Should Men Be Circumcised In Order To Help Reduce STIs?

Should Men Be Circumcised In Order To Help Reduce STIs?

Some physicians argue that male circumcision should be a routine procedure because it can help fight the spread of sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Not only does circumcision reduce men’s odds of contracting STIs, they say, but it also lowers women’s risk of contracting STIs and developing cervical cancer. 

But is male circumcision really that effective when it comes to protecting sexual health? 

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What Is The Future Of HIV Treatment? #worldAIDSday

What Is The Future Of HIV Treatment? #worldAIDSday

Today is World AIDS Day, a global public health campaign that began 29 years ago in order to increase HIV/AIDS awareness and education. In support of this campaign, I'm sharing a video created by our friends over at ASAP Science that offers some useful and important information on the subject. Specifically, this video details how HIV affects the body, it discusses why a cure has been so elusive, and it offers a glimpse into the future of HIV treatment. Check it out, and be sure to do your part in contributing to HIV awareness and education by sharing it.

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How Are Rates Of STDs Changing In The US? (Infographic)

How Are Rates Of STDs Changing In The US? (Infographic)

Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) are a major public health concern in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there are estimated to be 110 million infections in the U.S. today, with 20 million new infections occurring each year. So what's been happening with STD rates over the last few years? Have they been rising or falling? And is the pattern similar or different across various infections? For a look at the data, check out the infographic below, which includes selected figures complied from the CDC's website.

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Do Gay and Bisexual Men on PrEP Take More Sexual Risks?

Do Gay and Bisexual Men on PrEP Take More Sexual Risks?

Pre-exposure prophylaxis (also known as PrEP for short) is an increasingly popular method of HIV prevention among persons at the highest risk of infection. It involves taking one pill per day that combines two different drugs (tenofovir and emtricitabine). These are actually the same drugs used to treat people who already have HIV; however, when someone who is uninfected takes them, it makes it very difficult for HIV to establish an infection in the body should that person be exposed to the virus through sexual activity or injection drug use.

PrEP was originally approved by the FDA five years ago and it’s estimated that 136,000 people are now taking it—a figure that continues to climb significantly year over year. The vast majority of the people taking PrEP in the United States are gay and bisexual men, given that they’re the group that’s most at risk for contracting HIV here. However, as more men who have sex with men have begun taking PrEP, concerns have been raised over whether this drug might be changing their sexual behaviors.

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The US Government is Poised to Move Backwards on Sex Education

The US Government is Poised to Move Backwards on Sex Education

In the final budget proposal submitted by the Obama administration last year, funding for abstinence-only sex education was put on the chopping block. They proposed eliminating abstinence-only programs entirely and, although it didn't ultimately come to pass, their proposal at least showed recognition of the fact that we need a new approach to sex education in this country. Study after study has shown that promoting abstinence only just doesn’t work. In fact, if anything, it seems to be counterproductive. For example, research has found that the U.S. states with the most abstinence-only programs actually have the highest rates of teen pregnancy [1]!

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Infographic: How STD Rates in the United States are Changing

Infographic: How STD Rates in the United States are Changing

Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) are a massive public health issue in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there are 110 million infections in the U.S. today. Furthermore, 20 million new infections are estimated to occur each year. All of these infections translate to significant healthcare costs: believe it or not, we spend an estimated $16 billion per year on STD treatment! 

So what's going on with rates of STDs? Have they been increasing or decreasing over the last few years? 

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As a Sex Researcher and Educator, Last Night's Election was Terrifying

As a Sex Researcher and Educator, Last Night's Election was Terrifying

As I watched last night’s U.S. election results come in, I was stunned and shocked. When I work up this morning, I was terrified. 

These feelings are, in part, a function of my personal politics—the details of which I’ll spare you. However, I also feel these very same emotions in my capacity as a sex researcher and educator—and that’s what I’d like to talk about for a few moments. Here’s why what happened last night at all levels of government scares me.

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What’s More Likely From Unprotected Sex: Getting Pregnant or Getting an STD?

What’s More Likely From Unprotected Sex: Getting Pregnant or Getting an STD?

A reader submitted the following question:

“What is more probable in a random heterosexual encounter without protection: getting an STD or getting pregnant? I assume the answer will change with age (higher chances of STD for older people, higher chances of pregnancy for younger women) but I think would be interesting to know the answer for an average person.”

Thanks for this very interesting, but very complex question! There’s not a simple answer because there are a lot of unaccounted for variables here.

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Video: The Science of HIV/AIDS

Video: The Science of HIV/AIDS

World AIDS Day is a global public health campaign that began 27 years ago and takes place annually on December 1. In support of this campaign, I am sharing the video below created by our friends over at ASAP Science, which offers some useful and important HIV education. This video not only describes how HIV affects the human body, but also why a cure has been so elusive and where the future of HIV treatment is headed. Check it out, and do your part to contribute to HIV awareness and knowledge by sharing it.

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Frightening Facts About Sex Education In America

Frightening Facts About Sex Education In America

Sex education is incredibly inconsistent throughout the United States. Some states require it, others don't. And in the states that mandate it, the information teachers are required by law to provide doesn't necessarily have to be useful, let alone correct. The fact of the matter is that American sex education is in poor shape and this is a big part of the reason why our teen pregnancy and STI rates are among the highest in the industrialized world. Check out the infographic below for a look at some frightening statistics about the current state of sex education in the U.S.

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How Indiana Politicians Are Ignoring Science And Harming Hoosiers’ Sexual Health

How Indiana Politicians Are Ignoring Science And Harming Hoosiers’ Sexual Health

My home state of Indiana has been in the news a lot lately, and most of the news coverage has portrayed it in a pretty unflattering light. This is due almost entirely to the actions of our elected officials, who appear to be out of touch with the views of everyday Hoosiers and with the scientific community on matters of sexuality and sexual health.  Much has been said and written in recent weeks about passage of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) and the concern that its original wording was intended to license discrimination against gay, lesbian, and bisexual persons. This is a prime example of how the State government’s actions are out of step with the public, who overwhelmingly oppose discrimination against sexual minorities. Our elected officials’ disregard for science has not generated quite the same level of national attention as the RFRA law, but it is nonetheless just as concerning. In this article, I would like to take a look at the disconnect between our State government’s actions and the science, and consider its potential impact on the sexual health of Indiana residents.

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Women’s Reasons For Having Anal Sex

Women’s Reasons For Having Anal Sex

Anal sex is a sexual activity that is frequently reported by both men and women in America. For instance, a recent CDC survey reported that 44% of men and 36% of women in the U.S. have had anal sex at least once before in their lives. Despite the prevalence of this sexual activity, relatively little research has explored people’s motivations for trying it or what the experience is like, especially among heterosexual women. A new study in the Archives of Sexual Behavior offers a rare look into some of the reasons women report for having anal sex and their perceptions of the activity itself. 

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Sex, Drugs, and HIV (VIDEO)

Sex, Drugs, and HIV (VIDEO)

In this TED talk, Elizabeth Pisani argues that, in order to prevent the spread of HIV, we need to start making policy decisions that are rational for public health instead of continuing business as usual and doing what is politically rational. Pisani uses scientific data to show how sex and drug policies that are made for political reasons can actually undermine our ability to prevent HIV and other sexually transmitted infections. Although Pisani's talk is going on five years old, I'm sharing it because her points still very much ring true. Indeed, in the last five years, politicians in the U.S. and many other parts of the world have (sadly enough) not significantly changed their positions on sex and drugs, and many of these positions remain counterproductive . Check out Pisani's full talk below for more on the importance of basing policy decisions on science instead of politics.

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HIV-Prevention Medications Also Protect Against Genital Herpes

HIV-Prevention Medications Also Protect Against Genital Herpes

Pre-exposure prophylaxis (or PrEP for short) has been in the news a lot lately. In case you are not familiar, PrEP refers to a new method of HIV prevention. Uninfected individuals simply take a medicine known as Truvada daily (Truvada is a combination of two different drugs, tenofovir and emtricitabine). This is actually the same medication used to treat people who are HIV-positive—and it works for them by dramatically lowering the level of the virus in the body (to be clear, this is not a cure--but it does help extend the life of an HIV-positive person significantly). However, when taken by someone who is uninfected, this drug appears to be effective at preventing the virus from ever taking hold. In fact, some studies have found that among individuals who take this drug consistently, their risk of contracting HIV is reduced by as much as 92%! A new study suggests that PrEP may have the positive side effect of protecting against other sexually transmitted infections as well.

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Bug Chasing and Gift Giving: The Underground Culture Where HIV Is Fetishized

Bug Chasing and Gift Giving: The Underground Culture Where HIV Is Fetishized

A new porn film entitled Viral Loads has earned quite a bit of attention for its graphic depictions of guys who are eager to give and receive HIV through man-on-man sex. I know some of you may be wondering how anyone could possibly find the prospect of contracting an incurable and deadly virus like HIV sexually arousing, but it turns out that there is a small subculture among men who have sex with men for whom HIV is fetishized. Before I go on, let me be perfectly clear: this is a small subculture and it is not a reflection of how the broader community of gay and bisexual men feel about HIV.

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In-Home HIV Testing Is Now A Reality, But Is It A Good Thing?

The first in-home HIV testing kit, OraQuick, was approved for use less than a year ago. The kit retails for $40 and is available for purchase from Amazon and most major pharmacies. The test itself is completely painless (no need for blood and needles) and simply involves taking a quick swab inside the mouth. Results are provided in just 20 minutes and are pretty accurate (although, as with any medical test, it is not perfect). All of this certainly sounds good; however, there are some who are asking just what effect this test will ultimately have on people's health and behavior.
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Are Laws Criminalizing HIV Transmission Making Us Safer?

In the United States, reckless or intentional transmission of HIV is currently illegal in 34 states. Many of you probably think that such laws make intuitive sense--an HIV infection will inevitably kill you at some point, so knowingly passing on the virus to someone else should be considered a criminal act. The intent of laws like this is obviously to deter infections and save lives. However, even the most well-intentioned of laws can trigger a range of unintended consequences. And in the case of these criminal HIV transmission laws, they are sometimes misused and may end up causing more harm than good.
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Six Myths About Sexually Transmitted Infections Debunked

Although most people are sexually active, it is surprising how little some people seem to know about sex. In particular, there are a multitude of myths and misconceptions about the topic of sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Below, we will review six of the most persistent false beliefs about STIs.
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All I Want For Christmas Is Some Safe Sex

So this is Christmas, and what have you done? In all likelihood, you’ve probably had some sex. Research has found that there are seasonal peaks in sexual activity, with one of the biggest spikes occurring right around the Christmas holiday [1]. In a lot of ways, this makes sense. Most people are off work for a couple of days and college students are out of school for a couple of weeks. Without the stress and distraction of deadlines and homework, people have more time and energy to, ahem, get busy. However, it turns out that while people are having lots of holiday sex, it appears that they aren’t having very safe sex, which may result in some unexpected outcomes.
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Should Men Be Circumcised To Reduce STDs And Save On Healthcare Costs?

The debate over male circumcision was revived last month with the publication of two controversial journal articles. First, the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine published an article concluding that if male circumcision rates continue to fall in the U.S. over the next decade, we will end up spending $4.4 billion more on health care due to a projected increase in sexually transmitted infections {1}. The article estimates that fewer circumcisions would result in double digit percentage increases in men infected with HIV, herpes, and the human papillomavirus, as well as corresponding increases in such infections for their (assumed) female partners. Second, the journal Pediatrics published a policy statement on male circumcision in which they concluded that the benefits of the procedure far outweigh the risks {2}. What I would like to do in this post is share my thoughts on circumcision based on my own reading of the science in this area.
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