March 15, 2010

Book review: And the Band Played On by Randy Shilts

Posted in Books, GLBT issues, Medicine, Politics, Science at 9:41 pm by The Lizard Queen

And the Band Played On: Politics, People, and the AIDS Epidemic
by Randy Shilts

I knew it was bad, though I knew that mostly from other readings, because essentially, I don’t remember a time before AIDS. I remember that in grade school, “Red Ribbon Week” was about saying no to drugs rather than AIDS awareness, but that’s pretty much it. When Ryan White was battling to attend school, I was in first grade. I can remember having assemblies in years not too much later where they talked about how you can’t catch HIV through casual contact, and we can still be good friends and hold hands and hug and everybody’s happy and no one discriminates against anyone! (Of course, that was all, to the best of my knowledge, academic; I’m not entirely convinced that people would have been so sanguine had someone with HIV or AIDS actually tried to attend the school).  Read the rest of this entry »


December 1, 2009

World AIDS day thoughts and round-up

Posted in Current events, GLBT issues, Government, Health care, Human rights, Medicine at 4:14 pm by The Lizard Queen

Keith Haring, 1958-1990

Keith Haring’s “Silence = Death,” 1989

From The Body: What Can You Do, See, Hear and Know on World AIDS Day 2009?

The theme for World AIDS Day this year is HIV treatment access and human rights.  Uganda’s “Anti-Homosexuality” bill is therefore relevant to this discussion:

The bill would criminalize the legitimate work of national and international activists and organizations working for the defense and promotion of human rights in Uganda. It would also put major barriers in the path of effective HIV/AIDS prevention efforts, the groups said.

“Discrimination and punitive laws like this aimed at marginalized groups and at those often among the most affected by HIV drives people underground and does nothing to help slow down the AIDS epidemic,” said Daniel Molokele, Africa program officer at the World AIDS Campaign.

(Rather an unfortunate topic for Pastor Rick Warren to declare himself apolitical on, then, no?)

I appreciate the statement Secretary of State Clinton made on the subject yesterday:

On the eve of World AIDS Day, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton Monday made the strongest statement yet by an administration official that the United States will not tolerate efforts to criminalize homosexuality among countries that receive U.S. funding to combat HIV/AIDS.

Also from Human Rights Watch: World AIDS Day: Punitive Drug Laws, Policing Practices Impede HIV/AIDS Response

Now that the U.S. has lifted the travel ban for people with HIV, the International AIDS Society has announced that it will hold its 2012 conference in the US, which will be the first time the conference has met here since 1990.  (I recently read about the Society’s early meetings in And the Band Played On; I hope to have a review posted within the next few days.)

Education is still essential: Michigan teenagers, for example, are still becoming infected with HIV at an alarming rate.

From Sex in the Public Square: Thinking Local on World AIDS Day

Finally, Shark-Fu hits it out of the park, as usual.

December 3, 2008

Read-ems from the last week or so

Posted in Censorship, Civil rights, GLBT issues, Health care, History, Human rights, Medicine, Racial issues at 12:53 pm by The Lizard Queen

(How is it December already?)

Recent must-reads:

On Thanksgiving and how it relates to, affects, and is regarded by North American indigenous peoples: Thanksgiving: A National Day of Mourning for Indians and Teaching The Young To Disrespect Indigenous Culture by Renee at Womanist Musings

On World AIDS Day: It’s World AIDS Day by Jill at Feministe and I Have No Words by Jay at Two Women Blogging

On Harvey Milk: What I’m Thankful For: Harvey Milk by theantidesi101 at Pam’s House Blend and Harvey Milk Lives by Christie at Dogged Blog

On the LGBTQ rights movement being a civil rights movement: Own Up to Your Bigotry by Mustang Bobby at Shakesville and Don’t Call it a Culture War by Ann (of Feministing) at The American Prospect

On expectations for children with Down syndrome: More on Peter Singer and Jamie Bérubé by Michael Bérubé

On freedom of speech: Why defend freedom of icky speech? by Neil Gaiman

It’s not exactly cheery material, so “happy reading” doesn’t seem appropriate. Still, I think an exhortation to enjoy wouldn’t be out of line, since I personally enjoy thought-provoking reading. So: enjoy!

June 12, 2008

Read-ems for June thus far

Posted in Animals, Consumer info, Feminism, Medicine, News, Racial issues, Reproduction, Sex at 3:13 pm by The Lizard Queen

Hello my lovelies!  Here are some links for you, since I haven’t been writing.  I started a new job on the 2nd, and it’s currently sapping nearly all of my energy.  Here’s hoping that changes once I adjust to the new schedule.

Happy reading!

November 19, 2007

Reading the whole study: the Pill and cervical cancer

Posted in Feminism, Medicine, Reproduction at 7:03 pm by The Lizard Queen

This is how the link at Feministing reads: “Women on the Pill are at higher risk for cervical cancer.” It’s in their weekly feminist roundup, which is always good reading. Given that I’m on the Pill and that cancer is present in my family’s history, I was curious, and followed the link. The article is titled Study Confirms Link Between Oral Contraceptive Use & Cervical Cancer, and it begins with the following paragraph:

An international review of 24 studies, involving more than 50,000 women, confirms findings of a link between birth-control pills and the incidence of cervical cancer. Researchers found that women who use oral contraceptives are at an increased risk of cervical cancer for up to 10 years after they stop.

Yikes, right? Except… here is the second half of the article, with emphasis added:

The authors of the report, who hail Oxford University in England, contend that the overall risks still remain small and should be seen in context.

“In the long term, the extra risk of cervical cancer in oral contraceptive users is more than outweighed by a reduction in risk of ovarian and endometrial cancers.”

In developed countries, in a group of 1000 women there would normally be 3.8 cases of invasive cervical cancer by the time they were 50. If they used oral contraception for 10 years from the age of 20 and then stopped use, the figure would increase to 4.5 per 1000.

An editorial was published in “The Lancet” along with the study, in which Peter Sasieni from Queen Mary University of London said that the results should “reassure women that fear of cervical cancer should not be a reason to avoid use of oral contraception.”

To reiterate: use of the Pill for ten years raises a woman’s risk of cervical cancer by a mere .07 percent.  (It’s a 20% increase in overall occurrence, but the rate of occurrence is low enough that 20% is not as impressive as it might sound out of context.)  Enough to mention in a medical journal? Sure. Enough to write an article for a mainstream news outlet with the aforementioned title and opening paragraph? Not so much, really, I’m thinking.

I think the primary problem here is an outgrowth of the disconnect between and differing aims of medicine and journalism. That opening paragraph is a great hook; it sure kept me reading. And news outlets misunderstand and/or misreport statistics all the time (case in point: if Giuliani polled three points higher than Romney in Indifferenceville but the margin of error is plus or minus 4.5 points, Giuliani is not, in fact, in the lead).

However, it’s hard for me to ignore the overall implications of this article: “Are you sure you want to take the Pill?”  Which means, “Are you really sure you want to be having sex that doesn’t result in teh baybies?”

September 27, 2007

Fun with health insurance

Posted in Health care, Medicine, Reproduction at 1:10 pm by The Lizard Queen

As if having a miscarriage weren’t traumatic enough on its own:

Now, on Aug, 29 2007 my husband and I suffered a devastating miscarriage. Being near midnight we went to the ER. The hospital was very compassionate about our loss and was able to get us in quickly and expedited our treatment. The following day I called BCBS and informed them that we had made a visit to the ER, and was told it wasn’t necessary to call them just for ER visits, but only when we are admitted. Believing that BCBS would never make the mistakes at they did the previous and only time we have used our insurance I thought everything would go smoothly. Boy was I wrong!

On, Sep, 21 2007 I received a statement for BCBS that they were denying all of the claim. I called them and asked why they were denying the entire claim, and was told by Jane, “We do not cover ELECTIVE abortions. If you chose to terminate your pregnancy for non-health threatening reasons, BCBS will not cover it.” WTF!!!??? I asked her, “Are you saying that my records state that I had an ELECTIVE abortion, in an ER at 12 o’clock in the morning?” It was then, I think it clicked in Jane’s mind what she was dealing with and told me how sorry she was. I lost my cool and even started crying. I had a miscarriage not an abortion, and being treated in such a condescending way by BCBS really ticked me off. Thinking what an incredibly huge screw up, BCBS will be right on it trying to fix this, well you would be wrong. I was told to call the hospital and have them fax over my records stating I didn’t have an elective abortion. Who the heck can get an elective abortion in a busy ER at 12am, anyway?

And an update, with clarification:

I just got off the phone with the hospital and was told that the claim was not miscoded. The billing clerk told me that the wording clearly stated that I had had a spontaneous miscarriage and not an elective abortion. I was also informed that this is common practice with BCBS of Kansas City to deny miscarriage clams as an “elective abortion.”

On one hand this story leads a number of commenters (and readers, I imagine, myself included) to conclude that universal health insurance would be an improvement over this garbage. Others suggest that what we really need is a more competitive marketplace, with doctors and surgeons (etc.) competing for customers via price wars (because when someone’s cutting me open, cost should totally be more important than the surgeon’s track record [/snark]), and insurance should be more like car insurance, where it’s used for emergencies only, rather than preventative maintenance along with emergencies. Some people said the woman in question obviously should switch insurance companies (like we usually have a choice?); others suggested that she should be sure her policy actually covers expenses related to miscarriage (because it would be acceptable if it didn’t [/snark]).

I don’t really have anything to add; I just wanted to call attention to the story. It’s a fairly extreme example, but as you can see from the comments thread, this kind of thing happens all the time.

August 6, 2007

Oh, so that’s where my contact lens solution went

Posted in Consumer info, Medicine, Personal at 11:12 am by The Lizard Queen

I consider myself fairly in-the-know. I’m a blogger, after all. I read lots of other blogs. I watch the news. I read magazines. I even read the newspaper from time to time (though my one purchase of the local paper left me underwhelmed, to say the least).

As a result, I can’t help but wonder why this is the first I’ve heard about the fact that my usual brand of contact lens solution, the one I’ve used for over five years now, has been recalled. (For those of you who might also be contact lens-wearers, it’s Advanced Medical Optics’ Complete MoisturePlus.) It wasn’t on the shelf the last two times I went to buy more, but that happens from time to time, and I’m not so set in my ways that I can’t buy another brand when I can’t find the one I habitually buy. I guess in this case that’s kind of a drawback, because I might have learned about the recall sooner had I been desperate to get a hold of that one particular brand. But really, would a sign on the shelf have been so much to ask for?

Statistics suggest that I have nothing to worry about. Furthermore, I suspect I’d be showing symptoms by now if I had the infection in question, though of course just reading the words acanthamoeba keratitis makes me want to go scrub my eyes until they’re raw. So, ultimately, no harm, no foul, I guess. Still, I can’t help being annoyed.

July 27, 2007

I hear Starbucks gives benefits to part-time baristas…

Posted in Health care, Medicine, Mental health, Musings at 11:46 pm by The Lizard Queen


1. I am a graduate student at a state university, entering my seventh (and final) semester.
2. I had an assistantship for my first six semesters. Six semesters is the maximum length of an assistantship in our department, because that’s the most we have funding for.
3. Health insurance was included in the assistantship.
4. As I am no longer employed by the university, my coverage ends on August 20th.
5. I have another job, but that job does not offer health insurance.
6. I have suffered from depression for most of my life. I first saw a psychologist when I was seven years old.
7. I have been on medication for my depression for the past six years, with occasional breaks. The medication is not a cure-all, but it makes a significant difference.
8. With my insurance plan, I paid 40% of the cost of my medication, and it was still expensive. (The patient’s share of medication costs will go up to 50% when the fall semester begins.) I’m not sure I can afford to pay 100% of the cost of my medication.
9. I’m also not sure I can afford to pay for the graduate student insurance plan out of my own pocket.
10. I thus find myself considering tapering off my meds at a rather inconvenient time solely for financial reasons.

The facts lead me to THE QUESTION:

Can someone please explain to me what’s so bad about universal (socialized) health care?

July 4, 2007

Blog Against Theocracy II: rule of law versus rule of faith

Posted in Civil rights, Government, Medicine, Musings, Religion at 9:00 am by The Lizard Queen


The main Blog Against Theocracy page, which has a slew of great links, is here.

The main problem I have with religion becoming a controlling factor in government — theocracy, or a more mild term if you like — is that it can lead a person to make decisions based on their religious faith, as opposed to the laws of the land and other related elements (e.g. precedent, potential problems with precedent, the best interests of those being governed). Very simply, that’s not what the founding fathers had in mind when they established this country, which is something Evil Bender discusses at length in his Blog Against Theocracy post:

Not an original idea, but a profound one, that governments exist to provide for the needs of its people, and that they must exist only so long as those whom they serve fine [sic] it useful. Government, in this model, was not a God-founded institution demanding obedience, but rather a tool, useful only so long as it upheld the inalienable rights of its people.

The document [i.e. the Declaration of Independence] did not deny a deity, but neither it nor the Constitution would give that deity a central place in the new government. On the contrary, government was conceived as for and by the people.

Allowing one’s religion to be one’s primary guide in matters of government flies in the face of what the founding fathers were trying to establish. A pertinent (and perhaps obvious) example is Bush’s steadfast resistance to federally funding stem cell research. Stem cell research is something that could ultimately make a significant difference in the lives of U.S. citizens who already exist and are already suffering, but Bush is more concerned with what his religion tells him about the embryos upon which the research might be done. Read the rest of this entry »

June 18, 2007

Hospitals try to stay competitive with promotions

Posted in Medicine at 5:12 pm by The Lizard Queen

I’ve only been to the emergency room once since I became a legal adult, and I was lucky — I was just the driver, the college senior who was lucky enough to have a car and thus ended up driving lots of other people around. I’d been playing football with a bunch of friends, and one guy’s head hit the ground pretty hard when he got tackled, and he ended up with a concussion. We went to the nearest hospital, checked in, and waited. Then we waited. After that, we waited some more. There was a television in the corner playing Headline News; after about an hour I was familiar with all of the day’s top stories. After two hours I was sick of those stories. After three hours I had just about committed them to memory. The young man with the concussion finally got to see a doctor after nearly four hours had passed. An article on Yahoo describes how some hospitals are dealing with such backups:

With competition for healthcare dollars tight and complaints about care on the rise, hospitals from California to Virginia are trying to cut wait times. They pitch “quality care at a moment’s notice” and “door to doc” treatment in minutes.

For those who do endure long waits, hospitals offer meal vouchers, baseball and movie passes and written apologies.

“If someone has to wait a long time it is less likely they’re going to come back,” said Deborah White, spokeswoman for Carondelet Health, which owns two acute-care hospitals in Kansas City that launched a “30-minute guarantee” program on June 1, even as a competing hospital chain pledged to see patients within 15 minutes.

Tickets to a ball game or a movie might have been a nice gesture after the mind-numbing boredom of four hours in the waiting room, but there are too many situations in which trying to make up for slow service in an emergency room with such a gesture is simply not good enough. Read the rest of this entry »

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