A new study out from the CDC shows that herpes is twice as common in women than men, and three times as common in blacks than whites. A massive 48% of new herpes cases are among black women. We called on Dr. Vanessa Cullins, an obstetrician/gynecologist and vice president for medical affairs at Planned Parenthood, to get the story behind these depressing statistics.
Em & Lo: Can you briefly explain the difference between HSV-1 and HSV-2, and how they are related to oral vs genital herpes?
Dr. Cullins: Herpes is a very common infection caused by two different but closely related viruses — herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1) and herpes simplex virus type 2 (HSV-2). Both are easy to catch. They remain in the body for life, and can produce symptoms that come and go. Both forms of herpes can infect the oral area, the genital area, or both. When the infection is on or near the mouth, it is called oral herpes. Oral herpes is caused most often by HSV-1. When herpes infection is on or near the sex organs, it is called genital herpes. Genital herpes is caused most often by HSV-2.
The study shows that women are nearly twice as likely as men to be infected — why is this?
Herpes infections prefer moist environments and a woman‚Äôs sexual organs tend to be more continuously moist than a man‚Äôs.
The study also shows that the infection rate is three times higher amongst blacks, with 48% of new herpes cases being in African American women. Why the disparity?
Women of color are disproportionately affected by the current health care system that exists in this country. Women who face multiple barriers to accessing affordable health care, including being uninsured or under-insured, experience higher rates of sexually transmitted infections and other medical conditions.
Good design used to be completely unheard of in the world of sex accessories — neither function nor form was particularly paid attention to, whether it was a vibrator or a pair of latex undies. Fortunately, in the last decade or so, both form and function have improved immeasurably, and we could not be happier. Now vibrators and dildos are as likely to resemble abstract art for your coffee table as they are to resemble a penis.¬†The newest contender in this field? New York City’s health department, if you can believe that! The city distributes 40 million free condoms every year, and they decided that the condom packaging could use an overhaul. Now, design by committee tends to be a horrible idea, and design by government agency tends to be even worse. But some smarty-pants in the health department decided to hold an online competition for a special limited edition condom wrapper, and 15,000 people voted on the entries.
The good news is there are a lot of birth control options available to women. The bad news is you have to figure out which one is right for you — how to choose?! Planned Parenthood has a pretty cool, new widget that can help take a little bit of the guesswork out of it. Called “My Method,” it’s a quick survey you take which immediately analyzes your answers and recommends the types of birth control that might be best for you, your relationship(s) and situation. Are you an IUD gal or possibly a Pill popper? It’s designed for women, so fellas should answer from their female partner’s perspective. They’ve got a big qualifier at the beginning explaining that this is not official medical advice and you should consult your doctor blah blah blah, but it’s certainly more helpful than the last Cosmo quiz you took about which kind of animal you are in the sack.
When we first saw the headlines this past week about a woman who has 300 orgasms a day finally meeting the man of her dreams — i.e. a man who could keep up with her libido — we assumed the story would be about Marrena Lindberg, whom we interviewed last year for our U.K. TV show. Lindberg is the author of The Orgasmic Diet: A Revolutionary Plan to Lift Your Libido and Bring You to Orgasm and has persistent sexual arousal syndrome (PSAS), which means that she has hundreds of orgasms a day. Mind you, these aren’t dramatic, Meg Ryan-style orgasms — she demonstrated one for us during the interview (using a photo of Stephen Colbert as her “inspiration,” we shit you not) and after it was over, we had to ask, “Did it happen?” And yes, we were just as awkward as you might expect. Exactly where is the polite place to look when one’s interview subject is in the midst of an orgasm?¬†But the recent news item was not about Lindberg. Apparently persistent sexual arousal syndrome is, well, persistent. As the condition is being increasingly recognized, more and more women are coming forward — relieved, finally, to not be called “crazy” or, worse, “lucky” (even by their doctors). And, of course, the media are more than happy to cover this — because multi-orgasmic women make for good headlines (ahem, exhibit A, this post).
Today, Planned Parenthood is organizing a “National Day of Action” to inform people about the Stupak Amendment and to lobby the Senate for health care reform that ensures women‚Äôs access to reproductive health care. Their bullet points below very clearly (finally!) outline how exactly the Stupak Amendment would affect women’s lives and health (because let’s face it, when you hear “The Exchange” and “affordability credits” and “subsidies” mentioned vaguely in the news, it goes in one ear and out the other). So if you’re a woman or you care about one (i.e. everyone) then take a minute to familiarize yourself with this important — and frightening — info. [Our own added notes are in brackets below.] Then send a quick and easy email to your Senators today:
The Bottom Line
Essentially the amendment violates the underlying principle of health care reform, as articulated by President Obama, that no one will lose the benefits the currently have.
Under the Stupak amendment, millions of women would lose benefits that they currently have and millions more would be prohibited from getting the kind of private sector health care coverage that most women have today.
Millions of women would lose private coverage for abortion services and millions more [i.e. unsubsidized women with health insurance plans in the exchange] would be prohibited from buying it even with their own money.
Women’s access to private coverage for abortion would be severely restricted by health care reform.
Salon.com has an extended scene from the forthcoming documentary “What’s the Matter With Kansas?“, based on Thomas Frank’s bestselling book of the same title about the Right Wing’s rise in the once-liberal state. It features Dr. George Tiller, the Wichita-based abortion provider who was gunned down last Sunday while attending church. The clip touches on the years of threats and abuse Tiller experienced — law suits, arson, death threats, failed assassination attempts — for his commitment to providing women with safe and legal reproductive care. When Tiller speaks, he seems exhausted yet resigned to defending women’s rights against these radicals. It’s tragic.
After the jump, a round-up of interesting articles and info on Dr. Tiller and reproductive rights in the wake of his murder:
When the relatively new HPV vaccine Gardasil came on the market for girls a few years ago, conservatives got their panties all in a bind over the possibility that it would give sweet, innocent P.Y.T.s permission to do it. Now that the vaccine is being considered for boys, no one seems too worried about their purity being tarnished. According to the Washington Post, the big questions this time around are about safety and cost-effectiveness. (And who says feminism is obsolete?) In the article, Gregory D. Zimet, a professor of pediatrics and psychology at Indiana University, brings up an interesting point about about this question of whether it’s really worth it for the boys…