Monday, September 17, 2007

one year later

hey, ya'll.

i'm alive and thriving in new york.

i have been at my job teaching sex ed and leading an hiv peer education group with teens in the bronx for 1 year and 6 days, exactly. i just received a promotion to full time and i'm about to hire an assistant! i'm officially a "coordinator" now. big boss, hell yeah!

sandy (the puppy) seems to have completed her adjustment. she now pees comfortably without grass (a major triumph). there is a dog park a few blocks from our apartment but the fleas come out in the summer. we've had to avoid the park for the last two months. but if this cold snap lasts a few more days we may be able to return shortly.

sandy and i have taken quite a few roadtrips to north carolina and florida. she loves a good drive.

i just joined a gym.

crazy-wise, i'm super functional and stable. i have been on the same basic cocktail since march and it is working well. two major side effects: dry mouth (i'm thirsty ALL the time) and low sex drive. the sex drive isn't as much of an issue as it could be. virgin roommate makes for challenging masturbation and ridiculous work schedule places relationships, etc far on the back burner.

the main thing is: I LOVE MY KIDS! my peer educators rock the world. they are 22 young people between 13 and 19. guys and girls. primarily straight, but a few are coming out to close friends/themselves. we have gone to conferences, plays, movies, health fairs, concerts, and festivals. i took them the vagina monologues for v-day. 12 (5 guys, 7 girls). they LOVED it! the guys especially. i had a moment of conflict when they asked for survivors of abuse/assualt to stand, but i decided to represent. one of my girls asked me about it on the subway home. i told her it wasn't the best time, but she could come talk to me one-on-one. they drop by the office or call my phone regularly (i gave them my number for field trips, now they call with random questions, etc whenever they feel like it). i've started an informal book exchange with some of the ladies.

i'm also starting a second club this fall. loosely titled "let's talk about sex" or "sex talk" (clever pg-13 suggestions welcome), a group of participants will get together weekly to discuss sex and sexuality in their lives. we'll look at news, movies, music, politics, and their experiences. i'm bringing in guest speakers and screening films. i'm hoping that all the sessions will be co-facilitated by participants. please give me suggestions for movies & music to enjoy with my teens.

the biggest event this fall is the birth of the peer educators' first friday events. we are hosting monthly events with performances, information, and free rapid hiv testing for bronx teens. the first event is october 5th. wish me luck!

i serve on a handful of coalitions. i just applied for a seat on a community advisory board. for the first time, i was open about my sex work experience on a (confidential) document with my real name on it. hope it doesn't backfire. knock wood.

summary: i'm great. returning to new york was one of the best decisions of my life. sorry i dropped of the face of the web. thank you for all your thoughts and kind words. my love.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

what does normal look like?

yesterday i prepared a worksheet for my high school students. we were doing the general sexual anatomy (which ducky doolittle refers to as "pleasure anatomy" in sex with the lights on) lesson and i wanted something to compliment the illustrations.

i was so pleased when i stumbled upon the soft hard gallery
i used many of the soft images to build a collage for my students. I also used images from's The Vulva Revealed gallery

so i made a worksheet with ten penises and 8 vulvas (because the vulva pictures were larger and of better quality) and in the middle had the words "what does normal look like?"

i passed around the worksheet to my 11th and 12th graders, letting them know the images were graphic and they were free to decline to look at them. i asked the question "which one is the normal one?" they each voiced differing opinions, tending to choose the straighter circumcised penises or the more symetrical vulvas. then i popped the mind-blowing statement:

"they're all normal."

the reaction were immediate. " but miss, what's wrong with this one?" or that one or why are here lips so large or why is his head so small. The answer: "there is nothing wrong with any of these. they are all normal healthy vulvas and penises."

it blew their minds.

no pun intended.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

CDC recommends HIV testing for most Americans


AP, ATLANTA - All Americans between the ages of 13 and 64 should be routinely tested for HIV to help catch infections earlier and stop the spread of the deadly virus, federal health recommendations announced Thursday say.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said HIV testing should become about as common as a cholesterol check. Nearly half of new HIV infections are discovered when doctors are trying to diagnose a sick patient who has come for care, CDC officials said.

“We know that many HIV infected people seek health care and they don’t get tested. And many people are not diagnosed until late in the course of their illness, when they’re already sick with HIV-related conditions,” said Dr. Timothy Mastro, acting director of the CDC’s division of HIV/AIDS prevention.

“By identifying people earlier through a screening program, we’ll allow them to access life-extending therapy, and also through prevention services, learn how to avoid transmitting HIV infection to others,” he said.

The announcement was hailed by some HIV patient advocates and health policy experts. They said the guidelines could help end the stigma of HIV testing and lead to needed care for an estimated 250,000 Americans who don’t yet know they have the disease.

“I think it’s an incredible advance. I think it’s courageous on the part of the CDC,” said A. David Paltiel, a health policy expert at the Yale University School of Medicine.

The recommendations aren’t legally binding, but they influence what doctors do and what health insurance programs cover.

Some physicians groups predict the recommendations will be challenging to implement, involving new expenditures of money and time for testing, counseling and revising consent procedures.

Some physicians also question whether there is enough evidence to expand testing beyond high-risk groups, said Dr. Larry Fields, the president of the American Academy of Family Physicians.

“Are doctors going to do it? Probably not,” Fields said.

But the recommendations were endorsed by the American Medical Association, which urged physicians to comply.

“This is important public health strategy to stop the spread of HIV,” Dr. Nancy Nielsen, a Buffalo, N.Y.-based physician who sits on the AMA’s governing board, said in a statement.

No consent form needed

Previously, the CDC recommended routine testing for those at high-risk for catching the virus, such as intravenous drug users and gay men, and for hospitals and certain other institutions serving areas where HIV is common. It also recommends testing for all pregnant women.

Under the new guidelines, patients would be tested for HIV as part of a standard battery of tests they receive when they go for urgent or emergency care, or even during a routine physical.

Patients wouldn’t get tested every year: Repeated, annual testing would only be recommended only for those at high-risk.

There would be no consent form specifically for the HIV test; it would be covered in a clinic or hospital’s standard care consent form. Patients would be allowed to decline the testing.

CDC officials have been working on revised recommendations for about three years, and sought input from more than 100 organizations, including doctors’ associations and HIV patient advocacy groups. The CDC presented planned revisions at a scientific conference in February.

Since then, the CDC has strengthened language on informed consent to make sure that no one is tested without their knowledge, and emphasized the need for doctors to provide information on HIV tests and the meaning of positive and negative results.

© 2006 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

i heart natalie dee

my new favorite natalie dee comic

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

define sex

in preparation for an activity with my new kids, i've been scouring dictionaries for an inclusive definition of sex and sexuality. unable to find anything satisfying, i turn to you, dear readers.

How do you define "sex"?

How do you define "sexuality"?

i appreciate your participation.

Monday, September 18, 2006

shoot 'em up

My baby sister is going to college. She has her extra long twin sheets, mini refridgerator, and a little something extra. My baby sister has the HPV vaccine.

More specifically, she has the first shot in a series of three that protects against four strands of the human papilloma virus. Similar to the Hep B vaccine, the vaccination is provided in three doses - the second two months after the first and the third six months after the first.

The vaccine, Gardasil, appears to be 100% effective against HPV-16 and HPV-18, the strains that account for 70% of cervical cancers. It is almost as effective with HPV-6 and HPV-11 which cause 90% of genital warts.

The vaccine is approved for women and girls between the ages of 9 and 26. Clinical trials are underway to examine effectiveness with boys and men.

So, what about women over the age of 26? Since HPV is so widespread, is it assumed that those over 26 have been exposed? What about the women over 26 who have managed to avoid exposure through abstinence, safer sex, and luck?

And what of the women who have been exposed to one, but not all four types of HPV the vaccine offers protection against? Say you've had abnormal paps, but not warts, shouldn't you have access to the vaccine to prevent warts in the future, not to mention further abnormal paps from the other strain(s) of HPV?

Now that the vaccine is available, is there access? I know my sister was able to get the hook up in rich white suburbia but what about lower income neighborhoods? Will insurance and medicaid subsidize? Will it be available for free or on the cheap with other vaccinations? Can I ethically advocate vaccination to my teenagers in the Bronx, knowing that the series of shots cost $360?

So many questions. I suppose we will see.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

the before

So I’m at that moment just before everything comes together. You know, the one where you’re ready to shoot yourself. So stressed out right now. I have four days to find an apartment. Then I fly home on Thursday, pack up my house on Friday, and drive back to New York, friend and Sandy aboard, on Saturday. Somehow I’ve managed to avoid a full blown panic attack, knock wood. My leg won’t stop shaking (it has always shook but now it really is constant) and I have ouchy bumps on my fingertips. Not to mention all the stress pimples. I am quite the pretty picture right now. Think of this as the “before”. Before the apartment is found, before the move, before the official letter of employment, before the job starts. The after will be beautiful.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

good news

So much good news.

First and most importantly, I had my last day of work. Retired once again. My next day of labor will be in new york in september.

The big news is that the emergency contraception pills Plan B have been FDA approved for over-the-counter sale to women over 18. This is a major victory many years in the making. It still raises questions about whether those under 18 should be able to purchase EC without a prescription, as well as should men be able to purchase the product (which could be a non-issue but all the articles i find refer to "women 18 and older" ignoring the possibility that a man might wish to purchase ec for his partner; similar to a woman buying condoms only for emergency situations).

More good news, not specific to today, is the FDA approval of Famvir, a single dose treatment for herpes (earlier this August). A single dose of the medication is administered at the first inkling of an outbreak. Tests show that it reduces the severity and length of outbreaks. As a single-dose it is more cost-effective than other chronic treatments such as valtrex (for my poverty-striken pals living with herpes). The downside is it does not reduce asymptomatic shedding or frequency of outbreaks.

Let's all do a happy sexual health dance. Boogey oogey oogey...