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Top Advances in Women's Health

by Winnie McCroy
EDGE Editor
Monday Jan 4, 2016

In 2015, most people finally came to have health insurance (Thanks, Obama!). For some women, this meant a higher awareness of chronic issues like heart health, breast cancer and sexual health. But it also shed light on issues like the need to address trauma, and the continuing problem of HIV infection among women.

Below is a list of some of the top health stories in women's lives in the last year. With any luck, 2016 will see progress in international health issues, especially those that go hand in hand with women's parity issues.

HIV Still a Huge Issue for Women, Says Dr. Susan Blumenthal: Although the overall number of HIV infections in the U.S. is down, women still account for 20 percent of all new HIV infections while African-American women account for approximately two-thirds of this population. This racial disparity is shocking considering that African-American women only represent 13 percent of the population yet constitute 64 percent of all new HIV infections. Equally alarming is the fact that 84 percent of new female HIV infections are attributed to heterosexual sex. Biologically, women are more vulnerable than men to become infected with HIV during unprotected sex. Read more here.

MPTs Protect Women from HIV, STIs and Unplanned Pregnancies: Finding that magic bullet that can keep women from getting HIV, STIs or becoming pregnant is a promising new field of research for doctors across the globe. Disappointing news from the recent Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections in Seattle about the failed trials of Tenofovir vaginal gel for HIV prevention has taken some wind from their sails. But researchers at CAMI Health, led by coordinator Dr. Bethany Young Holt, are doggedly advancing Multipurpose Prevention Technologies (MPTs), among them a one-size-fits-all diaphragm, easy-to-use vaginal rings, gels and injectables for contraception. Read more here.

Sexual Intimacy Could Get Back to Normal for Older Women Using PRO 140: According to a recent CDC report: women who no longer worry about getting pregnant may be less likely to use a condom or practice safe sex. They are more likely than men to become HIV infected through unprotected heterosexual intercourse. The stigma of being HIV infected may negatively affect their quality of life, self-image, and behavior. Protecting that quality of life may also prevent them from disclosing their HIV status and seeking HIV care. Read more here.

NIH Finds PreP Works with South African Women, Thai and NYC MSM: A clinical study funded by the National Institutes of Health has found that young, single black women in South Africa adhered to a daily pill regimen to prevent HIV infection -- an HIV prevention strategy known as pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PrEP. This finding is the first strong indication that this population at substantial HIV risk could accept and reliably adhere to daily PrEP dosing. Men who have sex with men (MSM) and transgender women (TGW) in New York and Thailand also successfully adhered to daily dosing. Read more here.

National Day of Action to End Violence Against Women Living with HIV with HIV: More than 55 percent of the approximately 300,000 women living with HIV (WLHIV) in the U.S. have experienced violence or abuse at the hands of an intimate partner. To bring attention to this epidemic of violence and to put forward solutions, Positive Women's Network-USA (PWN-USA) has called for a second National Day of Action to End Violence Against Women Living with HIV on October 23, during Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Read more here.

Positive Women's Network Releases New Model for Trauma Awareness: Positive Women's Network - USA, a national membership body of women with HIV, is proud to announce the release of a new model for bringing trauma awareness and healing into primary healthcare settings. The conceptual framework, developed in partnership with University of California -- San Francisco (UCSF) clinician-researchers, provides a practical guide to help providers incorporate trauma-informed care into clinical practice. "Trauma-informed care is the missing ingredient to engage women with HIV in care successfully and to ensure good health outcomes," said Naina Khanna, Executive Director of PWN-USA, who co-authored the paper presenting the new model. Read more here.

San Francisco Women's Cycling Lowers Breast Cancer Risk: A study of 30,548 women published in the European Journal of Epidemiology found that, compared to women who exercised less than once a week on average, women who exercised two or more times per week significantly reduced their risk of breast cancer. Women in the same study who reported commuting by walking or cycling also had a lower risk of breast cancer than women who drove or worked at home. Read more here.

New National Survey Shows Most Women Don't Know Signs of Stroke: A new national survey reveals only 11 percent of women know the female-specific symptoms of stroke, a disease that kills twice as many women a year as breast cancer. Knowing the first signs of stroke is crucial because there's only a three-hour window to get help. But the survey, released by Ohio State's Wexner Medical Center, shows that most women can't identify their own unique risks and symptoms. Read more here.

Chicago Gay Women's Gathering Holds Lesbian Pregnancy Event: Dr. Angeline Beltsos and Dr. Laurence A. Jacobs of Fertility Centers of Illinois, have helped many lesbians realize their dream of parenthood. They believe that information and knowledge can help those who want to become parents make educated decisions. "Our goal is to help you achieve your dream of parenthood safely and securely," said Dr. Beltsos. "Knowing your options can help you make the decisions that are right for you," added Dr. Jacobs. Read more here.

A Hot Flash for Lesbians, in National Menopause Month: By 2030, there will be 1.2 billion women who are 50+ in menopause suffering with over 34 different symptoms including hot flashes, mood swings, dryness, gum problems, changes in body odor, weight gain, sexual issues and more. "Menopause is natural and every women goes through the change of life," said Dr. Alyssa Dweck, MD, Assistant Clinical Professor Dept Ob/Gyn, Mount Sinai School of Medicine and co-author of "V is for Vagina." "Menopause is not an illness but you can treat the symptoms, which can be disruptive, uncomfortable and embarrassing." Read more here.

Sen. Tammy Baldwin Applauds Obama Over Addressing Untested Rape Kits: U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin applauded President Barack Obama for his swift movement to address the overwhelming backlog of untested rape kits nationwide. Just days after Baldwin sent a strongly worded letter to U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch calling for the Department of Justice to take "immediate steps" on the issue, she and Vice President Joe Biden announced $41 million in grant awards to 20 jurisdictions to eliminate or reduce the number of untested sexual assault kits across the country, including $2 million for the Wisconsin Department of Justice. Read more here.

AHF Music Video Puts Women in Control of Their Sexual Health: "We know that a lot of young women feel pressure to forego safer sex, especially when it's not a priority for their partner. Not enough women feel empowered to stand up for themselves," said Associate Creative Director Stacy Fong. "We created these characters of strong, powerful women to show young girls that protecting yourself is sexy. We want more women to take control of their own health in whatever way they feel is right for them." Read more here.

Winnie McCroy is the Women on the EDGE Editor, HIV/Health Editor, and Assistant Entertainment Editor for EDGE Media Network, handling all women's news, HIV health stories and theater reviews throughout the U.S. She has contributed to other publications, including The Village Voice, Gay City News, Chelsea Now and The Advocate, and lives in Brooklyn, New York.

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