Tagged: gender gap

Silence still equals death


Did you know that Saturday was World AIDS Day?

I wasn’t paying attention. Like so many Americans, I have the luxury of acting as if the virus doesn’t exist.

But AIDS is still a major problem in the US. I live in the South, the region of the country that experiences the highest rate of the disease. But most of the time (or even all the time) it’s completely off my radar. There are lots of reasons for this, one of which is the fact that people living with HIV/AIDS are largely invisible. For all I know, my neighbor could be HIV positive, but I would have no idea. Unlike breast cancer or even depression, HIV is so stigmatized that people with the disease remain completely hidden.

Remember that old mantra, silence= death? It still does.

When was the last time you saw a “I’m HIV positive” bumper sticker? Or even a red ribbon?

HIV continues to be a disease that highlights social inequality. According to a new report:

  • Black women account for 64% of all new HIV diagnoses in the country
  • Nine of ten of the states with the highest death rate of HIV are in the South
  • Approximately 1 in 16 Black men will be diagnosed with HIV in their lifetime

If these numbers make you shudder, they should.  I know 16 Black men, many of whom are family. Statistically, one of them could have HIV, but if they do, I wouldn’t know it. We don’t talk about it.

One innovative  strategy for addressing this issue developed by the NAACP in partnership with Gilead Sciences is to engage Black churches as partners in preventing the onslaught of this disease. They’ve  developed a training manual for pastors in Black churches, guiding them on how to address HIV/AIDS in their communities and emphasizing that it is a social justice issues.

Highlighting the interconnectedness of social inequality to health disparities is one of the most crucial ways to improve public health. The training manual encourages pastors to be inclusive to gay and lesbian congregants, and to exercise compassion as part of a mission to save lives.

It’s an unlikely partnership in some ways, but one that is meaningful and that will hopefully prove to be effective.

What do you think? Has HIV/AIDS affected you at all? Have you heard of other unlikely partnerships aimed at preventing other diseases?






Office space


For the past two years, I’ve been trying to earn a living as a freelance writer and editor. Sometimes it works, sometimes I run into lean times. Right now it’s lean. So this week, in an attempt to keep the lights on,  I’ve stepped out of my house and into a real office.  I’m working a temp job for the next three weeks, so my days are full of commuting, filing and data entry, with not much time for blogging.

The job’s not so bad – it’s a little boring, but the computer terminal I’m sitting at faces a wall of windows, and when I look up from the computer it’s like I’m sitting in a forest of glorious fall foliage. The weather is gorgeous, and there’s a little picnic table outside where I can eat my lunch…and think about women, work, and occupational health.

At this particular job, the feminization of office work is as clear as day. All the temps and all the supervisors are women. As far as I can tell, most of what the permanent folks do is file and do data entry.

It makes me wonder, do women have a higher rate of carpal tunnel syndrome? What kinds of occupational health hazards are common for women who work in offices? What kinds of health problems are caused by sitting in front of a computer eight hours a day? How much radiation does a computer emit? Is it dangerous? What is the data?

This office is miles away from any real restaurant.  There’s not even a vending machine. If you forget your lunch, you can drive to Bojangles or Arby’s if you drive really fast and eat your lunch in the car. There are, however, copious bowls full of Halloween candy on the filing cabinets. When I studied abroad  in Iceland, one of the  most incredible things about their work life was that all office buildings have beautiful cafeterias, and everyone eats together.  In the US it seems like working in an office is set up to make you have bad nutrition.

Michelle Obama wants you to put down that hamburger.

I’m lucky (for now) that this is just a temporary gig, which means I actually enjoy it. It’s a whole lot easier than writing and a whole lot easier than chasing a three-year-old around, but I wouldn’t want to do it every day.

What about you? Do you work in an office? What kinds of things do you find are good – and bad—for your health at work? What do you think are some occupational health issues that women face more commonly than men? What about other jobs?  Seems like service industry jobs and healthcare industry jobs probably come with their own set of occupational hazards.

What do you think?

Master debaters strike again

Hey girl, Mittens has your back.

Need a job?

In the economy I’m going to bring to play, we’re going to have employers that are going to be so anxious to get good workers they’re going to be anxious to hire women.

Man, this economy is going to be so poppin’ that employers will be falling all over themselves to hire ladies. We’re a damn good deal and I’m sure Mittens will keep it that way.

Need some birth control?

I don’t believe that bureaucrats in Washington should tell someone whether they can use contraceptives or not. And I don’t believe employers should tell someone whether they could have contraceptive care of not. Every woman in America should have access to contraceptives.

That’s right. Nobody can tell no one nothing. Yes, you can’t not have no access to your pills!

But best of all, Mittens has a big pension.

It’s really really big. Obama even admitted it:

I don’t look at my pension. It’s not as big as yours so it doesn’t take as long.


I think I’ve finally decided who I’m voting for. What about you?

Master Debaters

Romney gave few concrete details about how he would address healthcare.

Did you tune into the first presidential debate last night?  It was less than riveting. As many astute observers noted, neither candidate mentioned women, gay rights or poverty. There are two more debates, so maybe next time, right?

What they did mention was taxes. They spent 30 minutes talking about taxes.

I don’t know about you, but from where I sit –mother, freelance writer, homeowner, lesbian, with an annual income  below $40,000—this is not really a burning issue. As far as I can tell, the only people who are that concerned with taxes are people with a lot of money that could be taxed.

I don’t think that taxes matter that much to my mother-in-law, who works as a home health aide and who is covered on her husband’s dental insurance but not on his medical insurance because the premium is too high.

I don’t think that taxes matter that much to my 22 year old niece who is taking out thousands of dollars in student loans to cover her tuition and rent.

And I’m pretty sure that taxes are not the most important issue to my friend who was laid off a year ago and is struggling to pay her mortgage and her Cobra premiums so that she can get medical care she needs for several chronic health conditions.

I think you can see where I’m going with this.

Unlike taxes, health insurance matters to everybody.

Unfortunately, the discussion about healthcare was frustrating. Obama is now in the position of explaining why the tepid piece of legislation that is the Affordable Care Act should not be repealed, blandly repeating all the same stuff  about getting rid of preexisting condition clauses and letting all those lucky people with private insurance stay on their current plan

Mittens Romney, on the other hand,  spent the whole time waxing poetic about state rights and individual responsibility.

One of the magnificent things about this country is the whole idea that states are the laboratories of democracy. Don’t have the federal government tell everybody […]what kind of Medicaid they have to have. Let states do this.

Actually, the let-the-states-decide approach is just magnificent  at creating health disparities. It’s an excellent recipe for inequality.  Let’s not make things more complicated than they have to be. At the end of the day, everyone really needs the same thing: to be able to get medical treatment for themselves and their children when they need it. It’s not rocket science.

But Mittens persisted. Oh yes he did.

I know my own view is I’d rather have a private plan. I’d just as soon not have the government telling me what kind of health care I get. I’d rather be able to have an insurance company. If I don’t like them, I can get rid of them and find a different insurance company. But people make their own choice.

This is clearly coming from someone who has never tried to buy health insurance.

I have tried, and let me tell you, all the companies are pretty much the same. They’re expensive. The plans that aren’t that expensive don’t really cover much. And if, god forbid, I am diagnosed with breast cancer or multiple sclerosis or a brain tumor, I really don’t care who the fuck is paying, as long as I’m covered.

And then Mittens made a series of confusing statements. Here’s a sample:

Small businesses […] are saying they’re dropping insurance because they can’t afford it, the cost of health care is just prohibitive. We’ve got to deal with cost.

How about we pass something called the Affordable Care Act?

When you look at Obamacare, the Congressional Budget Office has said it will cost $2,500 a year more than traditional insurance. So it’s adding to cost. And as a matter of fact, when the president ran for office, he said that, by this year, he would have brought down the cost of insurance for each family by $2,500 a family. Instead, it’s gone up by that amount. So it’s expensive. Expensive things hurt families. So that’s one reason I don’t want it.

Because expensive things hurt families?  Like having to pay massive medical bills because you don’t have insurance? I have a great idea. How about single-payer healthcare?

[Obamacare] cuts $716 billion from Medicare to pay for it. I want to put that money back in Medicare for our seniors.

But don’t you want to cut Medicare? I’m confused.

[Obamacare] puts in place an unelected board that’s going to tell people ultimately what kind of treatments they can have. I don’t like that idea.

But it’s okay for corporate executives at Aetna or Blue Cross and Blue shield to tell you what kind treatments you can have, right? Because they probably do have your best interests at heart. Really. They do. Pinky swear.

There was a survey done of small businesses across the country, that asked what’s been the effect of Obamacare on your hiring plans? And three-quarters of them said it makes us less likely to hire people.

Really? Oh, okay. I bet they said the same damn thing about affirmative action.  Wait a minute, we got rid of affirmative action, right? That really helped close the wage gap.

I’ll end this rant analysis with a choice gem from President Obama:

Private insurers have to make a profit. Nothing wrong with that. That’s what they do.

Am I going crazy? Somebody help me! Can we please please please  just agree that actually there is something fundamentally wrong with that? Healthcare should be a right not a privilege. Anyone? Anyone?


Full disclosure: I’m Canadian, I believe in single-payer healthcare, I don’t have any insurance at the moment. And yes, I’m voting for Obama.

Think before you pink

Welcome to October. As you probably know, it’s National Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

That means you’ll be inundated by things like this

Breast Cancer Awareness Makeup Palette from Sephora

and this:

Tic Tacs for breast cancer awareness

and this:

Corn Chips for The Cure

Women will be racing, biking,  eating, climbing and knitting for  The Cure.

Breast cancer has become so hyper-visible that it’s hard to believe we really need any more awareness. So many of the activities related to breast cancer are just an opportunity for corporations to pay lip service to women’s health.  National Breast Cancer Awareness Month has become just a tired ritual, when women’s magazines trot out their “Five Things You Need to Know about Breast Cancer,” articles and publish yet another “profile in courage” of a woman stricken with the disease who finds that it makes her a better, kinder, more spiritual person.

Every year, about 35,000 American women die from breast cancer. That’s over 100 women a day. Treatment is still limited to “slash, burn and poison,” and we don’t know what causes it.

As I’ve written elsewhere, men tend to set research priorities and be the main clinical researchers. But one of the best known breast cancer researchers is Dr. Susan Love.

This month, Dr. Love has launched a new research initiative dubbed the Health of Women Study (HOW), and she’s asked women’s health bloggers to help her publicize it.  According to the study website:

The majority of women who get breast cancer have none of the known clinical risk factors. This means we don’t know what causes breast cancer or how to prevent it. The HOW Study is a first-of-its-kind international online study for women and men with and without a history of breast cancer.  We will collect information about your health, your job, your diet, and your family history, among other topics that can help us get a better understanding of breast cancer and its potential causes.  Periodically, we will send you questionnaires about anything and everything. All you have to do is fill them out online. It’s that simple. This is a partnership and we need you for the long haul. The more questionnaires you fill out, the more information we will have that can help us have a better understanding of why women get breast cancer.

Anyone over the age of 18 — male or female, with breast cancer or without — can join. There’s no poking, no prodding, no blood samples, no humiliating tests; just some online data collection.

This October, think before you pink .How about joining the study instead? I’ve done it. Will you?

Image credits: TicTacsand Sephora and Frito Lay

Women in medicine: What’s to celebrate?

September was Celebrate Women in Medicine month, according to the American Medical Association’s Women Physicians Congress.

The AMA-WPC consists of more than 67,000 female members of the AMA working to increase the number and influence of women physicians in leadership roles—and to advocate for and advance the understanding of women’s health issues.

I missed it by one day, but I still want in on the celebration.

Did you know that  48 percent of students graduating from medical school in the US are women? That women make up 70 percent of medical and health service managers? And that 98 percent of nurses are women?  It almost makes me wonder if men are in decline.

Actually, no. It doesn’t.

I have no doubt that men are certainly not in decline. Back in the bad old days, women were nurses and men were doctors. Today, a third of all women are doctors, and women are still nurses. But the big dogs? They’re men.

Dr. Danielle Ofri wrote about this recently:

While women make up about half of all medical students and a third of academic faculty, they are nearly absent in the upper ranks. A recent review in The Journal of General Internal Medicine showed that only 4 percent of full professors are women. Only 12 percent of department chiefs are women. In the survey, men and women were engaged in their work to a similar degree, and both groups had comparable aspirations for leadership roles.

It’s a sobering realization for female medical students.

An article published in the Journal of Human Capital this summer compared the earnings of male and female primary-care physicians and estimated what they would have earned if they had been Physician Assistants (PA). The study found that while most male doctors are financially better off for having become a doctor, most female primary care physicians would have made more money as a PA.

Let’s celebrate women in medicine. But let’s also think about ways to change institutions and structures so that these wage gaps and persistent inequalities do not persist.