companion community for those interested in matters relating to the book”.

The BANG UNIVERSE web site

The BRIAN MAY official site

Deaths 'not directly related to HIV'

One-in-three UK HIV deaths 'not directly related to HIV', so reports an article by Edwin J. Bernard, posted today on the Aidsmap site.

One-in-three deaths that occurred in HIV-positive individuals in the United Kingdom between 2004 and 2005 were not directly related to HIV, according to the final results of the British HIV Association (BHIVA) mortality audit presented at BHIVA's Autumn conference, held last week in London. The audit also found that cancers related to HIV, as well as those traditionally not related to HIV, accounted for more deaths than any other cause. Other major non-"classical" AIDS-defining specific causes of death included liver disease due to hepatitis B/C co-infection and/or alcohol, and cardiovascular disease.

The Conclusion is startling:

Along with late diagnosis, causes not directly related to HIV account for the majority of deaths in adults with HIV. Deaths due to adverse reactions to HIV therapy and to running out of options with multi-drug HIV were, according to Professor Sebastian Lucas of St. Thomas’ Hospital, London, who presented the data with BHIVA’s President, Professor Margaret Johnson, reassuringly rare.

Link to Aidsmap article

October 17: the Judgement of History

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Pop Quiz




The op-ed piece in today’s New York Times by Jeff Stein under the title Can You Tell a Sunni From a Shiite? examines this issue. Why would it be important? He draws a parallel with how counterproductive it would have been in Northern Ireland if the politicians or counter-intelligence did not know the difference between Catholics and Protestants. Is it really that bad? Read the piece. Link to New York Times

He does not attempt to actually tell you about the differences. For that go to the old standby Wikipedia:.Historical Shi'a-Sunni Relations.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Another Activist Gone

The San Francisco Chronicle records the passing of HIV/AIDS activist Jeff Getty who died at the early age of 49 on Oct. 9 in Joshua Tree, Calif., of heart failure following chemotherapy treatment for cancer. He is probably most famous for the 1995 experimental bone marrow transplant using cells from a baboon. Focusing on this sensation misses the long term courage and tenacity with which he pursued his advocacy and activism particularly in the area of early approval of experimental treatments for HIV.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Ooh, Vicar

This was supposed to be DIVA DAY but first a digression for all of those who suggested that I am not overtly faith based enough:

Well back to the Divas. This is dedicated to Mrs. Ritchie who does not seem to be given a fair shake about her adoption of David Banda a young motherless Malawian child. She cannot win. Not wanting publicity and the quiet funding of millions of dollars is somehow suspect?

[from the book of poems about Malawi by A. M. Rycken - Under the Jacaranda]

Divas 2, 3, & 4 : The Andrews Sisters

And finally Diva #5: Choose your own title!

Saturday, October 14, 2006


The issue of New Scientist of 7 October 2006) has a Special Report Biodefence by Debora Mackenzie. Its title: FORTRESS AMERICA? The premise is that despite spending a fortune on biodefence, the US appears as vulnerable as ever to a concerted terrorist attack.

One of the mainproblems is

"Project Bioshield aims to turn pharmaceutical companies into defense contractors supplying products to deal with potential bioweapons"

As the editorial (Know your enemy), in the same edition, points out:

"....we are at far greater risk from natural diseases. Since 2001 the world has twice been threatened by a major natural pandemic. The first was the SARS outbreak in 2003. Had it not been for uncommonly resolute action from the World Health Organization - and som old-fashioned luck - the virus would still be killing people across the world. Of course, the threat of an H5N1 bird flu pandemic is still very much with us. The virus hasn't learned to spread readily in humans yet, but the chance of it doing so is at least as great as that of Al-Qaida posting us all anthrax spores."

"We are faced with two bio-enemies: one real, one largely imagined but impossible to dismiss. What the Bush administration appears not to have grasped is that we can kill both with one stone .... With serious funding this could lead to wide-ranging defenses against many of the infections nature or humans can throw at us."

Link to New Scientist Article

Listening to the Generals

Friday, October 13, 2006

Whatever Happened to Safe Sex

This article shown to us by a friend appears in the current issue of Details. It also appears on line under its stronger title:

The Death of Safe Sex: Now that STD-awareness campaigns and AIDS paranoia have faded, young men are throwing caution—and condoms—to the wind. Trouble is, the dangers are as clear and present as ever.
By Ian Daly.

These are a just a sample thread of quotes from the article:

“There’s not much to fear out there.”

“The only disease I ever got was crabs and that was worth it!”

“The biggest thing to me is, I don’t know anyone—nobody straight—who’s ever gotten AIDS. And the rest you can fix with a shot.”

“It’d be easy to dismiss him and his friends as marginal sleazebags, but here’s the thing: Evan and Alan are physicians.”

“He works for a major pharmaceuticals company.”

“If these guys weren’t practicing safe sex, who is?”

“Condom sales in the United States are flatlining.”

“Syphilis is making a comeback—between 1999 and 2003, it shot up by 43 percent among American men”.

“Chlamydia cases doubled between 1994 and 2004”.

“Even HIV is making a quiet return: Since 2001, the number of new cases in the U.S. has been edging upward.”

“Anyone caught using jimmies will be asked to leave with no refund given!!”

“Abstinence education’s taken away a substantial amount of resources from programs that have been known to work.”

“The federal government now spends twice as much on abstinence programs as it does on the Division of STD Prevention at the CDC

“By displacing those funds to abstinence programs that don’t work, you actually put young adults at more risk for STDs when they become sexually active.”

It’s just not worth fussing over a little foil packet.

Please read the whole piece, if you have time. Don't miss the discussion FORUM (follow the link on the their first page)

Link to DETAILS: The Death of Safe Sex

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Bono's Product RED

The piece Bono makes fighting AIDS a win all around by Steve Sternbery appears on the USA TODAY site with an audio of Bono discussing it.

Oprah is joining Bono for the Friday launch of Product RED which raises money for the Global Fund To Fight AIDS, Malaria, and Tuberculosis. Up to 50% of the revenue from RED sales will go to the Global Fund.


Link to Product RED

AIDS main killer of men in SF

A friend sent us this story from the San Francisco Bay Area Reporter. It begins:

"It has been eight years since the Bay Area Reporter 's now-historic front-page headline "No Obits" and news story detailing that for the first time since the AIDS epidemic began the paper had no death notices in its August 13, 1998 issue. Since the introduction of antiretroviral treatments in 1996, AIDS is no longer seen as a death sentence and HIV is largely considered to be a manageable disease."

"While it is true most people diagnosed with HIV who have access to AIDS drugs are living longer, the reality is that in San Francisco, AIDS is still the leading cause of death within men ages 15 to 54 years old, and is considered to be the main killer of gay men ages 15 to 64."

We have already drawn attention to the LA Gay and Lesbian Center's Hiv IS a Gay Disease campaign (link to Oct 3 entry) which is, we think, a brave and dramatic attempt to draw attention to the reality of the situation. Despite their avowed intent to "bring attention to the fact that especially on the West Coast, it is gay men who make up most of the HIV cases, they have been accused of just presenting another fear-based message. The range of statistics and sources in the B.A.R. article more than support both the urgency and the imperative of waking up the gay community.

Link to Bay Area Reporter Article

As part of the West Coast the issue is also relevant in Seattle. The question has been raised: In Seattle, what are Lifelong AIDS Alliance doing? Telling us how well they did in September Walk and asking us to look forward to the Return of Gay Bingo is just not enough.