All Articles Tagged "testing"
Angelina Jolie is a siren, a vixen. Exotic and curvy by Hollywood standards, she made a name for herself slinking across red carpets and film sets as the walking embodiment of sex. She’s the dark-haired beauty who stole the sexiest man in America from America’s blond sweetheart.
She’s the stuff of Hollywood legend. Making her announcement that she recently underwent a preventive double mastectomy all the more jarring.
In a New York Times op-ed, Jolie describes her decision-making and treatment process following the discovery that she carried a “faulty” gene, BRCA1. The presence of which sharply increases her risk of developing breast cancer and ovarian cancer (her mother passed away from ovarian cancer at the age of 56 after battling the disease for a decade).
“On a personal note, I do not feel any less of a woman,” she writes. “I feel empowered that I made a strong choice that in now way diminishes my femininity.”
Jolie didn’t have to go public. Not even a whisper of her condition had leaked to the press. She could have had reconstructive surgery, walked the red carpet and rolled her eyes as blogs wondered if she had a boob job. Instead she used her personal struggle and celebrity to give a platform to a serious issue.
This approach falls in line with the humanitarian Jolie has become. An evolution that began when she started working with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees after being exposed to humanitarian crises while filming the Lara Croft franchise.
“She’s the biggest name of all, and I think given her prominence and her visibility not only as a famous person but also a beautiful actress, it’s going to carry a lot of weight for women,” said Barron H. Lerner, a medical historian and the author of “The Breast Cancer Wars” told the New York Times.
The cost of testing for mutations of BRCA genes comes in at more than $3,000. Why the high price tag? The biotech company that discovered the gene filed a patent for it in 1995, giving them a monopoly on products that can test for mutations. The Supreme Court is still deciding whether a corporation can file a patent based on a gene invented by Mother Nature and present in every single cell in every single person on earth.
Jolie’s situation is seen as special and high-risk by the medical community. Mutations in BRCA1 and BRCA2 are estimated to cause only 5 to 10 percent of breast cancers and 10 to 15 percent of ovarian cancers among white women in the United States. But statistics for other racial and ethnic groups are not available. Odd, given that African-American women are more likely to die of breast cancer than their White counterparts.
Studies show that few Black women younger than 50, a population disproportionately afflicted with and dying from early-onset breast cancer, undergo genetic testing. Only one third of Black women aged 50 or younger who met national guidelines for genetic testing for breast cancer had been referred for such testing.
Moreover, the high cost of healthcare in this country — and the fact that many still lack coverage — make it cost-prohibitive for many to take basic tests, like a mammogram, let alone receive treatment.
Family history and financial status are thought to influence their treatment choices. “Through our study, we determined that 34 participants met national guidelines for BRCA testing,” study co-author Tuya Pal, M.D. said. “But only 13 reported that their health care providers referred them for genetic counseling and/or testing.”
Now that Jolie has the world talking, maybe the issues surrounding breast and ovarian cancer will get more attention.
C. Cleveland covers professional development topics and entrepreneurial rebels who blaze their own career paths. She explores these stories and more on The Red Read, Twitter (@CleveInTheCity) and Facebook (/MyReadIsRed).
Q: I recently heard that HIV can remain dormant and undetected in your body for up to 10 years. If that’s true, what would you recommend as far as a testing schedule whether you’re single or with a monogamous partner?
It may take up to 10 years or more for someone to have AIDS. AIDS, as you may know, is the final stages of the disease, when the HIV virus damages a person’s body to the point where they start to get infections that healthy people don’t usually get. An example of a type of infection seen a lot in AIDS patients is Pneumocystis jiroveci pneumonia (aka PCP).
The way HIV works is that once a person gets infected with the virus, it takes about 4 to 10 weeks before it can be detected in the blood (aka seroconversion). For a small group of people, it may even be more than that. At that time, the person may or may not be experiencing any symptoms. But if they are, they may complain about such things as a fever, headache, sore throat, general muscle aches, weight loss, or diarrhea. During this period of time, the virus is heavily present and the body is trying to fight it by making antibodies against the HIV virus. Most HIV tests look for the antibodies so even if the HIV virus remains dormant and undetected, a person’s HIV status can be picked up by these tests through existing antibodies.
What would be the best testing schedule? The CDC recommends that everyone between ages 13 – 64 should be tested. A repeat testing should be done if you have a new sexual partner. Ideally, it would be best to wait 3 months after the 1st sexual contact with your new partner. What would be even better is if you have your new partner tested before you even consider sleeping with him or her. People who are at very high risk for HIV (homosexual males, IV drug users, and those with multiple sex partners) are recommended to be tested every 6 to 12 months.
What can also take up to 10 years in HIV? The average amount of years an HIV-infected person who refuses treatment has from the moment the virus is seen in the blood.
Two international reports were released this week, analyzing how students around the world perform in math, science, and reading. The Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study and the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study show mixed results for US students.
Looking at fourth and eighth grade students, the US performed better than it has in the past, but still fell behind students in Singapore and Hong Kong, especially in math and science, the Washington Post reported. Several states requested to be tested separately, including Florida, Minnesota, and Massachusetts, and often performed better than the US average, though there were some critics with concerns.
According to The New York Times, the US was 11th and 7th for fourth-grade math and science, respectively, and 9th and 10th for eighth-grade math and science. For reading, US students overall ranked 6th.
There were some findings that came out showing the differences among race and ethnicity in the tests. According to the Washington Post, white, Asian, and multiracial students in the US performed better than average on the reading tests, while blacks and Hispanics scored lower.
And CBS News went into more depth: “Racial and class disparities are all too real. In eighth grade, Americans in the schools with the highest poverty—those with 75 percent or more of students on free or reduced-price lunch—performed below both the US average and the lower international average. Students at schools with fewer poor kids performed better. In fourth-grade reading, all ethnic groups outperformed the international average, but white and Asian students did better than their black and Hispanic classmates.”
Education reform is a big issue in this country, with educators, charter schools, and the public education system looking to find ways to improve results nationwide. Just last week, the Chicago Teachers Union accused the city’s public education system of racism.
HIV may no longer be a death sentence but that doesn’t mean that most people infected with the virus have their condition under control. A CDC report in the Dec. 2 Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report showed that only 28% of the 1.2 million people infected with the illness have a suppressed viral load—meaning the patients’ health is improved and their risk of transmitting the virus through sexual activity is dramatically decreased.
The problem, says Victoria Sharp, MD, Director of the Center for Comprehensive Care at St. Luke’s/ Roosevelt Hospital in New York City, is some patients fail to see the need to take their treatment due to the effectiveness of antiviral medication. Taking these medications, in combination with practicing safe sex, can reduce the risk of spreading HIV by 96%, according to recent National Institutes of Health data.
“It’s hard for people to believe” what can happen if the virus is left untreated, Dr. Sharp told American Medical News.
More disturbing is the fact that one in five Americans infected with HIV isn’t aware that he has the condition, and only about half of the people diagnosed with HIV receive ongoing medical care and treatment, according to the CDC.
To help combat the problem, the CDC recommends that doctors increase testing during routine medical visits, testing everyone between the ages of 13 and 64. Researchers found that in 2010, only one in 10 people between the ages of 18 and 64 received a recent HIV test. Although the study’s authors were encouraged that testing percentages were higher in states with a higher prevalence of HIV, they acknowledged that they are far from meeting the national HIV/AIDS strategy’s goal that 90% of people infected with the virus be aware of their condition.
Does your primary care physician or gynecologist recommend that you’re tested for HIV at every visit?
Brande Victorian is a blogger and culture writer in New York City. Follower her on Twitter at @be_vic.
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How would you feel if you woke up on a Sunday morning and got dressed in your Sunday’s best to head down to hear the good word preached, and mid-sermon your pastor urged you to get tested for HIV? Would your face go o_0 or would you shout “amen!”? Well, that’s exactly what’s going on at some churches in LA. Apparently there is a group of preachers and first ladies of the church urging their women congregants to get tested.
Given recent reports from the CDC, black men and women need all the help we can get when it comes to the war on STDs. Black women are 19 times more likely than their white counterparts to contract an STD. Black men are nine times more likely than white men to contract an STD. So I’m all for telling people of color to be responsible and get tested.
Now the church being the messenger makes it a little tricky and may even offend some, but it doesn’t offend me. I’m a member of a very progressive, protest church so I’m very familiar with the house of God being involved in the dealings of the community. And with STDs ravaging the lives of so many young people, I’m thankful that churches are stepping into the 21st century and finally discussing the reality that not everyone is “saving it” for marriage. People need to be responsible. Far too long has the church world kept sex and disease hidden in the taboo closet. Let’s address what’s going on in our communities.
Oh yeah, STDs are not solely a black issue; I would hope that white churches are empowering their members with this knowledge and encouragement of prevention just as well.
My only reservation with this anti-STD crusade is that, from what I have read, I haven’t seen a call to encourage men to get tested. Yes, women have a higher risk of contracting STDs but let’s be clear about who they are contracting STDs from–men. Churches traditionally have tons of women members yet a patriarchal mindset runs rampant throughout and women are reduced to second-class citizen status. If the plan is to tackle the STD epidemic in the black community, the church needs to hold men accountable in the same way it holds women accountable. If not, then all you have is women finding out that they have an STD while men continue their promiscuous lives infecting other unsuspecting women. That’s irresponsible. Of course, I hope that is not the case here but I can only go on the information I’ve been given.
Overall, I think it’s a great idea. Knowledge is power and encouraging members to be more concerned about their health and personal well-being is something that gets a praise dance in my book.
What do you think about the church stepping into such personal matter? Do you agree or are they crossing the line?
The United States Department of Health and Human services announced today that the Affordable Care Act will ensure that ALL women receive preventive services at no additional cost.
Under the new guidelines, women will have no-cost
- well-woman visits;
- screening for gestational diabetes;
- human papillomavirus (HPV) DNA testing for women 30 years and older;
- sexually-transmitted infection counseling;
- human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) screening and counseling;
- FDA-approved contraception methods and contraceptive counseling;
- breastfeeding support, supplies, and counseling; and
- domestic violence screening and counseling.
Research shows that an increasing amount of the population harbors some form of herpes (cold sore, vaginal, penile, and shingles), and in women, HVP, the human papillomavirus, can sit in wait but rear its ugly, warted, head in the form of cervical cancer later. And HIV is the highest growing disease affecting black women, so it goes without saying that young women should always, always, ALWAYS use protection when they choose to have sex before marriage. That’s a big “DUH,” so forget what will.i.am said about condoms being tacky. Preventing yourself from contracting a sexually transmitted disease is worth losing the respect of this misogynist, and anyone else who says it’s un-ladylike to own and use some condoms with a dash of spermicide, just for good measure.
But once you’re married, all the condoms and spermicide should go to the wayside, right? I mean, if you’re monogamous, what’s the worry of getting a disease? Not so fast, muchacha. Just because you’re being faithful and true doesn’t always mean your partner is. I have one unfortunate friend who found out her husband cheated on her not once, BUT TWICE, because she caught a case of Trichomonas–twice. Lucky for her, ‘trich’ is easy to cure, but if I were her, I’d never let that fool touch me with his man parts ever again.
(AJC) — The state Board of Education did Wednesday what some had advocated for the past decade: eliminated the requirement students pass the Georgia High School Graduation Test to receive a diploma. The test, which has been the gateway to high school graduation since 1995, no longer will be given to students starting with next fall’s freshman class and will be phased out for current students. ”I appreciate the state board’s vote that finally allows us to move away from the GHSGT,” state school Superintendent John Barge said after the board’s unanimous vote. All students are required to pass eight mandatory classes to graduate from high school. The plan approved Wednesday ups the pressure on them, starting with next year’s freshman class, to score better on the end-of-course tests in each of the eight classes. Those tests currently account for 15 percent of a student’s final class grade, but starting with next year’s freshman class that will be upped to 20 percent.
(AP) — A newspaper investigation published Monday questions whether dramatic gains at some D.C. Public Schools, held up as a model for national school reform, were driven by cheating on standardized tests. Documents obtained by USA Today show some high-scoring schools touted by former Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee had extraordinarily high numbers of erasures correcting wrong answers. In the story, experts said such erasure rates are so statistically rare that they should have triggered an investigation. ”This is an abnormal pattern,” said Thomas Haladyna, a professor emeritus at Arizona State University who has studied testing for decades. More than half of D.C. schools had erasure rates that surpassed the city’s averages at least once since 2008, the newspaper found. The erasures are detected by scanners from the city’s testing company, CTB/McGraw-Hill.
(USA Today) — In just two years, Crosby S. Noyes Education Campus went from a school deemed in need of improvement to a place that the District of Columbia Public Schools called one of its “shining stars.” Standardized test scores improved dramatically. In 2006, only 10% of Noyes’ students scored “proficient” or “advanced” in math on the standardized tests required by the federal No Child Left Behind law. Two years later, 58% achieved that level. The school showed similar gains in reading. Because of the remarkable turnaround, the U.S. Department of Education named the school in northeast Washington a National Blue Ribbon School. Noyes was one of 264 public schools nationwide given that award in 2009.
Michelle Rhee, then chancellor of D.C. schools, took a special interest in Noyes. She touted the school, which now serves preschoolers through eighth-graders, as an example of how the sweeping changes she championed could transform even the lowest-performing Washington schools. Twice in three years, she rewarded Noyes’ staff for boosting scores: In 2008 and again in 2010, each teacher won an $8,000 bonus, and the principal won $10,000. A closer look at Noyes, however, raises questions about its test scores from 2006 to 2010. Its proficiency rates rose at a much faster rate than the average for D.C. schools. Then, in 2010, when scores dipped for most of the district’s elementary schools, Noyes’ proficiency rates fell further than average.
A USA TODAY investigation, based on documents and data secured under D.C.’s Freedom of Information Act, found that for the past three school years most of Noyes’ classrooms had extraordinarily high numbers of erasures on standardized tests. The consistent pattern was that wrong answers were erased and changed to right ones. Noyes is one of 103 public schools here that have had erasure rates that surpassed D.C. averages at least once since 2008. That’s more than half of D.C. schools.