Archive for the ‘health’ Category

From MacMillan Cancer Support:

This woman is being treated with docetaxel for...

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Macmillan Cancer Support has strongly criticised a Department of Work and Pensions decision to propose changes to the benefits system which could have devastating consequences for many thousands of cancer patients[1]. Under the plans being consulted on, seriously ill cancer patients in the middle of gruelling intravenous chemotherapy treatment will be forced to prove they are too sick to work. Some patients will have to face back-to-work interviews or be denied a crucial benefit – Employment and Support Allowance (ESA).

This is despite unambiguous recommendations from cancer experts and 30 cancer charities[2] who have clearly stated that patients going through debilitating cancer treatment – and who have to leave work – should be automatically eligible for ESA.

Until now, cancer patients receiving non-oral chemotherapy have been exempt from work-focused interviews and medical assessments to determine whether they may be fit for work, while oral chemotherapy or radiotherapy patients have not been given this protection. Cancer charities, representing the views of patients, have asked the DWP to end this discrepancy as the side-effects of oral chemotherapy and radiotherapy can be just as physically debilitating as non oral chemotherapy. However, instead of extending exemptions to particularly vulnerable cancer patients, the DWP is proposing to remove these from all.

This announcement also comes despite the Government’s repeated assurances that they had no interest in making it harder for cancer patients to access benefits while they are undergoing debilitating treatment[3] and would reverse changes introduced only months ago to extend protection to patients awaiting chemotherapy.

Ciarán Devane, Chief Executive of Macmillan Cancer Support, says:

“Cancer patients in the middle of treatment are, in many cases, fighting for their lives. Yet the Government is proposing to change the rules so all cancer patients will have to undergo a stressful assessment to prove they are unable to work. This shows a clear disregard and misunderstanding of what it’s like to undergo punishing treatment. Patients who previously had peace of mind would face the stress and practical difficulties of getting assessed for work they are too poorly to do.

“To make matters worse, the Government is pressing ahead with proposed changes in the Welfare Reform Bill that will make 7,000 cancer patients lose ESA after 12 months simply because they have not recovered quickly enough.

“We hope Ministers will rethink these proposals and listen to the clear views of the cancer community. Cancer is the toughest fight many people will have to face, the Government should not be making it tougher for them.”

Macmillan has launched a petition to call on the Government to make changes to the Welfare Reform Bill:


You should by all means sign the petition but you should also stick with it and make sure you hold the Tories to account for such a disgusting policy! People on chemotherapy will actually have to prove they’re too sick to work? I don’t think there’s anything in that which merits any further comment, do you?

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The excellent blog Lonely Boy Blue asks:

Today HIVers can take as little as one pill-a-day and keep HIV in check.  We can lead nearly normal lives, looking like everyone on the street, blending in.  As a result, HIV education and prevention has fallen in priority. Government funding is being cut. This year in London alone the NHS cut funding to HIV programmes by 43% in spite of a 73% increase in diagnoses in the last decade.*  It’s no longer a pressing concern. Why continue funding HIV education and prevention if no one is dying because of these great drugs?

We have lost site of the importance of HIV education and prevention.  We all have become complacent in our attitudes towards HIV because people can and are living longer on these drugs.  The attitude among gay men is worse than their straight counterparts. Gay men know they should wear condoms to protect themselves from contracting the virus, yet younger men are the latest increase in HIV diagnoses.  It is estimated that over the last year over 6000 contracted HIV in the UK.  More than 17 people everyday in the UK are contracting HIV!  WHY? Why are people still contracting HIV?

A couple more statistics worth noting: according the HPA report on HIV in the UK, “Half of adults were diagnosed with HIV at a late stage of infection in 2009 (CD4 counts less than 350 per mm3 within three months of diagnosis), the stage at which treatment is recommended to begin. “ “One in six MSM (men having sex with men), and one in sixteen heterosexuals newly diagnosed with HIV had acquired their infection within the previous 4-5 months before diagnosis.” “New diagnoses among MSM remained high…; four out of five probably acquired their infection in the UK.”

All of this leads me to my feeling being let down.  I have been let down by the government.  Let down by society.  Let down by you!  A quick look at the events for World AIDS Day 2011 at show just how little education, prevention or testing account for this day’s activties!  And you, dear reader, are the reason it happens.  You, dear reader, support these bars, pubs, and clubs, which use World AIDS Day as another way to make money for themselves (someone please explain to me what a strip-a-thon or cheaper entry fees into clubs if you wear a red ribbon have to do with HIV education, prevention or testing).  You lessen the importance of today by going out and getting drunk, some of you taking drugs, both of which lowers inhibitions and can lead to unsafe sex practices and in the biggest irony of the day could very well lead to you contracting HIV!

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Seems I wasn’t the only one who noticed David Cameron’s curious reticence about mentioning gay men and HIV together. Peter Tatchell takes the Tories to task:

What safer sex information is taught in schools is wholly oriented to heterosexual pupils. Gay and bisexual students get no specific advice on how to have gay sex safely.

Many faith schools and independent schools are getting away with neglecting their pupil’s HIV education. They put their own dogmas and embarrassment about sexual matters before the health and welfare of young people.

Frank, detailed and effective HIV awareness and prevention education should be mandatory in all schools from primary level onwards, before pupils become sexually active and adopt unsafe sexual habits.

The needs of gay and bisexual men continue to be under-resourced. HIV prevention campaigns targeted at men who have sex with men are not working, as evidenced by the high number of new HIV infections.

Having won so many gains in terms of legal rights and social acceptance, we need to ensure that we remain healthy to enjoy the benefits of equality. We may have to rethink some HIV prevention advertising campaigns to make them more hard-hitting and impactive. The level of new infections in our community needs to be cut very significantly.

Access to effective HIV prevention information and to high quality HIV health-care are human rights. They should be available to all.

Peter makes an invaluable point. The message that’s getting out there isn’t connecting with the people it needs to connect with – a point made very clear by UK Positive Lad. It suggests as far as gay men’s needs go, something is getting in the way, be it governmental indifference, complacency from within the gay community or (as Peter suggests) entirely misguided HIV prevention campaigns. A shift of attitudes needs to take place, but also a shift of ideas, not least of which needs to be acknowledging that gay people have become invisible at the heart of the pandemic, even though we comprise the majority of people actually getting infected. The other issues Peter refers to then need to lead the way from there, both in schools and in clinics, which really need to sit up and pay attention.

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I don’t hear a thing about homosexuality, just vague talk about saving Africans thousands of miles away. Of course it’s right that everything possible be done to prevent the spread of the virus in sub-Saharan Africa and elsewhere, but to me it’s notable that he’s not talking about gay men, the largest body (in the UK) of continuing infections. By not doing so he’s contributing to HIV invisibility where it’s doing the greatest damage, making his words about tackling the stigma of infection ring particularly hollow.

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My First World AIDS Day

Posted: December 1, 2011 in health
Tags: , , ,

To mark World AIDS Day today, please read a guest blog entry by Sam, aka UK Positive Lad (whose blog and Twitter read you really should follow:

AIDS Awareness

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In a couple of hours it will be December 1st 2011. World AIDS Day. My FIRST World AIDS Day.

Well, that’s not entirely true now is it? I’ve been on this planet for 26 years, and the first ever World AIDS Day was held in 1987 – which means this is the 24th World AIDS Day, but what I mean to say is this is the first time I’ve ever paid attention, the first time I’ve felt it was ever relevant to me.

You see in July 2011, only 4 and a bit months ago I found out I was HIV+. Something I’d never even dreamed would happen to me. So the last 8 World AIDS Days of my adulthood have somewhat passed me by, just another one of those irrelevant international (speak like a pirate, wear a moustache, typhoid awareness) days. But here I am, 26 years of age and HIV+ and World AIDS Day has a whole new meaning to me.

I’ve spent a lot of time being brutally frank and honest with myself lately, due to both my own feelings and the reactions of other around me (both welcome and unwelcome) and let me assure you that I’m under no illusion that I’ve no-one to blame but myself for being in this predicament. I was never the most careful person when it came to sex (how times have changed), but nor was I particularly reckless – I guess I’d call myself unlucky.

One thing that has become abundantly apparent to me in this process however is how little that the general public (even high risk groups such as gay men) know about HIV, and I sadly include myself in that until recently. This concerns me in two different ways:

  1. People don’t know/understand the risks. People engage in risky sexual behaviour with perfect strangers with only their word as to their HIV status. Even if the person fully believes that they are indeed HIV negative this is only as good as their last test (which may have been quite some time ago). The only person who truly knows their HIV status is someone who is HIV+.
  2. The lack of understanding about how the virus works, how it’s transferred and what it is to live with HIV feeds a damaging stigma surrounding HIV and those living with it. I’ve nearly been driven as far as suicide in recent weeks by the extreme negative reactions of some of those around me. I feel like I’m always looking over my shoulder for the next bad reaction.

There’s a lot of work to be done, an overwhelming amount in fact. There needs to be more information in schools, colleges, universities, in bars and in clubs, more discussion on television and wider reaching campaigns on the net. It’s obvious to me that this information needs to be of a higher quality too, targeted for the groups it’s intended to reach, when I was diagnosed I was passed an information pack, the two case studies were of a 30yo married straight man, and a 50yo lesbian – neither of which I could remotely relate to.

It’s also important that these campaigns and informative materials do not preach, people will always engage in unprotected sex as long as the Earth keeps turning, what we need to do is educate people of the risks to enable them to make an informed decision about when they feel comfortable and confident engaging in unprotected sex with a partner as well as feeling confident and secure in saying “no. But if you preach you will turn people off your message – it’s as simple as that.

So what we need are information packs and campaigns that target specific groups with information relevant to them in a manner that doesn’t patronise, preach or scare. Only then will we reduce the fear and uncertainty around HIV and with it the stigma.

I’m going to use my first World AIDS Day to spread this message, what are you going to do?


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I’ve had enough of Christian nutloons most of the time, but this is just the worst. We’re living in an age where religion, for reasons I can’t fathom, has certain forms of legal protection – how is that even possible? Your age, gender and sexual orientation is inherent, but your religion?! Nonetheless there’s an expectation that the rise of mega, overzealous, largely African ‘churches’ should be accepted or even respected. LBC reports on a Sky investigation into why that’s a VERY BAD IDEA INDEED:

There is evidence that evangelical churches in London, Manchester, Birmingham and Glasgow are claiming to cure HIV through God.

We sent three undercover reporters to the Synagogue Church of All Nations (SCOAN), which is based in Southwark, south London.

All of them told the pastors they were HIV positive – all were told they could be healed.

Once a month the church has a prayer line, where people from across Europe come to be cured of all kinds of illness.

At registration they have to hand over a doctor’s letter as evidence of their condition

They are filmed giving before and after testimonies, which are put on SCOAN’s website.

The healing process involves the pastor shouting over the person being healed for the devil to come out of their body, while spraying water in their face.

One of the pastors, Rachel Holmes, told our reporter Shatila, who is a genuine HIV sufferer, they had a 100% success rate.

“We have many people that contract HIV. All are healed.”

Prayer heals nothing and there’s no such thing as ‘God’, the ‘Devil’ or ‘evil spirits’ – these are fraudsters who destroy people’s lives in the name of religion. There shouldn’t be protection by the Charity Commission, nor by the law – this is the 21st century and any organisation which says it can heal ANTHING through prayer should be shut down immediately, and its leadership prosecuted. But guess what this ‘church’ says?

“We are not the Healer; God is the Healer. Never a sickness God cannot heal. Never a disease God cannot cure. Never a burden God cannot bear. Never a problem God cannot solve.

“To His power, nothing is impossible. We have not done anything to bring about healing, deliverance or prosperity. If somebody is healed, it is God who heals.

“We must have a genuine desire if we come to God. We are not in position to question anybody’s genuine desire. Only God knows if one comes with true desire. Only God can determine this.

“That is why, if anybody comes in the name of God, we pray for them. The outcome of the prayer will determine if they come genuinely or not.”

This batshit stupidity needs to be condemned as backward, dangerous and out of step with a single British value. But again and again I find theists 0nline brazenly defending the claim that any illness, including HIV, can be cured by prayer. Catch me any day of the week on Twitter to see how well they fare with me.

You know what really fucks me off? It’s right wingers and religious morons who insist that someone’s HIV status is somehow an ethical issue. Pope Ratzinger’s kicked off again about it:

On the subject of Africa’s HIV pandemic, he said: “The change of behaviour that it requires – for example, sexual abstinence, rejection of sexual promiscuity, fidelity within marriage – ultimately involves the question of integral development, which demands a global approach and a global response from the Church.

“For if it is to be effective, the prevention of AIDS must be based on a sex education that is itself grounded in an anthropology anchored in the natural law and enlightened by the word of God and the Church’s teaching.”

Well that’s propaganda, it’s bullshit and meaningless to everyday life. Arresting the HIV pandemic anywhere involves the use of condoms and the provision of honest, religion-free sex education, targeted appropriately from an early age. People need to be free to talk about sex and sexually transmitted infections (including HIV) without fear or condemnation or damnation, not be constrained by ‘the word of God’, which after all advocates child rape and maintains believers can drink poison without harm. For the man who said condoms could make the problem worse, and who shielded paedophile priests from the law it’s frankly outrageous to be talking about morals.

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