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    Ebola Aid Workers and Donald Trump: The Best and Worst of Humankind

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    Trump tweet

    On Saturday, Donald Trump tweeted that ‘The U.S. cannot allow EBOLA infected people back.” He qualified this by saying that “People that go to far away places to help out are great- but must suffer the consequences!’ This was in response to the news that two American medical missionaries had contracted the virus whilst helping infected people in Liberia.

    There are numerous problems with Trump’s comment. Firstly, it reveals Trump’s lack of medical knowledge. I am, of course, assuming that this tweet was prompted by Trump’s belief that if people with Ebola arrive in the U.S.A. then others will become infected. (Although, given his blatant disregard for fellow-man, I would not be shocked to discover that he does not want them to return for more sinister reasons).

    However, as horrific and deadly as the Ebola virus disease is, it is not airborne and can only be passed through close contact with blood, secretions, organs or other bodily fluids. Another important consideration is that if the two American workers were to return to the U.S.A., they would be treated in one of the most medically advanced and well-resourced hospitals on the planet.

    Trump then retweeted a post from @BigBoie7531 which said: ’To all the liberal do gooders, this is the Plague you idiots! No cure!’ Whilst @BigBoie7531 is indeed correct that there is no cure for Ebola, you will be surprised to learn that he is not a leading medical authority. In fact, he has no medical qualifications at all, further undermining Trump’s argument.

    Aid Workers and volunteers who dedicate their lives to alleviating the pain of their fellow-man, regardless of whether they live next door or in “far away places”, comprise the very best portion of humanity. They are not motivated by fame, money or even success, but rather a belief that every human life is precious- even Donald Trump’s. It’s very simple; the primary aim of Humanitarian Workers is to save lives. Thankfully, the decision to return the workers does not rest in Trump’s hands and both workers have returned to the U.S.A.

    Trump should be supporting, in every way possible, the work that these people do, for it is they who counter-balance the destruction and death caused by un-constrained, self-serving, corporate greed. Whilst the likes of Trump make you despair at the world, aid workers remind you that, amidst all the injustice, there still remains a lot of beauty.

    Perversely, we live in an age where one tweet by Donald Trump can gain worldwide media attention, whereas the mind-blowingly brilliant work of Aid Workers goes largely unreported. So in an attempt to begin to address this imbalance, I want to highlight the work of just a few Aid Workers, to whom we owe our thanks and praise:

    • Sarah* is a Humanitarian Aid Worker who has been working in Baidoa in Somalia for 17 years. Sarah has worked tirelessly to relieve the famine conditions that exist in that area. She has helped establish Nutrition Centres to treat 20 malnourished children per day. Sarah has seen hundreds of people die right before her eyes due to a lack of food and, whilst she says she gets very frustrated that more is not being done by the humanitarian community to save lives, she has never given up on her work. (www.unocha.org/somalia).
    • Two weeks ago, two female Finnish Aid Workers were shot dead in Herat, Afghanistan whilst on the way to their office. The women had been in Afghanistan to provide medical aid, education and economic support. They were part of an organization who support the locals with individual development projects.
    • And we of course cannot forget the Humanitarian Workers who, as I type, are entering Gaza during the brief seven hour ceasefire. They go, knowing the catastophic instability; knowing that UN schools have been destroyed; knowing that no one is spared from the indiscriminate bombing. It’s almost impossible to truly comprehend the sacrifice they are making.

    Last year 155 Humanitarian Aid Workers were killed. They were murdered as a consequence of  wanting to help. That is 155 grieving families. A further 168 were injured, and another 134 were kidnapped. Now, in addition to all that, they have prominent figures like Trump suggesting that they aren’t worth saving while basically arguing the sacrifice must be theirs and theirs alone.

    Luckily, as terrible as you are Donald, there are people out there who, if you were to get infected with a life threatening and contagious illness, would still put their egos and sense of self-importance aside to help you recover. And to those people we owe everything.

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    Rebecca Joy Novell is a Qualified Social Worker working with gangs in central London. She graduated from The University of Sheffield in 2012 with a Masters in Social Work. Rebecca has been involved with Youth Justice since 2008 in a variety of voluntary and paid roles and is currently undertaking a Professional Doctorate in Criminal Justice. She was elected to the Professional Assembly for The College of Social Work, is part of the Criminal Justice Reference Group for the British Association of Social Workers and regularly blogs for The Guardian’s Social Care Network. She is also the author of Starting Social Work: Reflections of a Newly Qualified Social Worker. Her blog can be found at www.charitynovelll.wordpress.com.

    4 Comments

    4 Comments

    1. Becky Visco McKeirnan

      August 6, 2014 at 7:53 am

      How about some perspective instead of fear-mongering? At least educate yourself about how it’s transmitted. Maybe read the CDC Ebola page

      or this easily understandable bit from the Washington Post.

      “Again and again, these experts point out that the risk faced by people in the U.S. is incredibly low. The disease spreads through contact with an infected person’s bodily fluids and it can take up to three weeks for the symptoms (which include fever and vomiting) to appear, and by the time symptoms appear the infected people aren’t really out and about all that much.

      Health-care workers are the most likely to encounter the infected blood, vomit or feces, and they are using gowns and gloves. As Peter Piot, one of the people who discovered Ebola in 1976, recently told the New Yorker, Ebola “requires very close contact.” In addition, Americans aren’t out burying their dead friends or family, exposing themselves to the disease anew, which is occurring in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea.

      If you’re looking for a particularly cheery thought: These infectious-disease specialists also point out that a whole host of other nasty bugs and illnesses have made their way into the U.S. several times in recent years, and there have not been any problems involving these viruses spreading.”

    2. Chasidy Brewster Walker

      August 5, 2014 at 8:58 pm

      Hey! I agree with you for once!

    3. Gina Freitas

      August 5, 2014 at 5:06 pm

      What are they thinking? Bringing infected people with an incurable disease to another country? Does our government give a shit about the American people? They have showed over and over again that they don’t give a damn. This is the icing on the cake. We, the people should have some kind of say when they’re putting our lives in jeopardy.

    4. Andrew Meyer

      August 5, 2014 at 10:33 am

      We should follow quarantine protocols. We should be sending CDC mobile labs to Africa, not bring infected people here. Did you see how a potential ebola case is in quarantine in NYC? This isn’t about being heartless, it’s about protecting the population of the US.

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    Health

    The Case for Ending the Anonymity of Egg & Sperm Donations in the United States

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    Egg and sperm donations in the United States have long proceeded under the cloak of secrecy. Twenty-five years ago, when I first started interviewing patients who used donors to conceive a child, many intended parents struggled with whether eventually to tell their child about the nature of his or her conception. While some professionals in the fertility industry advised that this was a parent’s personal decision, others encouraged disclosure, and still others recommended never telling a child how they were conceived. The last approach dovetailed with the industry standard that required donor anonymity. In subsequent years, my research has led me to conclude that mandatory donor anonymity is problematic – not only for the children conceived with donor help, but also for donors themselves and the people who created their families with donor assistance.

    After a boom in the late 1980s and 1990s, the use of donor sperm and eggs continues to expand in the United States – and increasing numbers of donor-conceived adults are going to want access to their biological information, including access to the identities of the people who helped create them. The United Kingdom has abolished donor anonymity. Why has the United States not followed suit?

    How Does Anonymity Affect Donors and Donor-Conceived Children?

    Many professionals in the fertility industry maintain that mandatory open donor identity would reduce the number of people willing to come forward to provide eggs and sperm. In countries that have national registries and have abolished donor anonymity, these fears have not borne out. In the United Kingdom, the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority reports that the number of sperm donors has increased since anonymity was banned; and since ending donor anonymity, Australia and Sweden have also seen increases in donors volunteering.

    In the United States, given that donors are compensated – indeed, egg donors are substantially compensated – the financial incentive alone is enough to ensure that people will still come forward to provide gametes for other people’s children, even if their identity is revealed to the children born from their gametes. Many donors prefer an end to anonymity. In my current research project, I have to date interviewed over 90 donors and collected 190 online surveys. Only a handful of egg donors, I find, want to remain anonymous in perpetuity – yet the majority reported they were told anonymity was their only option.

    Many sperm and egg donors go to great lengths to meet their genetic children, turning to DNA tests, online registries, and ancestry websites in their searches. Meanwhile, the first generation of children conceived via banked sperm or donated eggs are now young adults, who have their own feelings about donor conception and their own desires for forging connection, or not, with their donors. Some experienced emotional fall-out from being told later in their childhood they were donor-conceived or discovering it themselves after having the truth was concealed for of their lives.

    In my conversations with donor-conceived people, those who seemed most at ease were told at a young age and continued to hear their conception story as they matured. People who were told as adolescents or later, or discovered the “secret” on their own, report feeling a sense of betrayal at having been lied to by the parents they were supposed to be able to trust. For families who decided not to inform their donor-conceived children, the secrecy appears to have been largely rooted in the stigma and shame many people feel about infertility and the inability to have a biological child.

    Dealing with the Downsides of Anonymity Falls to Individuals

    In a quest for identity, many donor-conceived adults report using a combination of techniques to find their donors. Some sign up on registries, such as the Donor Sibling Registry. This service charges a $200 lifetime fee for donors and donor-conceived people to sign up and search for matches, using the donor identification numbers that clinics, sperm banks, or egg donation agencies assign. Others have turned to free online sites – such as donorconception.com – that help donors, donor-siblings, and donor-conceived children find each other by combining donor information, direct-to-consumer genetic tests, and ancestry registries.

    Essentially, anonymity is already obsolete; U.S. policy simply has not caught up with modern technology. The rise of direct-to-consumer genetic testing increases the likelihood of donor-conceived children finding their genetic parents, whether the donor wants that to happen or not. If anyone in a donor’s family does a test and registers on a website like ancestry.com, chances are good a donor-conceived child can find them. While such consumer testing and ancestry sites do raise privacy concerns about the public availability of genetic information, they make it virtually assured that anyone can be found.

    The Need for a Donor Registry

    Many fertility industry professionals have voiced concerns about how a registry would function given U.S. patient privacy law. The industry’s fear that registries reduce donors has not borne out in other countries that have implemented them. And by now, offering anonymity as an option misleads prospective donors into believing that their privacy can be guaranteed, when it cannot. With anonymity increasingly a non-viable option, it is time to consider establishing a national registry for egg and sperm donors. Not only would such a registry make it easier for people to find biological kin, it could also provide other advantages:

    • A registry could keep track of the number of live births per donor in the same geographic area, to reduce the risk of unions between donor-conceived biological siblings.
    • For egg donors, a registry could track completed egg donation cycles to reduce the risk of donors going through more cycles than is considered safe.
    • A registry would allow researchers to track egg donor health to better understand complications and give women considering egg donation more information for their decisions.
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    Challenging Assumptions About the Use of Contraception by U.S. Muslim Women

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    By Henna Budhwani and Kristine Ria Hearld

    Contraception is complicated. Reproductive health scholars can comfortably weigh the protective benefits of condom use compared to the convenience of intrauterine devices. However, for most people, contraception continues to be a sensitive subject not appropriate for casual conversation – and consequently many Americans lack an adequate understanding of their contraception options. Likewise, even the best-intentioned clinicians know little about how minority communities engage with reproductive healthcare and utilize contraception. Due to these knowledge gaps, providers of contraceptive services often struggle with how to approach family planning with individuals from minority populations, particularly those belonging to highly stigmatized groups that are underrepresented in scientific research. This can be especially true for “culturally conservative” populations of clients, among whom sex itself is stigmatized and sexual health is not freely discussed in the home or the doctor’s office.

    Knowledge gaps are especially prevalent about the reproductive health behaviors of Muslim women, arguably one of the most understudied populations in the United States. This dearth of research is not surprising, given that Muslim women are part of a religious minority group that experiences ongoing intersectional stigma and discrimination in American public life. Because past studied have sometimes taken advantage of minority and marginalized populations, groups such as Muslim women may be suspicious of researchers and wary of divulging personal information, particularly on sensitive topics like contraception use.

    Nevertheless, good research is needed, because in its absence, pernicious assumptions can take the place of actual evidence – and myths can misinform clinicians and policymakers as well as the general public. Social scientists therefore have a pressing calling to conduct research that may ultimately dispel harmful myths and give voice to a group of women missing from academic discourse. Our work examines this set of issues, contraception use and reproductive health preferences, in Muslim women in the United States. We collected information from Muslim women themselves about their lives, and our findings refute presumptions that women in this population typically experience low bodily autonomy and high sexual risk factors.

    Path-Breaking Research from the Muslim Women’s Health Project

    In 2015, the Back of the Envelope mechanism at the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Public Health funded a grant to collect exploratory data from Muslim women across the United States. Our research team developed an online survey that included measures of stigma, mental health, and contraceptive use among participants. Respondents were women who self-identified as Muslim and who were at least eighteen years old and current residents of the United States. To be sure, online surveys have limitations – for example, American Muslim women who did not have a computer in their home or did not regularly use the Internet would likely not have been exposed to the survey at all. Nevertheless, one major benefit of online surveys is their ability to engage difficult-to-reach populations, including respondents in stigmatized populations, minority enclaves, and groups fearing persecution. Data from our respondents, including participants from Muslim subgroups, were analyzed to identify notable barriers and facilitators to various kinds of contraception use – namely use of oral contraceptive pills, condoms, intrauterine devices, and reliance on withdrawal during sex.

    In the United States as a whole, some national estimates suggest that 62% to 75% of women of reproductive age use contraceptives. Rates of contraception use by women in Muslim majority countries varies widely, from a low rate of use by 38.5% of reproductive-age women in Pakistan and to a high rate of use by 62.3% of such women in Indonesia. Because of these statistics, we assumed Muslim women in the United States would use contraceptives at a higher rate than their counterparts in Muslim majority countries, but at a lower rate than other women in the wider-population of Americans.

    Results from our survey showed that our hypotheses were wrong. We found that almost 80% of eligible Muslim respondents used some form of contraception. As we delved further into characteristics of our sample, we realized that the women who responded to the survey tended to be highly educated (over half had completed graduate or professional school) and had relatively high incomes (43% had a household income of over $100,000 annually). They also had high rates of health insurance coverage, given that fewer than six percent were uninsured. A deeper investigation through multivariate analysis showed that education and income were more important to understanding contraception use than religion, ethnicity, or even immigrant status (whether a respondent was born in the United States or elsewhere).

    Essentially, our inquiry found was that when the social playing field is leveled through higher education, increased income, and full access to health insurance, contraceptive utilization increases – even among populations that are predominantly foreign-born and where people may be religious or hail from culturally conservative communities where women hold a secondary social status. Such factors are typically associated with low contraception use, but in our study, we found these factors could be counteracted by positive social conditions associated with empowerment.

    Why Policymakers and Advocates Should Further Overall Improvements

    When officials or advocates aim to boost contraceptive use by racial and ethnic minorities in order to reduce unintended pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections, it may be valuable to address community conditions holistically. Working patient by patient in health care settings can be helpful, but this approach is limited in scope, costly in time, and influences only the identified, targeted health behaviors. The better approach may be to expand women’s overall access to advanced educational opportunities that can lead to socioeconomic success and improved quality of life – even for women who belong to culturally conservative communities. Overall empowerment, we conclude, is the best way to increase rates of contraceptive use and ensure better life choices and opportunities for women in all communities.

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    Democrat-Led States Tended to Have Stronger Response to COVID-19, Which Improved Health Outcomes, Study Shows

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    BINGHAMTON, N.Y. — States with Democratic leaders tended to have responded more strongly to COVID-19 and have seen a lower rate of the spread of the virus, according to new research led by faculty at Binghamton University, State University of New York.

    Binghamton University Professor of Political Science Olga Shvetsova and her colleagues wanted to gain a clearer understanding of how politics affect COVID-19 outcomes. The researchers used data on public health measures taken across the United States to build an index of the strength of the COVID policy response. They combined this index with daily counts of new COVID cases, along with political and other variables that they thought were relevant to the dynamics of the COVID-19 pandemic and governments’ response to it. Using this dataset, they assessed the effects of policies on the observed number of new infections and the difference between the policies adopted in Republican-led and Democrat-led states.

    This study connects the aggregate strength of public health policies taken in response to the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic in the U.S. states to the governors’ party affiliations and to the state-level outcomes. Understanding the relationship between politics and public health measures can better prepare American communities for what to expect from their governments in a future crisis and encourage advocacy for delegating public health decisions to medical professionals.

    “The state governments led by Democrats, on average, took stricter measures than the state governments led by Republicans, and the states with stricter measures had the virus spread much slower,” said Shvetsova.

    The difference between the policies made in Democrat-led states and those made in Republican-led states corresponded to an about 7-8 percent lower rate of the spread of the virus.

    According to the researchers, these conclusions reinforce the findings of previous studies that application of public health policy was politicized for COVID-19, and this affected health outcomes.

    “The main lesson of this research is that better public health requires a less partisan approach to the making of public health policies,” said Shvetsova.

    Additional researchers and institutions on the study included: Andrei Zhirnov from the University of Exeter, Frank Giannelli from Rutgers University, Michael Catalano, and Olivia Catalano.

    The paper, “Governor’s party, policies, and COVID-19 outcomes: Further Evidence of the Effect,” was published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

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