Monday, April 30, 2012

Testing 1, 2, 3

In my last post, coinciding with STD Awareness Month, I wrote about the importance of discussing with your teen about condom use for vaginal, oral and anal sex to prevent STDs. Now it’s time, if you know your teen is sexually active, to urge them to get tested for STDs. But which tests to take?

1.  Which Tests Should Your Teen Have?

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that gay, lesbian and bisexuals get tested for HIV (Human Immunodeficiency virus) at least once a year.

If your teen is having receptive anal sex regardless of condom use, he/she should get rectal tests for chlamydia, gonorrhea, and blood tests for syphilis and HIV at their checkups.

For those who have insert sex, they should get urine tests for gonorrhea and chlamydia at the same frequency and also blood tests for HIV and syphilis.

Teens who have oral sex should get regular throat tests for chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis.

Did you know that...
  • Half of the new HIV infections (approximately 55,00 per year) in the United States occur in age group 13–24?
  • It is possible to have HIV for ten years and not know it? During that time, someone who’s infected can spread it to many others.
  • Late-stage HIV does cause symptoms but it can be confused with other ailments.

2. How Are the Tests Done?

How does your teen get tested for HIV? What are they tested for?

The tests are designed to detect HIV antibodies, the substances the body makes in response to exposure to HIV. These tests should work two to eight weeks after exposure.

Most results of standard HIV tests take a few days unless the blood or oral fluid sample is a false positive.

Standard Blood Tests: you may have to wait two weeks to get results. Even then there is a potential for a false positive test so the test, if positive, has to be repeated and rechecked.

Rapid Testing: Takes only 20 minutes. A positive rapid test must be confirmed by another more specific test like the standard blood test before a diagnosis is given.

Oral Testing: Uses mouth swabs (saliva) instead of blood. There are two FDA-approved.

Home Testing: There is only one FDA-approved home test for HIV called the Home Access HIV-1 Kit. Many drug stores carry this test. You prick your own finger, place a few drops of blood on a blotter, and send it to a national laboratory. To get results, you phone.

3. Where Do You Get These Tests?

Doctor’s office: For teens who are comfortable with doctors and like the familiarity of a doctor’s office, this would be a good choice.

Local testing site: Visit CDC’s website to find the testing site nearest you. The CDC National AIDS Hotline can answer questions about testing and also can refer you to testing sites in your area. Or call your local health department and ask for the location of the nearest STD clinic. Planned Parenthood has free HIV testing.

At-home tests: Perfect for the shy teen who doesn’t want face-to-face contact with a medical professional and wishes to keep the findings confidential.

Whatever ambiance your teen is comfortable with and will do the follow up with to be tested, that’s the ideal place.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Advanced Sex Ed. for Parents of GLB Teens

Parents tend to squirm or blush in general when discussing sex with their children. As it shouldn’t be just one discussion, and should be incorporated into your family’s set of values, it helps to be more comfortable with the topic. But the straight parent of a gay, lesbian or bisexual teen has an even tougher time because the sex acts they’re discussing in our society are regarded by many as taboo or stigmatized.

Abstinence-only Sex Education Does Little for GLBT Students

If your GLB teen attends a school where abstinence-only sex education is taught, then he will not receive appropriate information because this type of sex ed. espouses that the only place to have sex is within a heterosexual marriage. Because this message is lost on your child, it would be better if you inform him about condoms, birth control, and sexual expression which the abstinence-only takeaway does not cover.

Low Birth Rates but High Incidence of Venereal Diseases

There is no right time for discussing sex with your kids, but as April is sexually transmitted disease (STD) awareness month, there is much visible information available to parents. Although The National Center for Health Statistics reports that the birth rates among women ages 15 to 19 fell in all but three states and that the teenage birth rate is the lowest since 1946, teens are still at risk from unprotected sex.

According to Dr. John Santelli, a professor of clinical population and family health at Columbia University, condom use in the 90’s is responsible for this lower birth rate. While parents may be relieved at these low birth rates, they should realize that the popular contraceptives that are used today such as pills, the patch, and perhaps the IUD do not block sexual infections as effectively as condoms. http://www.newyorktimes,april 27, 2012, "Teenage Birth Rate Is Lowest Since 1946" by Nicholas Bakalar

Scary Statistics

Do you know that sexually active adults between fifteen and twenty-four account for nearly half of all STD cases?  They are four times more likely to have chlamydia and gonorrhea than the general population.

What You Don’t See Can Be Hazardous to Your Health 

What’s particularly scary is that many STDs don’t show any symptoms so your teen won’t suspect he/she has a problem. But untreated STDs can wreck havoc with their  internal organs without them knowing. Untreated STDs in women can cause pelvic inflammatory disease, infections, scarring, and infertility. They can also lower the  immune system which can make you more vulnerable to becoming HIV-positive.  Whether you’re a male or female, you can continue to infect other people. And not just with genital sex. Oral sex, kids need to be told, is NOT safe sex. Many STDs can be spread from mouths to genitals.

 In my next blog, Part II, parents will learn about the tests their sexually active children should have and where to get them.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

It’s Not The Enda of ENDA

Buried in The Wall Street Journal, Thursday, April 12, 2012, in small font, was an article “Obama Won’t Issue Ban on Gay Discrimination.” It stated that Barack Obama won’t issue an executive order banning discrimination against gay and lesbian workers by federal contractors. For such a tiny piece, it has had major impact on the GLBT community and for the estimated 16 million workers who could be fired for their sexual orientation and gender identity.

Some supporters consider this a second choice to broader legislation that would ban discrimination by non-federal employers as well. This ENDA (Employment Non-Discrimination Act) has been ping-ponging around Congress since 1994.

Reactions to President’s Decision

The news was delivered by Senior Adviser Valerie Jarrett to gay-right activists at a meeting the preceding day. Blog reactions varied from politely-stated disbeliefs that a president who repealed “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and refused to defend DOMA (Defense of Marriage Act) in court could back away from this measure to a more succinct “WTF?”

Human Rights Campaign (HRC) president Joe Solmonese reported that he was particularly shocked considering the extensive research or factual basis established for the necessity for such a measure.

Future Plans for Fighting Obama’s Decision

But equality activists aren’t going to take this lying down.They vow to keep pushing Obama on this issue. One prominent liberal donor said he would spend $100,000 to fund a “We Can’t Wait” campaign targeting Obama.This money would be used to fly victims of workplace discrimination at federal contracting firms to Washington to amp up public attention to this bill and confront Obama as well. 

Public Kept in the Dark 

Obama’s White House Press Secretary Jay Carney repeats that the President wants to focus on creating a national Employment Non-Discrimination Act yet we’re never told why Obama disapproved of the order that he campaigned for as far back as 2008.

Could it be our populist President is waiting until after the election because a.) he needs the support of business interests resistant to further regulation? Or b.) is he waiting in the shadow for the Republicans to act? Or c.) all of the above? Our President who states he is “evolving” about his stance on same-sex marriage has not evolved on this issue either.

What do YOU Think?  Post your comment here.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Book Review for Steven Petrow’s Complete Gay and Lesbian Manners

Marlo Thomas and Phil Donahue share a
happy moment with Marlo's niece Tracy (left) and
her new spouse Tracey.
Dilemma: You’re invited to a same-sex marriage. What do you call the two brides?
a. companions (sounds as if they are in their “twilight” years)
b. partners (remind you of a stuffy “white-shoe” law firm?)
c. lovers (rings of pre-legal “tying the knot”)
d. husband and husband and wife and wife (which one is the wife?)

These and other complexities of living “out” loud in today’s diverse society: from the workplace, baby showers for same-sex couples, (who’s the father?) travelling to gay-friendly places as well as visiting straight parents with recent lovers are all addressed by “Mr. Manners,” Steven Petrow in his new book (cowritten with Sally Chew) Steven Petrow’s Complete Gay & Lesbian Manners: The Definitive Guide to LGBT Life (Workman Publishing, 2011).

Steven writes “Queeries,” a nationally syndicated column, and a respected website called Gay Manners. He also writes about manners for The Huffington Post, The Advocate, and 365 He authored When Someone You Know Has AIDS (1993) and The Essential Book of Gay Manners and Etiquette (1995). 

Co-author Sally Chew is a former editor at Time Inc.’s as well as gay magazines such as Vibe, Out, and Poz. Ms. Chew is the author of A Fatal Lie:  A True Story of Betrayal and Murder In The New South (1999). 

Their book is divided into Five Parts: Part I: “Being Gay,” Part II: “Love and Sex,” Part III: “Tying the Knot,” Part IV: “Children,” Part V: “Everyday Life.” This etiquette book, more than 395 pages, is written in a lively tone with a humorous bent and includes advice on how to introduce your partner to your workplace, as well as hundreds of other questions that are raised for not only GLBT readers, but also a straight audience.

How to Address a Couple

I wouldn’t know how to address invitations to lesbian and gay couples, for example, if I had not read the section entitled “The Art of Connecting.” When LGBT couples are committed (legally or not), their names should be placed on the same line and joined by the word “and” to signify their union.

While this is an etiquette book, I found some of the advice superfluous:  for example, folding a napkin for a dinner party is the same for a gay person as for a straight one. I think information like this is wasted on an audience who would be more interested in narrowing the gap between the two groups and is the raison d’être for this book.

Exploring Financial and Legal Considerations

What I found more interesting were the non-etiquette points Petrow raises which are only germane to the GLBT audience such as the extra financial and legal considerations LGBT must consider when owning property such as applying for health insurance for their loved ones, divorcing in states where gay marriages can not take place, marrying non-U.S. citizens and the deprivation of more than a thousand benefits that straight couples enjoy but GLBT couples cannot due to federal laws.

There are two particularly good sections explaining the differences among civil unions, domestic partnerships, and commitment ceremonies. The subtle nuances always baffle the general public. The authors stress the need for estate planning with a GLBT-savvy lawyer so your biological kin won’t necessarily inherit your property if you outlive your lover.

The chapters on starting a family are excellent, from getting pregnant via sperm donation, to 2nd party adoptions, to the importance of gay-friendly neighborhoods, and ways to insure acceptance at schools for children of gay couples.

With few role models, gays, as well as straights, need answers so they can relate well to each other, and not offend one another due to naïveté. Petrow’s and Chew’s Complete Gay and Lesbian Manners is a major step in this direction.