Category: cancer

Sex workers collective show long-term health gains of self-empowerment

A parallel AIDS conference in Kolkota, India gave the rights an update on the success of the VAMP sex-workers colective – now in its 15th year reports, reports Andera Cornwall the Guardian.

They have shown an impressive ability to minimise risk of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections in sex workers.

Founded in 1997, Vamp now has more than 5,000 members. Weekly meetings bring the collective together to tackle a wide range of issues faced by members. Health work and advocacy for sex rights’ human rights are interwoven with Vamp’s everyday work in the densely populated alleyways in the red-light districts of Sangli and other towns in the region.

Vamp’s mission is to change society. Rather than treating sex workers as victims to be rescued or rehabilitated, it demonstrates the power of collective action as a force for women’s empowerment, mobilising sex workers to improve their working conditions, and claim rights and recognition. And they’re yielding results.

The report showed how self-empowerment and education can achieve high rates of safe sex in women at high risk of sexually transmitted infections and HIV. It is yet another reminder to that the most effective way to protect this vulnerable population is to help then self-organise and self-protect rather than to criminalise prostitution.

The latter, as many studies have shown, merely drives women into the hands of criminal gangs, or leads to risk-taking sexual practices and high rates of self-harm.

Dramatic drop in health spending according to OECD

Growth in health spending slowed or fell in real terms in 2010 in almost all OECD countries, reversing a long-term trend of rapid increases, according to OECD Health Data 2012.

In real terms average health spending has declined by over 6% compared to the start of the millenium.

Overall health spending grew by nearly 5% per year in real terms in OECD countries over the period 2000-2009, but this was followed by zero growth in 2010. Preliminary figures for a limited number of countries suggest little or no growth in 2011. The halt in total health spending in 2010 was driven by a fall of 0.5% in public spending for health, following an increase of over 5% per year in 2008 and 2009.

While government health spending tended to be maintained at the start of the economic crisis, cuts in spending really began to take effect in 2010. This was particularly the case in the European countries hardest hit by the recession.

Invitation to apply for research funds

We have entered a new round of invitation to apply for research funds. We are particularly interested in providing initial funding in projects that may allow young researchers to obtain preliminary results as a prelude to acquire further funds from larger funding bodies.

We invite applications from researchers in the East and West Midland, the North East and North West Regions on projects relating to sexually transmitted diseases and HIV. All projects will be initially screened by the Scientific Committee of STIRF and those considered suitable will be sent for peer review by experts in the field. We encourage applications for

The following fields of research will be considerd in relation to STIs and HIV

  • Epidemiology of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases
  • Health care delivery including views of clients
  • Issues relating to deprived or marginalised communities.
  • Pathophysiology of diseases and syndromes
  • Inter-relationship between diseases
  • Treatment modalities
  • Complications of treatment and co-morbidities

Applications should not exceed £50,000 in the first year. Depending on satisfactory reports a further £25,000 may be available for the second year. Joint funding with other grant giving bodies will be considered.

Further information and guidance on how to apply can be found on

How to Apply for Research funds


Current vaccines cover only a minority of human papillomavirus (HPV) subtypes associated with cancer and genital warts

Effective vaccination exists for two sexually transmittable viruses, human papilloma virus (HPV) and hepatitis B virus (HBV). Other viruses have proved more problematic. A recent study in the New England Journal of Medicine showed, yet again, that a vaccine for herpes virus remains elusive. The same is true for hepatitis C and even more for HIV.

Thus identifying at risk groups for HPV and HBV is essential for targeting vaccination strategies. Particularly as persistent infection with high-risk sexually transmitted HPVs (HR-HPV) can lead to development of cervical and other cancers, while low-risk types (low-risk HPV) may cause genital warts. In a recent publication by Ann Johnson and colleagues at University College London they explored the epidemiology of different HPV types in men and women in the UK and their association with demographic and behavioural variables.

Data collected for the British National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles, a cross-sectional survey undertaken in 1999–2001 were analysed. Half of all sexually experienced male and female respondents aged 18–44 years were invited to provide a urine sample. They tested 3123 stored urine samples for HPV DNA.

HPV infection, was prevalent in this population, detected in 29% of samples from women and 17% from men. Significantly 13 high risk HPV subtypes were detected in 16% of women and 10% of men. HPV subtypes, HPV types 16/18, which for part of the two available vaccines in the market, were found in only 5% of women and 3% of men. Types 6/11 which are responsible for most cases of genital warts were isolated in in 5% of women and 2%  of men. In multivariate analysis, HR-HPV was associated with new partner numbers, in women with younger age, single status and partner concurrency, and in men with number of partners without using condom(s) and age at first intercourse.

They concluded that HPV DNA was detectable in urine of a high proportion of the sexually active British population. In both genders, HR-HPV was strongly associated with risky sexual behaviour. The minority of HPV infections were of vaccine types that are currently used in the two available vaccines. These cover HPV 16/18 and 6/11 only.

The authors pointed out t is important to monitor HPV prevalence and type distribution following the introduction of vaccination as vaccination itself may alter the prvalence of the difefrent sun

Oral human papillomavirus infection more common in US males

Almost 7 percent of American men and women are infected orally with the human papillomavirus (HPV), new research reveals, with men showing significantly higher infection rates than women. Indeed among those between the ages of 14 and 69, men seem to face a nearly threefold greater risk than women for oral HPV infection.

The study was part of the ongoing National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES). To better understand that connection, Gillison’s team sifted through data on nearly 5,600 men and women collected between 2009 and 2011 NHANES. All NHANES participants had been examined in person, during which all were tested for HPV.

In a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) on Janury 26, 2012 Dr. Maura Gillison, chair of cancer research in the department of viral oncology at Ohio State University’s Comprehensive Cancer Center in Columbus reported  an overall oral HPV infection rate of 6.9 percent, with HPV-16 being the most common type.

Oral HPV incidence varied with age, however, with peak rates occurring among those between the ages of 30 and 34 (at 7.3 percent) as well as among men and women between 60 and 64 (11.4 percent). Overall, oral HPV infection hit the 10 percent mark among men. Among women it was just shy of 4 percent.

While those with a history of smoking, heavy drinking, and/or marijuana use appeared to face a higher risk for infection, sexual behavior also plays a key role in upping a person’s risk. For example, while those who had never had sex faced less than a 1 percent risk for oral HPV infection, prevalence hit 7.5 percent among those who were sexually active. And the greater the number of sexual partners, the higher the risk.

Use of human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine causes dramatic fall in genital warts

An important new study by a team of researchers working in a sexual health clinic in Melbourne, Australia has shown that 4 years after a government funded program of vaccinating girls and women aged 12-18 there was a dramatic decline in new cases of genital warts in heterosexual women and also of men with a new diagnosis of genital warts. Cases of genital warts attending the Melbourne Sexual Health Centre fell from 18.6% of all new diagnosis in women under 21 in 2007-2008  to 1.9% in 2010-2011. Interestingly there was a similar dramatic fall in new cases of genital warts in men under 21 over the same time period from 22.9% to 2.9%. The odds ratio per year for diagnosis of genital warts that was adjusted for number of sexual partners from July 2007 until June 2011 in women <21 years was 0.44 (95% CI 0.32 to 0.58) and in heterosexual men aged <21 was 0.42 (95% CI 0.31 to 0.60)  – a fall of over 55% in both sexes.

There was no drop in the incidence of new genital warts diagnosis in women aged over 30 or in men who have sex with men adding weight to the authors’ conclusions that the fall in new wart cases in younger men and women was a consequence of vaccination. It is argued that a reduction in new infections in young women had resulted in a reduced pool of infection and hence also caused a similar drop in their male sexual partners.

The Australian government was providing the vaccine free to all girls and women aged 12-18 from 2007 until the end of 2009. Since then free vaccine has been only offered girls aged 12-13.  The vaccine used in Australia contains antigens from HPV 6 and 11 which are the commonest HPV genotypes associated with genital warts as well as HPV 16 and 18 associated with cervical cancer.

Unfortunately the quadrivalent vaccine is not the one chosen for use by the Department of Health in the UK. A recent study which we reported earlier showed that the quadrivalent vaccine is more cost effective than the bivalent vaccine currently recommended for use in the UK.