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Sex and science stuff 22/08/07

August 22nd, 2007

Dr Petra

Here are some of the sex/science stories that caught my attention today….

Ugandan doctors speak out against failed AIDS trial

Doctors have complained about the ethics of a trial testing microbicides in women. The research found that women using microbicides contracted HIV (as did women in the control part of the experiment who did not use microbicides). Researchers claimed the women were consented to the study and knew what to expect, they also claim women were told to encourage condom use. Unfortunately we know women often lack the power to encourage anything in their sex lives, and it seems this research is hampered by both a failed intervention and a poorly managed study. The casualties are the female participants – and these kinds of stories make it all the more difficult to recruit people to HIV research.

Teens want compulsory sex education

A survey from the National Children’s Bureau supports what countless other studies have previously shown. That sex education delivered in UK schools varies in content and quality – and that young people want informative and sex positive education to be a mandatory part of the curriculum.

Sex knowledge, gender inequality and women blaming

Research from India shows that men have a far greater knowledge of sex than women. Men were more likely to know that you can get pregnant the first time you have sex, and were more likely to have heard about condoms. Married and unmarried women didn’t know much about condoms – what they did or how they could be used. However 28% of married women surveyed reported forcible sex by their husbands. Media coverage in India has focused more upon the knowledge men have in a battle of the sexes style of reporting, rather than looking at the real and worrying reasons why women are lacking sex education. Women in India and many other parts of the world are not in a position where they can negotiate condom use even when they know about condoms. What’s needed is sex education that doesn’t just tell men about safer sex, but informs them of their responsibility to use condoms. And far more needs to be done globally to tackle the issue of forcible sex where men regard it their right to have sex with their wives, whether she wants to or not.

Sex researcher faces public condemnation

A psychologist from Northwestern University has caused controversy with his views of transgenderism. He claims that many men are drawn to having sex changes for erotic reasons, rather than biological ones. This has upset many in the trans community, while other sexologists are unhappy with the scientific basis of the research. Equally worrying are the claims that the psychologist did not inform people he was interviewing that they were taking part in research. His defence was he was writing a book and didn’t need to consent people to his research. Unsurprisingly participants have now spoken out to say they feel violated. Which just goes to show what can happen if you decide that ethical research does not apply to you.

Unsafe sex main cause of HIV transmission in China

Figures on the prevalence of sexually transmitted infections in China suggests a growth of STIs passed on via sexual contact, rather than via blood (though transfusions or sharing needles). This indicates that HIV is spreading from high risk groups to the general population. The Chinese government has traditionally been conservative in its approach to HIV management, although has recently become more progressive. There are a number of charities and organisations willing to tackle the issue but they are often blocked by community suspicion and a tradition of sex being a highly private topic.

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