In December last year, the FDA lifted its longtime policy of deferring any blood or tissue donations coming from men who have had sex with other men at any time since 1977. The new policy defers only those men who have had sex with other men within one year of donation. This might seem like a positive change in U.S. blood and tissue donation policy. Any shift towards inclusion should be considered a step in the right direction, right? The history of the "gay blood ban," its implications in sexual politics and the state, and the prevalence of HIV criminalization policy, however, render this potential shift meaningless at best and harmful at worst. A more radical HIV tissue and blood donation policy based on informed consent would not only dramatically increase the supply of U.S. blood and tissue banks, but also fight HIV stigma and dismantle the pathologization of gay sexuality, which such discriminatory HIV policy engenders.
By Scott Olsen
The stigma against gay sexuality in current U.S. HIV policy, however, is not a novel means of marginalizing men who have sex with men. Policies like blood and tissue deferral and HIV crimin
By Lara Freidenfelds
"You have multiple sclerosis? My cousin cured her MS with a gluten-free diet and qi gong -- you should really try it!"
Since I was diagnosed with MS 17 years ago, I have heard many, many versions of this story, though with a rotating cast of miracle cures in the starring role. Some involve mainstream pharmaceuticals; many more are from the world of alternative medicine. I usually politely say, "Thanks for letting me know," and let it drop. Everyone who tells me a story like this wishes for my good health, and I do appreciate that.
By Sarah Jane Bodell
If you have ever seen the popular BBC/PBS television program Call the Midwife then you know that the central setting, Nonnatus House, is an Anglican religious order in the East End of London in the 1950s, offering midwifery and medical services to the community. Nonnatus House and Call the Midwife are semi-fictitious creations of author Jennifer Worth, who based them on her experiences as a midwife in East London with the real Community of St. John the Divine (CSJD). Institutions such as CSJD, still in operation in Birmingham today, have existed throughout London and Britain since the mid-nineteenth century. These religion-based medical charities took many forms, from small-scale dispensaries to large-scale hospitals, most offering a specialization. Some were rooted in monastic orders (as with Call the Midwife); some grew out of particular congregational societies; most, though, were established as standalone medical missions, which will be the focus of this post.
We interrupt our regularly scheduled program to bring you this special report: Elizabeth Reis, professor and chair of the Women’s and Gender Studies Department at the University of Oregon and Nursing Clio‘s content editor, has penned a beautiful essay over at the New York Times. In it, she discusses the difficult medical decisions surrounding her father’s last days. Read this essay, then sit down and talk with your loved ones about end-of-life care.
by Rachel Epp Buller
Creative stamp arrangements. Cross-stitched fallopian tubes. Knitted uteri. This summer’s social media circulation gave witness to all manner of artsy protests surrounding reproductive rights. Practitioners of this sort often call themselves "craftivists," a portmanteau that makes clear the use of craft for activist ends. ("Lactivism" indicates a similar word blend, regarding activists who mobilize around issues of lactation.) Guerrilla knitting, yarn bombing, yarn storming, and granny graffiti are all terms in the craftivist lingo (some lovely examples of which can be seen here). To get their message out, craftivists often work in public spaces - sometimes in a guerrilla, dead-of-night manner - and their colorful, even fanciful creations can provide a non-threatening point of entry for public discussion of serious issues. In July and August this year, craftivists made sneaky appearances at Hobby Lobby stores around the U.S. to leave art-based messages for the retail giant as well as for their fellow crafters.
by Carolyn Herbst Lewis
I have a not-so-secret weakness for historical fiction series. I think, in some roundabout way, this is what started me on the path to studying history. I read the Little House on the Prairie books as a child, John Jakes' North and South series as a tween, and it's been my genre-of-choice ever since. But there is one series in particular that really is my favorite. Maybe even an obsession. I have no idea how many times I've read and reread the now eight volumes in the series. I've even considered going on one of those themed-vacations, where you visit sites featured in the books. It's that bad. My obsession, I mean. The books are simply that good.
When I say that I'm talking about the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon, I imagine that most of you who have read the books will know what I am talking about. I say "most" because I have heard that there are people who have read the books and didn't like them. Seriously, what's not to like? There is adventure. There is drama. There is time travel. There is really great sex. Unlike so many other titles in this genre, the storyline and many of the characters are decidedly feminist. I could go on, but I think I've gushed enough to give you an idea of what I'm talking about. Here I actually want to focus on a particular facet of the series: Gabaldon's careful attention to the history of medicine.
By Ginny Engholm
As everyone who reads this blog (or is on Facebook or Twitter) is by now well aware, the Supreme Court's recent ruling in the Hobby Lobby case has dealt yet another powerful blow to women’s right to access contraceptives and manage their own health care, reproductive choices, and bodies. But a recent law—this one in Louisiana and regarding prenatal testing and counseling—poses yet another, but much less recognized, threat to women’s reproductive freedom. In May, Louisiana joined several other states (Massachusetts, Kentucky, Delaware, and Maryland) in passing a version of the Down Syndrome Information Act. This measure is part of the pro-information movement, which attempts to balance disparate groups and agendas within the Down syndrome community by bringing together both pro-choice and pro-life Down syndrome advocates in favor of providing women balanced, medically-accurate, and sensitive information about options when faced with a prenatal diagnosis of Down syndrome. The act as intended requires doctors to give appropriate medical information about the diagnosis and the options. It also requires doctors to give referrals to genetic counselors and relevant support services when delivering a prenatal diagnosis of Down syndrome to a patient.
By Adam Turner
Since as far back as the American Revolution, politicians and the public have welcomed soldiers home from war with promises of cutting edge medical knowledge, comprehensive rehabilitation, and ongoing care as compensation for their service. Just as often, though, these promises have gone unfulfilled in the face of their enormous expense. The history of the veteran's health system thus has been one of best intentions and poor funding.
by Andrea Milne
Everybody and their sister is blogging about the Burwell vs. Hobby Lobby ruling, so I’ll spare you all the gory details, if for no other reason than to preserve my sanity. Here, in my (admittedly biased) opinion, are the most important things you need to know:
By Carolyn Herbst Lewis
Recently, I taught my first upper-level course on the history of health and medicine in the United States. The course readings covered a broad base, both chronologically and thematically. The discussions that emerged from two of the assigned texts, however, really stand out in my memory. In fact, in retrospect, I can see that they shaped the emergence of an unexpected theme in the course: a critique of both the concept and rhetoric of wellness that is so prevalent in contemporary American workplaces, including many college campuses.