Health and well being
Homophobia in our healthcare system | Print |  E-mail
News - Health and well being
Written by Daily Life   
Sunday, 23 June 2013 05:59

girls-lesbian-coupleIt is well known that women who are lesbian can face isolation, exclusion and marginalisation from all areas of society.

But you would hope, in terms of places where they can go to feel safe, supported and listened to, the doctor’s office would rate highly up there.

This is particularly important since lesbian women have a higher morbidity rate for breast, uterine, colon and ovarian cancers, heart disease, mental health problems, obesity and various substance abuse disorders.

Obviously, being a lesbian is not the cause of any of these conditions. But as with things like stress and socio-economic status, it can be a social determinant of health.

But lesbian women in Australia face homophobia in numerous ways when accessing healthcare services and interacting with their doctors, research from the University of Western Sydney has found.

“Fundamentally, the distinctive healthcare needs of lesbian women go unnoticed, are deemed unimportant or are simply ignored,’’ the researchers wrote in the health journal, Contemporary Nurse.

The research, led by Brenda Hayman, who is an associate lecturer within the School of Nursing and Midwifery, found there were four types of homophobia experienced by the women she interviewed; exclusion from services and healthcare; heterosexual assumption; inappropriate questioning and outright refusal of services.

While it is outrageous to think that anyone should be excluded or refused treatment on the basis of their sexuality, it is an all-too-common experience for lesbian women.

Also disturbing was that it wasn’t just the personal choice of doctors that interfered with their ability to access healthcare. In some cases – it was enforced by legislation.

One woman, Phoebe, described to researchers how she and her partner were refused IVF treatment by several hospitals. ‘‘…we were rejected by the first two [hospitals] because they said it was unethical to assist a single woman because they don’t recognise same-sex couples as being a valid couple,’’ she said. The couple were forced to travel interstate to access fertility services not available to them where they lived.

The researchers concluded; “This highlights the need to recognise that homophobia represents a major hazard to lesbian health. Measures need to be taken in order to assist lesbian women to equitably access healthcare.’’

Read the full story at:

How AIDS changed global health forever | Print |  E-mail
News - Health and well being
Written by Sydney Morning Herald   
Tuesday, 21 May 2013 23:48

AIDS-HIV-ribbon-2013The success of worldwide action has transformed our thinking on disease and development.

We live in a world of extraordinary inequities. Poverty and inequity are the world's greatest killers. In the 20 years after the Cold War, 360 million people have died from hunger and treatable diseases - much more than from all 20th-century conflicts.
Inequities in health are among the most visible of all in a world in which the gap between the mean GDP of rich and poor countries more than doubled in the 25 years to 2005. The developing world bears an extraordinarily inequitable burden of infectious disease, 90 per cent of it, and yet these countries represent just 12 per cent of all health spending.

AIDS is a classic example. Of the 30 million AIDS deaths since the virus that causes the disease was identified 30 years ago this week, 90 per cent have occurred in Africa. Yet, against such odds, the face of AIDS has changed from one of desolation to one of hope.

When AIDS was first identified in fewer than 20 patients in the US who presented with unusual symptoms in the early 1980s, millions of Africans were already infected, but there was no system in place to detect this. The sub-Saharan epidemic spread unchecked for another 20 years: while science rapidly responded in the global north, barely a single patient in the developing world had access to treatment from an international program until 2001.

What AIDS has since shown us is what can be achieved when the world resolves to fight a pandemic, when the right to health is aggressively asserted, when we see and act on medicine and health care as a ''global public good''.

The global effort to defeat AIDS over the past three decades has demonstrated a long-suspected truth: health should no more be seen as a consequence of economic growth. In 2000, the world set itself the ambitious Millennium Development Goals, endorsing that change in paradigm about how health relates to development. Experience has validated the concept. In its last report, the United Nations Development Program showed that the countries that invested the most in health and education in 2000 are also those in which the Human Development Index has progressed the most in the past 10 years.

AIDS is perhaps the pre-eminent example of successful investment in health. Eight million people have gained access to antiretroviral treatment, compared to just a few tens of thousands 10 years ago. As a result of investments in HIV prevention and treatment, mortality from AIDS and the number of new infections have decreased worldwide by 25 per cent in just the past five years.
Several factors have been key to this remarkable progress.

Full story at:

New medical resource for women | Print |  E-mail
News - Health and well being
Written by Alexander Thatcher | FUSE Editor   
Tuesday, 30 April 2013 03:22

DOCLISTDocLIST is a new online medical resource for lesbians and bisexual women. It currently includes, general practitioners, specialists, mental health professionals and dentists.

DocLIST is currently calling for recommendations for doctors and mental health professionals so that a large number of women can benefit. Once a recommendation is received, the health professional is contacted to let them know about the project and asked whether they agree to be added to the list. The health professional is not told who recommended them.

DocLIST is run by the Australian Lesbian Medical Association (ALMA) and was set up in response to a clear need from the community. ALMA is frequently asked by women for recommendations of lesbian or bi-friendly doctors in their area. The project aims to make lesbians and bisexual sensitive health care available to as many Australians as possible.

Check out today.

Breakthrough for HIV cure 'within months' | Print |  E-mail
News - Health and well being
Written by Telegraph, London   
Tuesday, 30 April 2013 00:00


Scientists on brink of HIV cure

Researchers believe that there will be a breakthrough in finding a cure for HIV “within months”.

Danish scientists are expecting results showing that it will be possible to find a cure that is both affordable and can be provided to a large number of people.

They are running clinical trials to test a ''novel strategy'' in which the HIV virus, which causes AIDS, is stripped from human DNA and destroyed by the immune system.

It has already been found to work in laboratory tests and the scientists are now running human trials.

The technique involves releasing the HIV virus from ''reservoirs'' it forms in DNA cells, bringing it to the surface of the cells. Once it comes to the surface, the body's immune system can kill the virus through being boosted by a ''vaccine''.

In vitro studies - those that use human cells in a laboratory - of the new technique proved so successful that in January the Danish Research Council awarded the team 12 million kroner ($2 million) to pursue clinical trials with human subjects.

Ole Sogaard, a senior researcher at the Aarhus University Hospital in Denmark who is leading the study, said: ''I am almost certain we will be successful in releasing the reservoirs of HIV.

''The challenge will be getting the immune system to recognise the virus and destroy it. This depends on the strength and sensitivity of individual immune systems.''

Fifteen patients are taking part in the trials, and if they are found to have been cured of HIV, the process will be tested on a wider scale.

The technique uses drugs called HDAC inhibitors, more commonly employed in treating cancer.

It is also being researched in Britain, but studies have not yet moved on to the clinical trial stage.

California Bans Health Insurance Discrimination Against Trans Patients | Print |  E-mail
News - Health and well being
Written by The Advocate   
Wednesday, 10 April 2013 23:30

medicine_law_transWith a clarifying directive, California becomes the third state (plus Washington, D.C.) to expressly prohibit discrimination against transgender people in health insurance coverage.

California's Department of Managed Health Care issued guidelines Tuesday confirming that insurance providers in the state must provide coverage for medically necessary transition-related treatment for transgender patients.

The directive, which the Transgender Law Center hails as "groundbreaking," confirms that California's Insurance Gender Non-Discrimination Act mandates equal access for all patients to medically necessary treatment, regardless of the patient's gender identity or expression.

"This one letter will save lives," Masen Davis, Executive Director of Transgender Law Center, said in a statement. "For years, transgender Californians have been denied coverage of basic care merely because of who we are. Discriminatory insurance exclusions put transgender people and our families at risk for health problems and financial hardship. Now we can finally get the care we need."

The clarification brings California's nondiscrimination policy in line with Colorado, Oregon, Washington, D.C., and the federal Department of Health and Human Services in affirming the rights of transgender patients to receive the medical care they need.

California Assembly Speaker John Pérez applauded the directive, which applies to all HMOs and PPOs regulated by the state's Department of Managed Health Care.

"This is an important step in protecting the health of all Californians, including transgender individuals," said Pérez in a statement. "No Californian should be denied care and treatment because of their gender identity or expression. Implementation of California’s Insurance Gender Nondiscrimination Act (IGNA) is a simple matter of fairness and equality in health care."

Last year, the Department of Insurance issued similar nondiscrimination regulations for those policies overseen by the Department, which combined with this week's directive means that all California health plans and insurers cannot discriminate against trans patients, according to the Transgender Law Center.


Testing Times | Print |  E-mail
News - Health and well being
Written by By Keiran Rossteuscher   
Thursday, 21 March 2013 22:03


Thirty years after the first cases of HIV started to appear in Australia, the number of big news items about progress and development have started drying up.

There is always a lot of work and research going on but the pace and incremental steps taken rarely make for interesting media opportunities. Nor do these behind the scenes activities affect the day to day work of HIV organisations.

However, in the last weeks of 2012 there was an announcement of one of the biggest developments in Australia we have seen for some time – the approval for the use of rapid HIV testing in Australia by the Therapeutic Goods Administration.

The particular test that has been approved is the Alere DetermineTM HIV Combo test that uses a finger prick sample of blood applied to a small cardboard stick which provides a result in 20-30 minutes.

Due to its satisfactorily high accuracy, portability and cost-effectiveness, Point of Care or rapid testing is a standard method for screening for HIV in many parts of the world. Australia prides itself on a gold standard approach to screening for HIV and so this is the first of its kind to be allowed for use in Australia. Rapid HIV testing provides a result within 30 minutes while traditional formats for screening HIV can take up to a week for results. This speed and convenience makes rapid testing an ideal tool for use in not just clinical settings, but also community-based clinics such as the STRIP Outreach Clinics offered by the AIDS Action Council.

Rapid testing should not be seen as a replacement for current HIV screening methods but as an option available to some people. The details for the use of rapid testing are still being developed and as such the test is not currently available in the ACT even though it has been approved and other states that have had trials in recent years are starting to roll it out. It is likely that it will only be offered to those from high risk groups as the rate of false positives is too high in the general population.

Any test that proves positive will need to be followed up with more standard testing methods for absolute guarantee.  Over the last five years there has been an increasing body of research that says that the time it takes to get the results of an HIV test is one of the biggest hurdles to gay men getting tested regularly.

Forty-one per cent of participants in the 2011 Canberra Gay Community Periodic Survey indicated that they would test more frequently if they could access rapid testing in community settings.

With the release on World AIDS Day  (December 1) of the document Turning Political Will into Action, Australia reinforced its commitment to seeing a 50 per cent reduction in new HIV infections by 2015. The role that rapid HIV testing plays in this strategy is that we know that by identifying an HIV infection sooner, a person can make an informed decision with their doctors such as when to start using HIV medications and modify any risky activities that they may have been doing and take appropriate precautions. When a person effectively uses HIV medications we usually see a decline in their Viral Load, which is the amount of active HIV in their system. The lower the viral load, the less chance there is for HIV to be transmitted.

The AIDS Action Council is looking forward to the introduction of rapid testing but until then regular testing methods are still available. The STRIP outreach clinics will be running once more from 28 February – 23 March.

'Functional cure' may be close for AIDS | Print |  E-mail
News - Health and well being
Written by UK : Gay Star News | Joe Morgan   
Sunday, 17 March 2013 21:36

aids_virusFrench researchers have found early medical intervention for patients with HIV can keep them healthy even after stopping treatment.

HIV-positive patients who were treated early have stayed healthy even after stopping treatment, French researchers have revealed.

Their research shows early medical intervention may lead to a ‘functional cure’ for AIDs.

Published in the US journal PLoS Pathogens, only involved 14 adults, and were treated for their HIV with a range of anti-retroviral drugs within 10 weeks of infection.

All of them stopped treatment around three years afterwards on average.

Despite maintaining a low level of HIV in their cells, they kept viral loads under control for seven years and six months without drug treatment.

Christine Rouzioux, a professor at Paris Descartes University, said results showed the number of infected cells circulating in the blood of these patients kept falling even without treatment for many years.

‘Early treatment in these patients may have limited the establishment of viral reservoirs, the extent of viral mutations, and preserved immune responses. A combination of those may contribute to control infection in post-treatment controllers,’ she said.

‘The shrinking of viral reservoirs … closely matches the definition of 'functional' cure,’ she said.

A functional cure is when the virus is reduced to such low levels it is kept at bay even without continuing treatment. The virus is still detectable in the body.

Sir Nick Partridge, Chief Executive of UK-based sexual health charity Terrence Higgins Trust, said: ‘Using antiretroviral drugs at the early stages of infection to keep the virus at bay shows some promise.

‘However, much more research is needed to monitor these patients and explore whether the approach has wider applications among larger groups with a range of drug resistance profiles.

‘Treating HIV in this way relies on early intervention and serves to highlight the importance of routine testing to identify HIV infections as soon as possible.

Partridge added while the research may influence how we treat some people with HIV in the future, it remains the case that people must not cease their own treatment.

Last week, it was found a chemical in bee venom is able to kill HIV while leaving the surrounding cells unharmed.

And in Mississipi, a baby appeared to be cured of HIV after aggressive anti-retroviral drug treatment delivered within 30 hours of birth.

At the end of 2010, it was estimated 34 million people are living with HIV and AIDS worldwide.


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