In a change of pace, the newest sexually transmitted disease to be linked with cancer isn't HPV. It's trichomoniasis. A study published online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that, in tissue culture, trichomoniasis infections increase inflammation of prostate cells as well as the aggressiveness of prostate cancer. This could explain why such infections in men have been linked to aggressive prostate cancers in the past. It's not necessarily that infection leads directly to prostate cancer, contrary to how the studies are being reported in the mainstream media. Instead, this research suggests that infection could encourage an environment of inflammation that would make both benign prostatic hyperplasia and prostate cancer more likely, as well as potentially causing any existing cancers to become more aggressive.
This is very useful information, because it could turn out that treating these parasitic infections might be a useful, and relatively benign, form of prostate cancer treatment. Currently, such cancers are often treated too early and too aggressively, causing significant long-term sexual and urinary health problems for men, problems that could be avoidable. Many prostate cancers are slow progressing and, particularly when they occur in older men, may not need aggressive treatment, or even treatment at all.
A study recently presented at the American Society for Microbiology meeting suggested that HPV is everywhere. The study, which examined data from the National Institutes of Health Human Microbiome project, found that almost 70% of the population was infected with at least one strain of the virus. Most of those infections were skin infections, but 40% of the population had vaginal infections and another 30% were infected orally. In other words, the virus is pretty much ubiquitous.
While that's not exactly cheerful news, it also shouldn't be that upsetting. Most HPV infections will never cause any long-term problems. Furthermore, although HPV was extremely common in the population, the strains most commonly associated with cancer were not.
A group of Canadian scientists have recently spoken out against the country's laws regarding criminalization of HIV-status non-disclosure, because they feel as though the laws don't accurately reflect current understanding of the virus and its transmission. Therefore, in order to facilitate changing the legislation, they have put together a consensus statement in order to educate criminal justice personnel about the actual HIV transmission risk associated with various sexual activities, as well as activities such as spitting and biting.
The document is a really interesting look at the ways in which community perceptions of HIV risk haven't changed to reflect current scientific understanding. Not only does it discuss the relative HIV risk associated with various sexual acts, it also talks about the effectiveness of treatment as prevention, and how HIV infections are becoming a chronic illness for most people who have access to combination antiretroviral therapy.
Hopefully the consensus statement will have the desired effect on professional opinions about criminalization. Personally, I continue to remain strongly opposed to arresting people for failing to talk about their diagnoses. Why? While there are certainly some people who actively and maliciously expose others to HIV and other STDs, most of the time that people fail to disclose, they're doing so out of fear or ignorance, not bad intentions.
According to a new report from the CDC, the number of primary and secondary syphilis cases diagnosed in the U.S. nearly doubled between 2005 and 2013, mostly because of transmission between men who have sex with men. It is thought that some of this increase is due to the prevalence of unprotected oral sex -- which can lead to syphilis transmissionin either direction. However, no matter why it's happening, the fact that syphilis is becoming so much more common is disturbing. Less than fifteen years ago, the infection had nearly been eliminated in the United States, and now it's returning with a vengeance. That's not exactly a sign of progress.
Australia recently released new STD screening guidelines for gay men that are remarkably smart and open minded about risk. The guidelines recommend that all men who have sex with men get tested at least once a year, but that high risk men should be tested up to four times a year -- once every three months. Men are considered to be high risk if they've had unprotected anal sex, had more than 10 sex partners in the past six months, participated in group sex, or used drugs during sex. Furthermore, they don't just recommend urine tests and blood tests for screening. They also have men give throat and anal swabs to test for STDs in those anatomical locations.
All things considered, it's a very pro-active testing plan, and I think it's a great idea. I wish we were more proactive about screening all high risk people - heterosexual, bisexual, and homosexual - here in the United States. For that matter, I wish more doctors were even aware that anal and throat based STD tests are available, since there are some people who want them and have no idea where to go.
I used to be a pretty big fan of the Spanish clothing company Desigual. I liked their interesting combinations of colors and textures and the way their style sense flirted with both bohemian and chic. Unfortunately, a Mother's Day ad they recently released has completely soured my reaction to the brand. In it, a young attractive woman fantasizes about being pregnant... and then pulls out some condoms and flirtatiously stabs holes in each of them with a pin.
As someone who encourages women to carry condoms and negotiate for safe sex, I find the commercial disgusting. Having sex with a partner under false pretenses is abusive, and any man who engaged in such a behavior would rightly be censored. Fortunately, I'm not the only one who thinks so, and the backlash has been so severe that Desigual has reedited the commercial to remove the unfortunate segment. However, since they're still not owning up to the whole thing being a terrible idea, they're off my shopping list for good.
It's May, it's May, the lusty month of May! At least, so says the score of the classic musical Camelot, and the calendar agrees. May has informally been declared National Masturbation Month since 1995. The initial celebration was sparked by the dismissal of Joycelyn Elders as Surgeon General of the United States because of her controversial comments about the subject, but it has continued on... and will likely continue as long as masturbation is taboo.
Unfortunately, that means it's probably going to be around a lot longer, because the taboo is still heavily emphasized in many conservative communities. It's a shame, because masturbation is some of the safest sex you can have, and mutual masturbation isn't far behind. Fortunately, it's easy to ignore censoring opinions on the subject of masturbation, and I encourage people to do so, since masturbation is something safe, free, and pleasurable that people can do to enjoy themselves. Do it in a private place, and it hurts no one and leaves no one the wiser. Particularly if you remember to wash your hands before and after.