Monthly Archives: February 2017

Music Video About Vaginas Reminds Men They Don’t Control Women’s Bodies

Music Video About Vaginas Reminds Men They Don’t Control Women’s Bodies


No form of female genital mutilation is OK.

Experts have long held that allowing any form of female genital mutilation to exist is damaging, and regressive.

But since some people aren’t convinced of that fact, the nonprofit Integrate UK, which works toward fostering equality and integration, released a catchy music video in December to address the issue. Titled “#MyClitoris,” the video took on significant meaning this week: Monday marked Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation Day, an annual awareness campaign aimed at ending FGM.

“Seems it’s up to us girls to be quite tough,” the girls in the video sing. “If we need to spell it out, get your mitts off my muff.”


FGM involves the total or partial removal of external female genitalia for no medical benefit, and comes with a host of serious health consequences, including heavy bleeding, sepsis and infertility, among other issues. Communities perform the procedure as a way to keep girls “pure” and prevent them from having pre-marital sex.

At least 200 million girls and women alive today have undergone female genital mutilation, according to the United Nations. The number of women who are at risk in the U.S. has tripled in recent years. 

Set against a light pink backdrop, the girls in the “#MyClitoris” video wear floral crowns and pearls, and gently tap their feet to a folksy tune. They take ownership of the overtly feminine expectations of young women and turn them on their head as they sing about their vaginas, clitorises and the fact that they alone can decide what happens to their bodies.

“They say it’s OK for a little bit to be taken away from my clit,” the song continues. “No, thank you.”

The video, which decidedly challenges the idea that men can control women’s bodies by disfiguring them, was produced in response to a controversial op-ed The Economist published in June. The column suggested that outright banning all forms of FGM isn’t working. Instead, the author wrote, governments should consider banning the worst forms of female genital mutilation and allowing trained professionals to perform the types that aren’t as harmful.

“Instead of trying to stamp FGM out entirely, governments should … try to persuade parents to choose the least nasty version, or none at all,” the author wrote. “However distasteful, it is better to have a symbolic nick from a trained health worker than to be butchered in a back room by a village elder.”

The concept of medicalizing FGM has been suggested in the past. In 2010, the American Academy of Pediatrics released a statement saying that performing a “ritual nick” could help wipe out the practice. But some experts say that was actually a damaging setback to ending FGM.

Medical experts across the globe have expressed their opposition to allowing any form of FGM to continue.

Last year, the World Health Organization issued its first-ever medical guidelines on FGM. The guidelines help doctors identify cases of FGM, and treat the issues those patients could present, including depression and problems with sexual health.

The guidelines also urge doctors to treat FGM as abuse, not a cultural practice.

“If we’re thinking this a cultural issue and we don’t want to get involved, we are not safeguarding people at risk,” Comfort Momoh, a midwife who treats FGM survivors at Guy’s and St. Thomas’ hospital in London, said at a health conference last year. “FGM is everybody’s business.”

Male contraceptive gel passes monkey test

Male contraceptive gel passes monkey test


By Michelle Roberts Health editor, BBC News online

An experimental new type of male contraceptive that blocks sperm flow with a gel has been successful in monkey trials.


Vasalgel acts as a physical barrier once injected into the tubes that sperm would swim down to the penis.

The company behind it says a two-year trial, published in Basic and Clinical Andrology, shows the gel works and is safe – at least in primates.

It hopes to have enough evidence to begin tests in men within a few years.

If those get funding and go well – two big “ifs” – it will seek regulatory approval to make the gel more widely available to men.

It would be the first new type of male contraceptive to hit the market in many decades.

At the moment, men have two main options of contraceptive – wear a condom to catch the sperm, or have a sterilising operation (vasectomy) to cut or seal the two tubes that carry sperm to the penis from where they are made in the testicles.

Vasalgel has the same end effect as vasectomy, but researchers hope it should be easier to reverse if a man later decides he wants to have children.

In theory, another injection should dissolve the gel plug.


That worked in early tests in rabbits, but the researchers have yet to prove the same in monkeys and man.

Under anaesthetic

The idea behind Vasalgel is not new.

Another experimental male birth control gel – RISUG (reversible inhibition of sperm under guidance) – that works in a similar way to Vasalgel is being tested in men in India.

Unlike RISUG, Vasalgel is not designed to impair the swimming sperm.

It merely blocks their path while still letting other fluid through, according to the manufacturer.

Both gels are given as an injection, under anaesthetic, and are meant to offer long-acting contraception.

The monkey trial

The University of California researchers tested the gel on 16 adult male monkeys, 10 of whom were already fathers.

The monkeys were monitored for a week after getting the injection and were then released back into their an enclosure to rejoin some fertile females.

Mating did occur, but none of the female monkeys became pregnant over the course of the study, which included two full breeding periods for some of the animals.

Few of the male monkeys had side-effects, although one did need an operation because the injection did not go to plan and damaged one of his tubes.

Allan Pacey, professor of andrology at the University of Sheffield, said: “The study shows that, in adult male monkeys at least, the gel is an effective form of contraception.

“But in order for it to have a chance of replacing the traditional surgical method of vasectomy, the authors need to show that the procedure is reversible.”

He said there had been very little commercial interest from pharmaceutical companies in this kind of a approach.

The non-profit company researching Vasalgel, the Parsemus Foundation, has used grants and fundraising to get this far.

Prof Pacey said: “The idea of a social venture company to develop the idea is intriguing.

“I would imagine there is a worldwide market for a new male contraceptive, but trials in humans and more long-term safety data are required before we will know if it is a success.”

This type of contraceptive wouldn’t protect against sexually transmitted infections such as HIV.

But in terms of willingness, experts believe men would be up for trying new contraceptives, such as a gel.

Dr Anatole Menon-Johanssonm from the sexual health charity Brook, said: “Some men do want to be part of the solution and do their part.

“If you can have more options available then maybe more men would go for it.”

He said the idea of a “reversible vasectomy” was desirable, whereas asking some men to take hormones to control their fertility might be “a big ask”.

Ulster University research to maximise sexual wellbeing for men and their partners after a prostate cancer diagnosis

Ulster University research to maximise sexual wellbeing for men and their partners after a prostate cancer diagnosis

World-leading researchers at Ulster University are set to lead a £430,000 pioneering  international research programme in the UK, the US and Canada, which aims to improve the sexual health of men, and their partners, after a prostate cancer diagnosis.

Prostate cancer is the most common cancer among men and treatments can lead to a number of physical and emotional challenges. In Northern Ireland there are over 8,000 men living with and after prostate cancer and there are over 330,000 men living with the disease UK wide. More than three-quarters (76 per cent) of those who have had treatment for prostate cancer report experiencing erectile dysfunction.

Ulster University’s new three year study will see the creation of three new flexible support packages designed to address individual needs and empower men and their partners to manage their sexual health challenges prior to and after treatment.

The resources include a web-based sexual recovery programme for men and their partners, an engagement tool to ensure quality communication between health professionals and men and partners, and an online sexual health training programme for health professionals caring for men living with prostate cancer. 

Ulster University’s research is supported with a £400,000 grant from the TrueNTH global initiative led by the Movember Foundation in collaboration with Prostate Cancer UK. A further £30,000 has also been awarded from the HSC Public Health Agency to further support the study.

The research will be led by Professor Eilís McCaughan at Ulster University’s Institute of Nursing and Health Research alongside colleagues from the Northern Ireland Cancer Centre at Belfast City Hospital; Ninewells Hospital, Dundee; University of Surrey; University of Southampton; University of Michigan; and University of Toronto.

Ulster University’s Professor Eilís McCaughan said: “Sexual dysfunction experienced by men after prostate cancer treatment can have a devastating effect on them as individuals and on their relationships.

“Men are often reluctant to discuss personal sexual issues and there is also evidence that health professionals have limited time available to provide necessary levels of care and support for men and their partners.

“The results of this new research will provide much needed guidance and help restore sexual health to a level of satisfaction for both the man and his partner.

“The new resources we develop will provide them both with crucial need-to-know information on the possible consequences of the different forms of treatment and where to seek information and support to self-manage their condition.”

Dr Sarah Cant, Director of TrueNTH and Outcomes at Prostate Cancer UK said: “When it comes to treating erectile dysfunction following prostate cancer treatment, early support and treatment is vital. This programme is a tremendous step towards ensuring that no man who has been treated for prostate cancer is left to deal with erectile dysfunction alone. We look forward to the results of the project and hope it will lead to improved support and experiences for all men.”

Paul Villanti, Executive Director of Programs of the Movember Foundation said:

“The Movember Foundation is committed to improving the lives of men with prostate cancer through the creation of our TrueNTH program. TrueNTH is a nautical term; it’s a compass point, it’s an idea that if we can understand the individual patients’ needs when they are first diagnosed, we can help them navigate towards the ultimate outcome they want to see. The funding of this programme would not be possible without the continued support from our Movember community, to whom we’re extremely grateful for their efforts.”

Hepatitis A on the rise among gay and bisexual men

Hepatitis A on the rise among gay and bisexual men


Public Health England has identified an increase of Hepatitis A cases across England.


The increase has been noticed mostly among gay and bisexual men, some of which are associated with travel to Spain. While the numbers are small, Public Health England say it’s unusual to see so many linked cases.

Dr Michael Edelstein, Consultant Epidemiologist in the Hepatitis and Blood Safety Department, said: “Public Health England is aware of an increase in hepatitis A cases, where we believe the infection has been spread through sex, most cases occurring in gay and bisexual men.

“Hepatitis A can be prevented by practising good personal hygiene, so we recommend gay and bisexual men wash their hands after sex and change condoms between any kind of sex to reduce their risk of getting hepatitis A.

“Those who are concerned can seek advice from sexual health services about whether they would benefit from hepatitis A vaccination.”

According to Public Health England, symptoms of Hepatitis A can include nausea and vomiting; diarrhoea; loss of appetite; weight loss; jaundice; itchy skin; and a short, mild, flu-like illness.

Some people may have no symptoms at all, but can still pass on the virus to others.

While the disease is mainly spread through contaminated food or from person to person through inadequate hand-washing, it can also be spread through sex, including both oral and anal sex.

More information about Hepatitis A can be found on the NHS website.

From chocolate to beetroot, 5 foods to boost your libido

From chocolate to beetroot, 5 foods to boost your libido

Spice up your love life on Valentine’s night by slipping these surprisingly sexy foods into your diet.


It’s nearly Valentine’s Day, and talk of love is in the air.

And while we all like to think we have a raging inferno burning inside, as many as one in five Brits experience reduced libido at some stage in their lives, with many struggling to understand why.

In fact there can be many reasons why our sex drive diminishes – age, stress, fatigue, hormonal imbalances and emotional concerns in both men and women have a part to play, and for many the issue can come and go.

Luckily, there is much that can be done to help you get back into your stride, and some of them start in the kitchen. Even if you don’t have a problem but want to ramp things up, consider that certain foods have long been heralded as libido boosters and fertility supports.


Bright red beetroot is a great bedroom booster, particularly for males who may have lost the spring in their step.

A good source of a compound called nitric oxide that naturally helps to increase blood flow by causing blood vessels to dilate, beetroot is a good food to support sexual performance and may help your man go that extra mile.


Another sexy food, wet-and-wild watermelon is rich in a whole host of nutrients while also boasting a high level of an amino acid called citrulline, which has been shown to help aid sex drive by increasing blood flow to our nether regions.


Try to eat the rind and even some of the seeds if possible as a lot of goodness is found here. Blend into a smoothie if you don’t like the crunch.


Not for nothing has this root vegetable superfood been dubbed nature’s Viagra. Used for many hundreds of years as a fertility support and libido booster in Peruvian culture, research has proved its ability to increase strength, stamina, energy, fertility and libido.

t does this by supporting our adrenal glands, helping to balance sex hormone production and make the body more resilient to the daily grind. A winning combination in the bedroom for men and women!

Try adding a teaspoon of maca powder to a morning smoothie, yoghurt, cereals or even to cake recipes.

Dark chocolate

Before you reach for the Milky Bar, remember we are talking about good quality dark chocolate here, preferably above 70% cocoa solids.

This rich source of cacao is naturally high in a number of compounds that are very supportive of body and mind.  Magnesium helps to relax muscles and ease tension in the mind, as well as supporting the production of serotonin, the body’s happy neurotransmitter.

Chocolate also contains phenylethylamine – a compound that we have been shown to produce when we are in love.
Given that low mood and stress can be strongly linked with lower sex drive, a few squares of dark chocolate daily is a good way to pump up the passion.

Pumpkin seeds

They aren’t the sexiest of foods, but pumpkin seeds have a plethora of benefits.


Being high in zinc which is essential for mood, mind and hormone balance as well as sperm health, they are a great support for sexual health in men and women.

They are also loaded with libido-supporting vitamins B, E, C, D and K and minerals including calcium, potassium, niacin and phosphorous, as well as being a great source of arginine which research continually shows is essential for sex drive.

Alice Mackintosh is a Nutritional Food Therapist. For more information, visit her website.

IU study examines sexual risk-taking, HIV prevention among older adults in sub-Saharan Africa

IU study examines sexual risk-taking, HIV prevention among older adults in sub-Saharan Africa

One of the most common myths around older adults is that they are not sexually active. But a recent study conducted by researchers at Indiana University found that older men and women do maintain sexual relationships even into their 80s and beyond. Since older adults are often ignored in sexual health education, the possibility for HIV transmission is heightened.

The study, conducted by Molly Rosenberg, assistant professor of epidemiology and biostatics in the IU School of Public Health-Bloomington, was recently published in the Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndromes. It looked at the unmet needs for HIV prevention among older adults in sub-Saharan Africa, one of the first studies of its kind to report sexual risk-taking among older adults in that region.

“Our study found that older adults are sexually active, and they report sexual risk behaviors — low condom use, casual sex and multiple recent partners — that are consistent with sexual transmission of disease,” Rosenberg said. “This marks a huge potential for ongoing HIV transmission in older South Africans, and highlights the need for expanded HIV testing and counseling that can change behavior and help reduce new HIV transmission.”

Researchers analyzed data from 5,059 men and women age 40 and older from the study “Health and Aging in Africa: Longitudinal Studies of INDEPTH Communities,” conducted in rural Mpumalanga province in South Africa. Of those enrolled, 46 percent were men, 51 percent were currently married, and 46 percent had no formal education. The research looked at HIV prevalence, described their sexual behaviors and compared those behaviors across HIV status categories, using both self-reported and laboratory-confirmed HIV status data.

Older adults receive little attention when it comes to HIV prevention research and interventions, although growing evidence shows they make up a fast-increasing proportion of people living with HIV, in part because of the impact of large-scale HIV treatment on reducing deaths from the disease. Research on the group remains scarce, however, especially in sub-Saharan Africa, where most of the world’s 37 million people infected with HIV live, and prevention measures focus mostly on younger adults.

“This is really the first generation of South Africans we’ve seen aging with HIV,” Rosenberg said.

Overall, HIV prevalence among people in the study was high, at 23 percent, and did not differ between men and women. About one-third of respondents reported never having been tested for HIV, and among those with confirmed infections, nearly half did not yet know they were living with HIV.

Regarding sexual activity, more than half of participants reported at least one sex partner within the past two years. Men tended to maintain sexual partnerships at relatively high rates across older ages, only dropping to 52 percent at age 80 and older. The proportion of women with recent sexual partners decreased more steeply with age, dropping to 6 percent at age 80 and older.

Individuals who reported condom use decreased with age in both men and women, as did those reporting casual or anonymous sex. Condom use was highest, at 75 percent, among those who were HIV positive, but only if they knew their status. Of those who were HIV positive but unaware of their status, only 27 percent regularly used condoms.

One in 10 participants also reported that their most recent sex partners were casual or anonymous. Casual sex was lowest among HIV-negative adults, at 9 percent, and higher among both HIV-positive groups (29 percent of those aware of their HIV status and 18 percent of those who were unaware). The results, Rosenberg said, show not only a commonality among sexually active young people and older people, but also the need for targeted intervention among older adults.

The study calls for inclusion of older adults in HIV prevention, with messages created directly for that demographic, and intensified counseling and motivation about sexual transmission risk and universal HIV testing.

“To control the HIV epidemic in South Africa, we need to reach everyone who is vulnerable to HIV,” Rosenberg said. “And our paper shows that older adults should clearly be considered as HIV-vulnerable.”

The Health and Aging in Africa: Longitudinal Studies of INDEPTH Communities study was funded by the National Institute on Aging. Lisa Berkman, Harvard School of Public Health, is principal investigator. HAALSI is nested within the Agincourt Health and Socio-Demographic Surveillance System, led by Stephen Tollman and Kathleen Kahn, with funding from Wellcome Trust, University of the Witwatersrand, and Medical Research Council, South Africa. Rosenberg’s paper, “Sexual Behaviors and HIV Status: A Population-Based Study Among Older Adults in Rural South Africa,” was a collaborative effort with key co-authors from the Harvard School of Public Health and the University of the Witwatersrand.