Monday, 30 December 2013

HPV Vaccination

Here at Mamamia, we’ve always maintained a strong position that no – the effectiveness of any vaccine should not be debated. Because when it comes to vaccination, there is no other side. Just science.
And that’s why we asked Dr Dave Hawkes to put together a cheat sheet for us on the HPV vaccine.
HPV Vaccine 290x356 A scientist answers all your questions about the HPV vaccination.
So should we be worried about HPV vaccination?
Vaccination has always been a hot button topic, but since its introduction in 2007 human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine has attracted more than its fair share of controversy.
The most recent examples of this are the episodes of American daytime TV shows “Katie” and “The Doctors” which examined the “controversy” of HPV vaccination.
The host of “Katie”, well-known journalist Katie Couric, interviewed parents who claimed that the HPV vaccines could cause serious injury and death. Dr Rachel Ross from The Doctors has given several reasons, including side effectsand the Japanese governments withdrawn recommendation, as to she does do not give the HPV vaccine in her practice.
So should we be worried about HPVvaccination?
Here are answers provided by science to five of the most common questions based on a research paper I recently published on the risks and benefits of HPV vaccination.
Does the HPV vaccine stop cervical cancer?
This is one of the most common questions and it is a little bit harder to answer because it takes between 10 and 20 years for cervical cancer to develop following HPV infection and the vaccine has only been available in Australia since 2007.
About 70% of cervical cancers are caused by only two of the 15 strains of HPV associated with cancer. Both HPV vaccines available in Australia (Gardasil and Cervarix) target these two strains (HPV Types 16 and 18). Gardasil also targets two strains linked to genital warts.
HPV infections lead to pre-cancerous lesions, which act as early warning signs for cervical cancer. Two of the more serious pre-cancerous lesions are called CIN2 and CIN3 and are likely to lead to cervical cancer 5% and 12% of the time, respectively. HPV vaccination has been shown to reduce CIN2 and CIN3 lesions by over 99% and this suggests that we are likely to see a drop in cervical cancer rates over the next decade.
In addition to cervical cancer HPV has been linked to a number of other cancers such as those of the penis (40% are HPV-associated), vulva or vagina (40%), anus (90%), mouth (3%) and oropharynx (12%).
If you get regular Pap smears do you still need to get the HPV vaccination?
Pap smears are a very effective way of detecting abnormal pre-cancerous cells (lesions) on the cervix, which allows them to be removed before they turn into cervical cancer. However the removal of these lesions can lead to complications during pregnancy such as giving birth to pre-term or low birth weight babies.
HPV vaccination prevents the infection before it can lead to a pre-cancerous lesion requiring treatment. It is still recommended that women who have been vaccinated still have regular pap smears because the current vaccines don’t protect against all cancer causing HPV strains.
Katie Couric 290x385 A scientist answers all your questions about the HPV vaccination.
Talk show host Katie Couric examined the “controversy” of HPV vaccines.
Why has Japan stopped recommending HPV vaccination?
In June this year the Japanese government withdrew its recommendation for the HPV vaccination. The government had received 1968 reports of side effects associated with the HPV vaccine and took the precaution,arguably for political rather than scientific reasons of removing its recommendation. 43 of these cases were examined and no link to the HPV vaccine was found. There have been more than 3.28 million people given the HPV vaccine in Japan since 2010 and 9000 women develop cervical cancer each year.
Does the vaccine only last 5 years?
HPV vaccines have only been available in Australia since 2007 so it is difficult to know exactly how long the protection will last. However recent evidence based on the women vaccinated during the HPV vaccine clinical trials suggests that it is at least 8 years with no cases of HPV found in any of the vaccinated women.
Does HPV vaccination cause serious side effects such as infertility or even death?
Like any medical procedure, HPV vaccines can have side effects. However most reported side effects (>93%) are minor, such as fainting, headache and injection site soreness, and disappear in a few days.
In terms of serious side effects, 7 clinical trials of over 44,000 women showed no differences between the HPV vaccinated and unvaccinated groups.
Once a vaccine is released for the general public a different type of safety monitoring begins calledpost-marketing surveillance. This monitoring allows anyone to make a report online of side effects they think might be caused by a vaccine. These reports are often the basis for claims, such as those presented on Katie and The Doctors, that the HPV vaccine causes infertility, autoimmune diseases or even deaths.  However when these claims have been investigated no link between premature death or autoimmune has been found.
There has not been a detailed investigation of the infertility claims of the two sisters presented on The Doctors, but previous internet claims of vaccine induced infertility have been found to be without substance.
The current evidence of over 1000 published scientific studies indicates that benefits of HPV vaccination far outweigh the risks.  However it is likely that we will continue to hear about these reported side effects because controversy sells, especially on TV.
Dr Dave Hawkes is Molecular virologist exploring the world of neuroscience at The Florey and then trying to explain it to his mates at the pub.

Is enough being done to remove unfair obstacles to transsexual people playing football?

Is enough being done to remove unfair obstacles to transsexual people playing football?

Progress on their participation is being made – but not quickly enough.

Aeris Houlihan speaking about her dispute with her local team on YouTube.
Aeris Houlihan speaking about her dispute with her local football team on YouTube.
This week, two stories have broken about transsexual people and sports. The first was the Daily Mail’s report on transsexual woman Aeris Houlihan not being allowed to play for her local women’s football team despite her GP’s letter stating that her oestrogen levels are within the typical female range after eight months of hormone replacement therapy, and being backed by her club. The second is that the Sports Council Equality Group’s guidance for partner agencies on Transsexual People and Sports, has been published, challenging the consensus that surgical status should determine the gender under which transsexual people are allowed to compete.
Besides the shock of seeing the Mail report take a trans person’s side in any sort of dispute, it was interesting to note that it focused on her blood hormone levels as the critical factor. (The Mail’s mention of Houlihan holding a female driving license and passport is a red herring: these need to be altered after changing name by deed poll, something that many transsexual people do before getting hormone prescriptions via their Gender Identity Clinic, as the GICs often stipulate this as a requirement.)
For domestic competitions, many British sporting bodies, including the Football Association, use the International Olympic Committee’s guidelines of 2004, known as the Stockholm Consensus. This states that transsexual people must be able to verify levels within the appropriate male or female range after 24 months of hormone therapy, as well as having legal gender recognition and having sex reassignment surgery at least two years prior to participation. The Sports Council argue that surgery is not always possible or desirable, and has no bearing on strength or stamina. Nor does the acquisition of a Gender Recognition Certificate, with the expense, the evidence needed to persuade the Gender Recognition Panel to grant one and the legal necessity of dissolving existing marriages or civil partnerships often presenting barriers to this.
Delia Johnston, who worked as an ambassador for LOCOG (the London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralymic Games) and with the Football Association, helped to produce the Sports Council document.
“There are a number of people playing successfully under the current guidelines”, says Johnston, pointing out that Houlihan does not meet the current requirements, but would be eligible to play in competitive matches with her team under the Sports Council’s criteria. These recommend that transsexual women ‘may compete in [their] affirmed gender in female or mixed-sex domestic competition on providing evidence that her hormone therapy has brought her blood-measured testosterone levels within the range or her affirmed gender, or that she has had a gonadectomy’. (The guidance on transsexual men in contact sport is similar.) The Mail doesn’t mention testosterone levels: Johnston states that although there will be arguments about whatever criteria is used, this are the best way to ensure that transsexual women do not have any legacy of historical advantage: “After a year or more of hormones, testosterone levels drop massively, so the new guidelines are fair and balanced.”
Lou Englefield of Pride Sports, who support LGBT clubs and work towards wider inclusion, said that “I understand that the FA’s policy is under review and that a public-facing document is likely to be available in the new year. I also understand that the FA will undertake individual assessments of players, and decisions will be made on a case-by-case basis.” Englefield added that the FA has not yet clarified whether or not Houlihan will be able to play competitive women’s football under their new legislation.
There have been a few high-profile cases of transsexual people in sports – mostly those wanting to enter women’s competitions, where it has been argued that they will have an unfair genetic advantage. In no instance have these women dominated their field, however, and the numbers in football are low: writing for In Bed with Maradona in 2011, Chris Ledger named 47-year-old Martine Delaney, playing in the Tasmanian League, as the most prominent. Since then, Jaiyah Saelua made headlines as one of Samoa’s third gender fa’afafine community and the first transgender person to play in the World Cup – for American Samoa’s men’s team, as they won a competitive match for the first time.
The odds are stacked against transsexual women becoming top-level female footballers – many do not transition before their physical peak in their mid-twenties, and the masculine norms of men’s football may dissuade them from playing regularly enough to reach a high standard beforehand, with the problems around gendered changing rooms providing a further obstacle to maintaining fitness. The removal of the IOC’s surgical and legal requirements makes matters easier for those who want to compete at any level, and the possibility of individual assessments is also welcome: soon, Houlihan will be able to play, and the unfair disadvantages faced by transsexual people will be significantly reduced.

Top ten stupid questions people ask lesbians!

Lez Miserable

Eleanor Margolis: sapphic cynic at large

Top ten stupid questions people ask lesbians

If you’re a woman who fancies women, I guarantee you will have rolled your eyes at some of these idiotic queries.

Members of the group Dykes on Bikes at the gay pride parade in San Francisco
Members of the group Dykes on Bikes at the gay pride parade in San Francisco. Photograph: Getty Images

1. Would you sleep with a man if he was really, really hot?
I can appreciate an attractive man like I can appreciate an attractive coffee table. I can look at it and say, “My, that’s one mighty fine piece of carpentry,” but I don’t want to wake up next to it and make it post-coital poached eggs.  
2. So what do you actually, you know… do ?
Well. It all begins with something we lezzers like to call the "joining of the lunar essences". We hold hands, look deeply into each other’s eyes and harness one another’s erotic energy. Next comes an elaborate tea-drinking ceremony. Between sips of Lapsang Souchong, we name our favourite pre-1927 feminist poets. If we agree on more than three, we can move onto the binding of the goddess egos.
Seriously, if you need to ask what two women do in bed you have no imagination. Or internet access, apparently.
3. Why are you all so obsessed with cats?
Because they’re great. Next question.
4. Are you all feminists?
Well, the good ones are. But, you know, all the good men, carrots and dogs are feminists too. But lesbians, like other humans, come in all shapes, sizes and political persuasions. No, we’re not inherently feminist. Some lesbians aren’t too fussed about the sisterhood. Some lesbians read Nuts un-ironically. And, as porn has taught me, some lesbians are Nazis.
And, incidentally, not all feminists are lesbians. Turns out you can shag men and still believe in gender equality. Who knew?
5. Have you listened to the new Tegan and Sara album?
6. My boyfriend and I are thinking of having a threesome. Do you want in?
This is a question I’m asked pretty regularly by women on online dating sites. While I’m ever so flattered to be chosen as a conduit to a couple’s first taste of menage, I can think of a few things I’d rather do than titillate a bisexual girl’s boyfriend. Like drink an entire bottle of shampoo. Yeah, I’d rather do that.
7. My mate’s sister’s personal trainer is a lesbian. Do you want her number?
I don’t know. What’s she like? Do we have anything in common? Is she into stubby, hirsute Semites who spend a disproportionate amount of time Googling the symptoms of rare diseases? It’s an insulting misconception that a lesbian will automatically be interested in any other available lesbian. OK, sure, we regularly get drunk and sleep with our friends. That’s different though, gin is involved. So much gin. Lesbians love gin. Plus, our friends are hot.
8. What’s the deal with strap-ons? Are you trying to be men?
Firstly, there’s a lot more to lesbian sex than strap-ons (again, use your imagination. And/or the internet). In fact, many of my people find them ridiculous and unnecessary. I once went to a sex shop with a friend who was looking to buy her first one. She insisted on trying it on (over her jeans, of course) and, after a few minutes of fumbling with the harness, the absurdity of helping to attach a rubber cock to my mate began to sink in.
But there are, of course, gay women who love using strap-ons. And no, they’re not trying to be men, they’re having sexy fun times appropriating masculinity. There’s a big difference.
9. You call yourself a dyke - why can’t I call you that?
Right. Spend fifteen years trying to figure out who you are, while panicking about whether your friends and family will accept that person. Have entire sections of society discriminate against you and douchebags you went to school with ask you a ton of stupid questions (see this article). Discover what it feels like to be devalued and ridiculed in mainstream media and politics. Done all that? Then you can call me a dyke. Maybe.
10. Did you have to chop off your hair when you came out?
I have a bona fide Jewfro that grows outwards rather than down. Having short hair is a lot easier for me. Shocking as it may be, I didn’t chop off my resplendent mane because of lesbianism. Some women happen to look good with short hair. Deal with it.