Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Condoms in prisons

Michael Carter, writes for Aidsmap ( January 31, 2007)

Condoms in Australian prisons don't lead to 'rape and mayhem'

In a study published in the online edition of Sexually Transmitted Infections, researchers from New South Wales established that there was in fact a fall in the reported incidence of both consensual and non-consensual sex between male prisoners after condoms were made available to inmates, and that condom and dental dam misuse was generally benign.

Condoms are highly effective at preventing the transmission of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections, but few prison services make them available to inmates. Following legal advice the New South Wales prison service started providing condoms to male prisoners and dental dams to female inmates in 1996. Concerns were that this would lead to an increase in both consensual and non-consensual sex between inmates. There were also worries that condoms would be used to smuggle or store contraband such as drugs, or that they would be used as weapons against prison staff.

To establish the consequence of condoms and dental dam provision, investigators from
Sydney analysed data obtained from surveys of prisoners in 1996, before condoms and dental dams were made available, and again in 2001, by which time there had been five years of experience of condom/dental dam access. Information from official prison records regarding the misuse of condoms/dental dams, and the use of condoms in assaults was also obtained.

Opposition to the provision of condoms/dental dams from might have been expected prison staff but there were also obejections by inmates. Some feared condoms would increase the number of sexual assaults and a small proportion of male prisoners feared that access to condoms would give the impression that prisoners were homosexual.

Fear about the provision of condoms/dental dams leading to more consensual and non-consensual sex were not realised. In fact, there was a fall in the percentage of men reporting both consensual and non-consensual sex with other inmates. There was no significant change for women.

Condom kits and dental dams were misused, but that this abuse was generally benign. Condoms were sometimes used as waterbombs, and the bags which condoms and dental dams were supplied in were used to store tobacco. Lubricant was used as hair gel, or, when banana and strawberry flavours were available, as a mild flavouring. The investigators also found that some women reported using dental dams as placemats or doilies.

There were only three instances where condoms were used as weapons. One incident involved a shampoo-filled condom being thrown at a prison officer, and in the other two instances, condoms which contained a substance resembling semen were thrown at prison officers.

We were wondering if the Washington State Department of Corections were aware of this study?

Link to.aidsmap article


Do condoms cause rape and mayhem? The long-term effects of condoms in
New South Wales’ prisons.
Yap L et al
Sexually Transmitted Infections. Published Online First:
19 December 2006.

Link to STI abstract

Fighting bacteria

Abandon hope all implant bacteria

Bacteria are going to find it much harder to grow on medical implants and so cause infections thanks to a new technique for attaching antibiotics to polymers.

Materials used in implants must be inert, making it difficult to modify their surfaces to attach antibiotics. To get around this, a team led by Marek Urban at the University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg reacted a polymer, expanded polytetrafluorethylene, with maleic anhydride. This created acid groups on the polymer's surface, to which they attached polyethyleneglycol chains of varying lengths. They were then able to attach penicillin molecules to the free end of each chain, creating a rough antibiotic coating that significantly reduced the activity of Staphylococcus aureus bacteria (Biomacromolecules Journal)

From issue 2588 of New Scientist , 27 January 2007, page 23


Antibacterial Surfaces on Expanded Polytetrafluoroethylene; Penicillin Attachment Nattharika Aumsuwan et al
Biomacromolecules, ASAP Article 10.1021/bm061050k S1525-7797(06)01050-6 Web Release Date:
January 11, 2007

Link to abstract

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

HIV & syphilis

Michael Carter, writing for Aidsmap (January 29, 2007) reports

Syphilis therapy more likely to fail in patients with HIV

He explores research published in the online edition of Sexually Transmitted Infections which reports treatment for syphilis is significantly more likely to fail in individuals that are HIV-positive than in HIV-negative patients, according to studies conducted in Baltimore.

HIV and syphilis have a complex interaction that is not yet fully understood. Recent outbreaks of syphilis across the industrialized world have disproportionately affected HIV-positive individuals, and there is evidence to suggest that this may be due to increased sexual risk-taking amongst this group.

There is also evidence to show that syphilis may facilitate both the transmission and acquisition of HIV infection. HIV has been found in syphilitic ulcers, HIV viral load has been shown to increase during both the primary and secondary stages of syphilis.

US guidelines recommend the same syphilis therapy for HIV-positive and HIV-negative individuals, but they do stress more aggressive follow-up for patients who are HIV-positive.

Link to Aidsmap article


Serological response to syphilis treatment in HIV infected and uninfected patients attending STD clinics.
Khalil G. Ghanem et al

Sex Transm Infect. Published Online First: 30 August 2006.

Link to STI abstract

Those Wonderful Bankers

This message is typical of those currently being circulated by the banking world

Now doesn't that just make you feel more secure? Oh! and please do not look harshly on the bankers just because they are charging their usual exorbitant fees to be patriotic.

Monday, January 29, 2007

The London Times Cartoon

Visitors leave apes with unwanted bacteria

The New Scientist (27 January 2007) reports tourists on chimpanzee safaris appear to be sharing more than fleeting glances with the apes. A study in western Uganda provides what the researchers say is the strongest evidence yet that humans are passing potentially dangerous intestinal bacteria to the chimps.

Thomas Gillespie's team at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, found bacteria resistant to antibiotics used by humans in faecal samples collected from chimps, as reported in the Journal Biological Conservation. "Antibiotic resistance is really the smoking gun," he says. "This rules out the possibility that they have the same bacteria simply because they are living in the same environment."


Patterns of gastrointestinal bacterial exchange between chimpanzees and humans involved in research and tourism in western Uganda
Tony L. Goldberg et al
Biological Conservation
Volume 135, Issue 4 , April 2007, Pages 527-533

Link to Biological Conservation abstract

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Ooh, Vicar!

Oh dear, Rowan has done it again!

Anglican Leaders Join Catholic Battle Against UK Gay Rights Bill

or so Newscenter Staff

The Archbishop of Canterbury, worldwide leader of the Anglican Church and the Archbishop of York, the denomination's second most power full cleric in England, have joined the Roman Catholic Church in trashing legislation that would make it a crime to discriminated against gays and lesbians.

The two Anglican leaders have voiced their opposition in a letter to Prime Minister Tony Blair, whose cabinet is already split over whether organizations and businesses run by churches should be exempt.

The head of the Roman Catholic Church in England, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, the Archbishop of Westminster, threatened on Tuesday to shut down the Church-run adoption agency rather than submit to regulations that could force it to allow gays and lesbians to be adoptive parents.

"In legislating to protect and promote the rights of particular groups the government is faced with the delicate but important challenge of not thereby creating the conditions within which others feel their rights to have been ignored or sacrificed, or in which the dictates of personal conscience are put at risk," said the joint letter from Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams and Archbishop of York John Sentamu.

Archbishop Sentamu has put it in terms of "freedom of conscience" being at stake. Is it just me or can you imagine an Anglican bishop arguing that one when Wilberforce was proposing the abolition of slavery ---will we also have to apologize for this one to future generations?

"I think in the long-run you end up with a statute being used to cure all ills, which it cannot, and I think the danger is therefore to spin a legal spider's web from which actually nobody can escape," York said.

The legislation adds sexuality to existing nondiscrimination laws and the measure covers employment and the rendering of services. It would mean companies cannot refuse jobs on the basis of sexuality, nor could they refuse services to gay and lesbian customers. It is already in effect in Northern Ireland, and its provisions covering England and Wales are currently being debated in the House of Lords.

The talk of crisis of conscience brings to mind the Hamlet quotation

Thus conscience doth make cowards of us all

Link to

But wait, did Tony heed Rowan's plea? Reportedly, the cabinet of Prime Minister Tony Blair has reached what some are calling a compromise and others a copout. The cabinet has been split on whether to amend the legislation to allow churches and church organizations an exemption. In addition to adoption, an exemption would affect LGBT workers in church run soup kitchens and other religiously based services. LGBT civil rights groups have opposed any exemption,

While cabinet ministers are sworn to secrecy about what goes on at meetings a number of officials have leaked information to the media suggesting the government will give the churches a period of time to "adjust" to the new legislation. Various newspapers report this would be from between one to three years.

At the end of that time frame they would have to comply with the law or cease operations. The "grace" period is said to be a period to allow the Catholic Church to transfer its adoption services and then close without harm to the children in their care.

Somebody to Love

The London Times Cartoon

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Safe sex: rethink

Michael Carter writing for Aidsmap (January 25, 2007) reports

New way of thinking about gay men and unprotected sex needed, says study

According to an Australian study by Victorian Networks (Vines) in Melbourne, published in the December edition of Sexually Transmitted Infections, the characteristics of a sexual encounter between gay men rather than gay men’s individual characteristics predict whether or not unprotected anal will occur. The investigators suggest that this is a major finding and that health promotion workers need to stop thinking about certain individuals having a propensity to engage in unprotected sex, but rather recognize that “the occurrence of unprotected anal intercourse…is significantly shaped by characteristics and context of the specific sexual encounter.”

The investigators believe that their work has important implications for HIV prevention activities. First, health promotion workers should take into account the settings where sex take place. Second, their research found that men often engage in both protected anal sex and unprotected anal sex.

Link to Aidsmap article


Individual characteristics are less important than event characteristics in predicting protected and unprotected anal intercourse among homosexual and bisexual men in Melbourne, Australia. Smith AMA et al. Sexually Transmitted Infections 2006;82:474-477

Link to STI abstract

Queen, Commonwealth, Family

Friday, January 26, 2007

The Invisible Enemy

The Pentagon created the perfect machine for saving the lives of soldiers wounded in Iraq. But then GIs started getting sick. The culprit: a drug-resistant supergerm infecting the military’s evacuation chain.

This is the premise of the report The Invisible Enemy by Steve Silberman in the current edition of Wired.

The complete article is available on line and is certainly worth reading. We hope this extract will persuade you:

Since Operatiion Iraqi Freedom began in 2003, more than 700 US soldiers have been infected or colonized with Acinetobacter baumannii. A significant number of additional cases have been found in the Canadian and British armed forces, and among wounded Iraqi civilians. The Armed Forces Institute of Pathology has recorded seven deaths caused by the bacteria in US hospitals along the evacuation chain. Four were unlucky civilians who picked up the bug at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, DC, while undergoing treatment for other life-threatening conditions. Another was a 63-year-old woman, also chronically ill, who shared a ward at Landstuhl with infected coalition troops.

Behind the scenes, the spread of a pathogen that targets wounded GIs has triggered broad reforms in both combat medical care and the Pentagon's networks for tracking bacterial threats within the ranks. Interviews with current and former military physicians, recent articles in medical journals, and internal reports reveal that the Department of Defense has been waging a secret war within the larger mission in Iraq and Afghanistan - a war against antibiotic-resistant pathogens.

Acinetobacter is only one of many bacterial nemeses prowling around in ICUs and neonatal units in hospitals all over the world. A particularly fierce organism known as MRSA - methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus - infects healthy people, spreads easily, and accounts for many of the 90,000 fatal infections picked up in US hospitals each year. Another drug-resistant germ on the rise in health care facilities, Clostridium difficile, moves in for the kill when long courses of antibiotics have wiped out normal intestinal flora.

Forerunners of the bug causing the military infections have been making deadly incursions into civilian hospitals for more than a decade. In the early 1990s, 1,400 people were infected or colonized at a single facility in Spain. A few years later, particularly virulent strains of the bacteria spread through three Israeli hospitals, killing half of the infected patients. Death by acinetobacter can take many forms: catastrophic fevers, pneumonia, meningitis, infections of the spine, and sepsis of the blood. Patients who survive face longer hospital stays, more surgery, and severe complications.

Nevertheless, the bug makes an unlikely candidate for the next mass plague. It preys exclusively on the weakest of the weak and the sickest of the sick, slipping into the body through open wounds, catheters, and breathing tubes. Colonization poses no threat to people who aren't already ill, but colonized health care workers and hospital visitors can carry the bacteria into neighboring wards and other medical facilities. Epidemiologist Roberta Carey at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention calls acinetobacter the Rodney Dangerfield of microorganisms:

"It doesn't get a lot of respect because it's not out there bumping off normal, healthy people." But lately the bacteria has been getting its due, because it is rapidly evolving resistance to all of the antibiotics that used to keep it in check.

Link to Wired article

Comunity superbug

According to BBC News on line, Professor Richard James of the Centre for Healthcare Associated Infections at Nottingham University says that Britain is vulnerable to community acquired MRSA (methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus) and particularly to its toxin-producing strains - PVL (Panton-Velentine leukocidin).

Until recently MRSA was a problem within hospitals but the virus is escaping hospitals to cause severe disease among otherwise healthy people --- "particularly in the US, but also in the UK." The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report community associated MRSA accounts for 12% of MRSA cases.PVL strains of community acquired MRSA can cause the lethal disease necrotizing pneumonia.

BBC News on-line has produced a set of Q &A: PVL infections

Link to BBC PVL Q & A

Washington State still uncivil

An item by Newscenter Staff (Olympia, Washington January 26, 2007

Washington Civil Unions Bill Gets First Hearing

reports a woman whose same-sex partner died as a result of last December's floods told Washington state lawmakers Thursday that she had difficulty getting into the hospital to see her dying lover.

The Washington State Senate Committee On Government Operations and Elections was hearing the first day of testimony on a bill that would create civil unions in the state.

Charlene Strong told how partner Kate Fleming got trapped in the basement studio where she ran an audio company. Rescuers finally broke through and rushed Fleming to a local hospital. But at the hospital Strong was told she could not be with her dying partner of nearly 10 years because she was not a relative. Finally officials relented when a family member interceded. Fleming died moments later.

Even as she tried to plan Fleming's funeral Strong faced roadblocks. Strong told committee members that if they had been an opposite-sex married couple, or had civil union rights she would have had no trouble.

The committee also heard from State Sen. Ed Murray (D-Seattle) the sponsor of the civil union bill. He appeared with his partner. Murray also has proposed legislation that would allow same-sex couples to marry in Washington. Both bills were filed earlier this month by the LGBT caucus at the legislature.

The committee Thursday was examining only the civil union measure. Murray said that he preferred marriage over civil unions, pointing to 400 protections that come with marriage but not civil unions. He acknowledged that the legislature is unlikely to move forward on marriage this year so Civil unions is a good temporary fix. Last July the Washington Supreme Court upheld the Defense of Marriage Act that limits marriage to opposite-sex couples. But the court noted the legislature could overturn the law or amend it to include gay pairs.

Republicans say they will vote against both the civil union and the marriage bill. Sen. Dan Swecker (R-Rochester) is promoting a constitutional amendment that would bar same-sex marriage. He said any attempt to legalize gay marriage should be put to voters as a referendum.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Tidy up

Bill O'Reilly the expert on abuse

This video speaks for itself --- even Greta Van Susteren seems embarrassed.

Who goes to jail?

Last week (Saturday, January 20, 2007) we reported the case of the man from Bournemouth, UK who was sent to prison for infecting his girl friend with HIV. This was one of many cases covered. We have argued that activists ought always to be the in the forefront of practical and ethical issues of HIV transmission and prevention. As we have always asked,

"Why would you leave this issue to the lawyers"?

The Europeans (as we have repeatedly pointed out) have an ongoing dialogue about the issue. In the United States "criminal transmission" is enforced sporadically, selectively, and (as some would argue) moralistically biased. Whatever your views it is pertinent to compare the difference is sentences (UK = 3½ years USA = Life) not to mention the comparison with "intent" in other crimes.

Will Doig writing for (January 19, 2007) has given a graphic description of what happens when your leave it to the Lawyers.

The only aspect that we thought may have been neglected was the issue of "constructivist knowledge" (July 13, 2006)-- that you should "know" your HIV status based on behaviors and the level of risk you take. This will be the answer to those who suggest that people do not get tested so that they cannot be accused of knowing that they are positive

We will not quote or even say anymore about the article --- other than to highly recommend it. Be assured this is not an issue that is going away. Indeed we are asking why it is not more prominent in the Advocacy & Prevention Agencies.

Link to Truth and Consequences article

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Watching records spin

Having "listened" to a whole batch of youtube videos of old viny recordings - 78s, we found ourselves thinking
"Surely nobody would watch a video of a record playing"
Dah! Well you did.
And don't call me Shirely.

It goes on going on . . .

Just when you thought the elections had really made a difference, the Administration can be counted on to provide a reminder that their "work" continues. A friend sent us an article from the New York Times --- Sex and the Single-Minded (January 20, 2006) by columnist Stacy Schiff. It relates some of the views of Dr. Eric Keroack, deputy assistant secretary for population affairs at the Department of Health and Human Services --- not an old timer, the 46 year old is in his second month at the job. Today he oversees the $280 million Title X program, the only federal program "designed to provide access to conteaceptive supplies to all who want and need them, with prioity given to low-income persons."

Schiff outlines Keroack's experience:

Direct an organization that opposes contraception on the grounds that it is "demeaning to women."

Compare premarital sex to heroin addiction,

Advertise a link between breast cancer and abortion -- a link that was refuted in 1997.

Rant against sex ed.

And hatch a looney theory about hormones

Link to the full article

Call for deadly TB isolation

In the San Francisco Chronicle on line, By Maria Cheng, AP Medical writer reports

South Africa TB Patients May Be Detained

Experts propose that South Africa should forcibly isolate patients infected with the deadly strain of TB in order to stop it spreading. In a report in the Journal PLoS Medicine, researchers argue that the current outbreak represents a "major threat". The multi drug-resistant XDR-TB has killed 74 people in the last few months.

Jerome Singh, a lawyer at the Centre for AIDS Programme of Research in Durban, South Africa puts it strongly

"XDR-TB represents a major threat to public health. If the only way to manage it is to forcibly confine then it needs to be done. "

"Ultimately in such crises, the unterests of public health must prevail over the rights of the individual".

The study co-sponsored by the AIDS Programme and the University of Toronto's Joint Centre for Bioethics notes that South Africa has recorded almost 400 cases of XDR-TB and an unprecedented 30 new cases are diagnosed every month. It has killed 98% of those infected within two weeks. Most of those tested positive for HIV,

We would hope that by now the warning that this is not just an "African problem" would be redundant. The WHO has called for the world to prioritize XDR-TB on a level with Avian Flu and recommends the developing a one strategy to deal with the twin challenges of HIV and TB

Link to sfgate article

Aidsmap also covers the report

Link to Aidsmap.story

XDR-TB in South Africa: No Time for Denial or Complacency Jerome Amir Singh et al
PLoS Med 4(1): e50

Link to PLoS abstract

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Selenium supplementation has positive effect on HIV viral load & CD4

A study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, reports that Selenium (a mineral found in many foods and sold as a supplement for less than $10 per month) can reduce HIV viral loads and increase CD4+ T cell counts in HIV-positive people supply. It helps regulate the thyroid and the immune system and creates antioxidants that protect

A detailed review of the study and its results is published by Aidsmap

Link to .Aidsmap article


Suppression of Human Immunodeficiency Virus Type 1 Viral Load With Selenium Supplementation . A Randomized Controlled Trial
Barry E. Hurwitz et al

Arch Intern Med 2007;167:148-154.

Link to AIM abstract

HIV Vaccine

Ben Hirschler, writing for Reuters Health (January 23, 2007), reports

Crunch time for AIDS vaccine trials nears in 2008

Research for a vaccine against AIDS is about to enter a critical stage, with results in 2008 from large-scale clinical trials of two candidates set to determine the future direction of research. Although there is a good chance that neither experimental vaccine will provide comprehensive protection, Seth Berkley, head of the nonprofit International AIDS Vaccine Initiative, is optimistic scientists are on the road to developing a viable vaccine.

Highest hopes are pinned on a vaccine from Merck & Co. Inc.. Expectations are lower for a rival product from Sanofi-Aventis and VaxGen Inc.

"If we have an intermediate result, it is still very, very important, because it allows us to validate the animal models and really improve on it." Berkley said. If the Merck vaccine does not work at all, then other approaches will have to be pursued.

The two vaccines now in advanced human testing work by producing cellular immunity, and Berkley said more effort was needed to research other approaches such as neutralizing antibodies. But he is convinced strides are being made in the laboratory and in the growing number of clinical trials underway in both developed and and developing countries.

Berkley is optomistic -

"Do I think we are going to solve this at the end of the day? Absolutely”.

"If you go back 10 years, it was as bleak as could be. Ten years later, we have a wide pipeline; we have multiple efficacy trials; everybody making vaccine is considering the needs of the developing world; there is political leadership and there has been a 500 percent increase in money."

International AIDS Vaccine Initiative
Link to

Monday, January 22, 2007

Hybrid flu virus in near-miss escape

For those of you having nightmares about the experiments reconstituting the Spanish Flu virus, this article will fan the flames.

Debora Mackenzie writing in the New Scientist (20 January 2007) tells of a lab accident at the University of Texas, Austin has revived fears about experiments that mix human and bird flu viruses and the risk that modified viruses will escape. No virus was released in this case but it has led to a call for details of accidents to be more widely publicized.

Link to New Scientist article

When I'm 64

Thomas Kristensen, writing for Aidsmap (January 19, 2007) reports

A 25 year-old diagnosed with HIV and treated with HIV therapy can expect to live to his 60s, Danes show

In settings where there is easy and free access to HIV medication and care, a young adult diagnosed with HIV has an estimated median survival rate of more than 35 years. However, this median survival rate is significantly lower than that of an HIV-negative person, according to a Danish study published in Annals of Internal Medicine.

The study also found that HIV-positive individuals who were coinfected with hepatitis C virus, and patients who were older at the time of HIV diagnosis could expect to have poorer survival than younger, hepatitis C-uninfected HIV-positive patients.

According to the investigators’ estimates, an individual diagnosed with HIV aged 25 could expect to survive until they were 64, compared to 76 years of age for the HIV-negative control group.

Chronic HIV infection is often compared to diabetes, but when the investigators compared the mortality among patients with type 1 diabetes with mortality amongst HIV-positive individuals, they found higher mortality rates amongst people with HIV.

“Our study suggests that most young people with the HIV infection can expect to survive for more than 35 years, but an ongoing effort is still needed to further reduce mortality rates amongst infected people”

Link to Aidsmap article


Survival of Persons with and without HIV Infection in Denmark, 1995–2005
Nicolai Lohse et al
Annals of Internal Medecine Volume 146 Issue 2 | Pages 87-9516 January 2007

Link to Annals of Internal Medicine abstract

Color Blind

What does the world look like to someone who is color blind (or to be pc "color deficient" -- which actually sounds much worse to us)?

Normal ------ Protanope-----Deuteranope --- Tritanope

We came accross the fascinating and comprehensive site which deals with the whole issue and includes on-line quick tests. The information about children was particularly interesting.

Link to the Color Blind Homepage

Sunday, January 21, 2007

More Kenneth Williams

For those of you (amazingly?)who still seem interested, more on the career of Kenneth Williams:

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Man jailed for giving woman HIV

A 35-year-old man has been jailed for three-and-a-half years for infecting his girlfriend with HIV.

The pair met at a Bournemouth nightclub and had unprotected sex during their relationship even though the she had been concerned the man had the virus.

The Zimbabwean man, admitted one count of grievous bodily harm (under section 20 of the Offences Against the Person Act 1861 Bournemouth Crown Court heard that the man had pressured the victim into having unprotected sex on a number of occasions even though he had known he had HIV since 2000. His health worker finally contacted the 25-year-old woman and urged her to have an HIV test. Her results came back positive and she contacted police.

Andy Houston, prosecuting, said: "She was a bit worried about HIV risks because the defendant was from Africa. "She did ask him when they first met and he told her he did not have anything." The court heard that when the victim had confronted the man, whom she describes as her first love, "she got the impression he was going to go on and do it to another girl".

The case raises more unanswered questions than illustrations of good HIV Prevention. Not least is the issue that the man was a Zimbabwean and was recommended for deportation.

Link to BBC On Line Report

Edwin J. Bernard for Aidsmap reviews the same story in more detail –

Bournemouth man pleads guilty in tenth successfully prosecuted reckless HIV transmission case in England and Wales

Link to Aidsmap article

Washington State's Shame (more)!

School Life?

Friday, January 19, 2007

Sex, Meth + Internet = AIDS

Matthew Verrinder for Reuters (January 17, 2006) reports from New York:

Sex, Meth and Internet spark new AIDS fears

He tells the story of Charlie. An hour after speaking at a Crystal Meth Anonymous meeting about the benefits of sobriety to dozens of other recovering addicts, Charlie was alone in his Chelsea apartment, logged onto the Web site He cruised the site's profiles of muscular gay men who want to meet for sex while high on methamphetamine, and found his match: a 50-year-old man from Manhattan's Upper East Side who liked to "slam" the drug, or inject it directly into the bloodstream. "I blew two-and-a-half years of sobriety in a few hours," said Charlie, who did not want to give his last name. "All I had to do was log on, and it just so happens that it was right there."

In New York, thousands of gay men use the web sites, and as an easy way to meet for sex marathons at underground orgies while high on the addictive stimulant.Gal Mayer, clinical director of the Callen-Lorde Community Health Center says that for about half their new patients diagnosed with HIV, meth or alcohol was a factor. The CDC warns that men high on meth are four times more likely to have unprotected sex.

Of course, this is not restricted to New York. Similar sites exist in other across the United States

The director of San Francisco's Stonewall Project, Michael Siever says

"These men use meth to escape and forget about their positive HIV status,"

"They assume everyone else is positive at these parties, which isn't the case, and it leads to more infections."

Also, some long-term meth users have built up tolerance to the drug and must inject it to get high -- some using dirty needles which lead to more HIV transmission.

About 45 percent of the men who sought treatment at Stonewall in the last year admitted they had injected.

This is the mixing of sex and crystal meth under the on-line code of PNP -- shorthand for "party 'n play". As Siever also describes "Its the fast-food of sex and drugs. You can order in."

Is anything being done? No mention of the responsibility of the Sites themselves. But there is something proactive on-line. Verrinder tell us that waiting behind a profile that includes a headless photo displaying his fit chest and abdominal muscles, was Terry Evans, an outreach worker for Positive Health Project, a nonprofit that seeks to stem the spread of HIV in New York. Evans was trying to convince meth users to have safe sex.

"Initially a lot of them feel it's a bait and switch and they get kind of angry, but more than half come back and ask questions, and after that a lot of them come in," said Evans, who noted about a dozen men have come in over the last year.

Thursday, January 18, 2007


Unsightly views can be masked by strategically placed distractions which may draw the viewer's attention even when the objects cannot been completely hidden

Lethal secrets of 1918 flu virus

The BBC on line explores the research by the scientists who recreated "Spanish flu" - the 1918 virus which killed up to 50m people.

The preserved body of a flu victim buried in Alaskan permafrost was exhumed and the genetic material needed to work out the structure of the H1N1 virus was extracted Then, in a maximum "biosafety" facility at Canada's National Microbiology Laboratory they reconstructed a fully functioning virus, and infected macaque monkeys.

The results were reported in the journal Nature. Symptoms appeared within 24 hours of exposure to the virus, and the subsequent destruction of lung tissue was so widespread that, had the monkeys not been put to sleep a few days later, they would have drowned in their own blood.

There was controversy about recreating one of the most dangerous viruses in history. Darwyn Kobasa, a research scientist with the Public Health Agency of Canada, and lead author of the study, defended the decision to recreate one of the most dangerous viruses in history:

"This research provides an important piece in the puzzle of the 1918 virus, helping us to better understand influenza viruses and their potential to cause pandemics."

It is not the virus that directly causes the damage to the lungs -- it is the body's own response to infection. Immune system proteins that can damage infected tissue were found at much higher levels following H1N1 infection compared with other viral infections.

Analysis at the University of Wisconsin at Madison revealed that a key component of the immune system, a gene called RIG-1 appeared to be involved. Levels of the protein produced by the gene were lower in tissue infected with the 1918 virus, suggesting it had a method of switching it off, causing immune defenses to run wild. This ability to alter the body's immune response is shared with the most recent candidate for mutation into a pandemic strain, the H5N1 avian flu.

"What we see with the 1918 virus in infected monkeys is also what we see with H5N1 viruses," said Yoshihiro Kawaoka, who led the analysis at the University of Wisconsin.

"Things may be happening at an early time point (in infection), but we may be able to step in and stop that reaction."

Dr Ronald Cutler, an infectious diseases researcher at the University of East London, said:

"Knowing how that over stimulation takes place could lead to the development of new methods to treat these diseases so we are better prepared for any future pandemic."

Link to BBC On Line report


Aberrant innate immune response in lethal infection of macaques with the 1918 influenza virus
Darwyn Kobasa et al

Nature 445, 319-323 (18 January 2007)

Link to Nature article abstract

Wednesday, January 17, 2007


Suffer the little children . . .

AP reports UNICEF's warning:

1,000 Under 15 Get HIV Each Day

Despite progress in preventing HIV transmission from pregnant mothers to their babies, more than 1,000 children around the world were infected with the disease each day in 2006, according to a U.N. report issued Tuesday by the New York-based U.N. children's fund.

Worldwide, 410,000 to 660,000 children under the age of 15 were infected last year. Half of them will die of AIDS-related diseases within two years if they do not receive appropriate medical treatment.

Overall, only 9 percent of HIV-infected pregnant women in middle- to low-income countries were receiving anti-retroviral drugs to reduce the risk of mother-to-child transmission.

UNICEF said early diagnosis and treatment with cost-effective drugs were crucial to achieving a turnaround in the AIDS epidemic, which claims about 2.9 million lives worldwide each year, including some 380,000 children.


The Newscenter Staff of report

23% Of Washington School Districts Ban Teaching About Homosexuality

The statistics are part of a study released Tuesday by the Healthy Youth Alliance, a coalition working to reduce sexually transmitted diseases and pregnancy among teens in the state.Two hundred of Washington's 296 school districts responded to a survey put out by the coalition. [One wonders about the other 96!]

Nearly a quarter of the school districts in the state of Washington bar teachers from talking about homosexuality and nearly a third do not allow teachers to discus condoms.

Even though all 200 districts said they taught HIV/AIDS prevention from grades five to twelve, 29 % of the districts said their courses focus on "abstinence only" and forbid teachers to discuss condoms.

70% of the districts surveyed said they stress abstinence in their curricula, but also include information about birth control and condom use to stop the spread of sexually transmitted diseases, the report noted.

At an Olympia news conference to release the study state Rep. Shay Schual-Berke (D) said she will reintroduce a bill this legislative session to make medically accurate sex education mandatory in Washington schools. Schual-Berke, who also is a medical doctor, was joined by report researcher Alison Peters, Judith Billings of the Governor's Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS and Mary Meyers of the School Nurses Organization of Washington.

The report cites a Kaiser Family Foundation study that found approximately 50 percent of all teens are sexually active in high school and that each year, four million teens nationwide contract a sexually transmitted disease.

Link to

But get your priorities right ---
Seattle Lifelong Aids Alliance’s spanking new site is announcing that Gay Bingo is sold out for January and February!

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Look, listen, love, respect

At last a public service HIV campaign with some punch!

It is expected to grab attention not only because of the high profile stars – Whoopi Goldberg, Amanda Peet, Rosie Perez and Susan Sarandon but also because of the frank message they are delivering.

The video, radio and online campaign is “Look, listen, love, respect” is the theme of the campaign, which is appearing on two national cable television networks, Here and Logo, and on local cable TV systems with plans to run the commercials on video screens in clubs and bars in cities around the country as well as to produce audio versions of the spots for the national Out Q channel of Sirius Satellite Radio.

The Internet is also a central focus of the campaign, which includes a Web site and video clips of the commercials, which can be watched on and MySpace.

Dan Carlson, co-founder of HIV Forum NYC, who developed the campaign with Jay Laudato, executive director of Callen-Lorde, and Colin A. Weil, a writer, director and producer. says

“HIV prevention these days is more nuanced from back in the day when it was, ‘Wear a condom, wear a condom, wear a condom,’.

“Everyone knows condoms prevent HIV, but infection rates have increased since 1999.” “It’s not an issue of education. It’s behavior, more of a commitment to personal health and to each other.”

The idea was that women could best “change the conversation about condom use,” Dan Carlson says, “that it’s not a barrier or an inhibition or about feeling less, it’s an act of self-love, everyone’s responsibility, an act of respect for each other.”

Link to Love and Respect Us site