Thursday, May 24, 2012

So Gay? No Way!

I heard it again last weekend on the street while I was enjoying the unseasonable sunshine: one teenager said to another “that’s so gay!” I thought people were moving beyond this!

Holding Hands - Gay PrideWe have made a lot of progress in the past few years, and most people know that sexual minority youth (i.e., gay, lesbian, bisexual, queer, and questioning teens) need social support. I’m sure many of you have seen the “It Gets Better” videos, heard about the Trevor Project, or have seen organizations form in your school or community to support sexual minority youth (such as Gay-Straight Alliances – GSAs).

However, it’s important to remember that many sexual minority youth are not getting the support they need.
Many sexual minority youth experience bullying, rejection, or harassment because of their sexual orientation. These encounters can sometimes end tragically, like in the case of Tyler Clementi – the Rutgers college student who committed suicide last year. Dharun Ravi, Clementi’s former roommate, was just found guilty of intimidating Clementi and invading his privacy. For those of you who don’t remember the story, Clementi was a gay college student. Without Clementi’s permission, Ravi used a webcam and set up a “viewing party” to spy on Clementi.

This sad situation reminds us of the importance of standing up against bullying and harassment. Although some bullying and harassment can be extreme, some may be less direct. For example, how many times have you heard someone say “that’s so gay”? Usually people who say this aren’t even talking about sexual orientation, but instead talking about something they think is bad or wrong. If you’re not a sexual minority, imagine for a moment that you are. What would it feel like to hear that phrase multiple times day after day?

Lack of support, bullying, and harassment are major reasons why sexual minority youth are at risk for depression, suicide, and other bad health outcomes. Although there might be more resources out there nowadays for sexual minority youth, it’s very important that they feel supported wherever they are. You can play a big role making this happen. Build awareness by sharing the links to the It Gets Better Project and Trevor Project. Support your local GSA by attending a meeting. You can even do something as simple as questioning the language you and your peers use. The next time someone says “that’s gay”, start a conversation with them about what that means to them and others. Even challenging the words people use can make a major impact, and possibly save a life.
Continue to Read more ...

Hope and Awareness Bracelets for Endometriosis

If you‘re reading this, you’ve probably been diagnosed with endometriosis. With that said, I really don’t have to tell you how horrible and confusing it can be; you already know!

The pain can really be excruciating at times. We can manage to look good on the outside, but inside we feel terrible. We have fatigue, pain, stress, and all we want is to feel better and be normal. We become frustrated and feel hopeless and not in control of our lives, and that is an awful feeling.

I decided to make bracelets for girls and young women who suffer from endometriosis to try to give them hope and to raise awareness. I would like them to feel hopeful and supported every time they wear their bracelet, and know that there are others who are experiencing the same symptoms and frustrations as they are. I want these young women to stay hopeful and not give up.

I would also like everyone who sees someone with one of these bracelets on to be made aware of this disease and know just how difficult it is and have a better understanding of what we go through. We need more research, more support and ultimately a cure so that we can finally start to live our lives to the fullest; the way they are supposed to be!
Continue to Read more ...

Kicking Off Endo Awareness Month

Endometriosis Awareness RibbonsThe month of March is dedicated to raising worldwide awareness about endometriosis. Like other months that dedicate colors in association with certain conditions (pink for breast cancer, red for heart disease) endometriosis has one too; yellow.

Endo affects millions of women around the world, myself included. Symptoms often start during the teenage years, yet there is no known cure. Endo (short for endometriosis) is a condition that occurs when tissue similar to the inside lining of the uterus is found outside of its normal location. Endometrial implants can be found on the ovaries, fallopian tubes, and ligaments that support the uterus and tissue covering the bladder and rectum. Endometriosis causes different symptoms ranging from pelvic pain, and/or severe period cramps, and bowl and bladder symptoms. Pain can be so debilitating that getting through school or work day can seem impossible.

This is a great time to show some support for those that you love with endometriosis. So with spring on the way, wear yellow on March 1st spread awareness, and offer to do something fun with a friend with endo that might ease her pain.
Continue to Read more ...

What I Wish My Parents Knew About Endometriosis

What I Wish My Parents Knew About Endometriosis

Endometriosis PainI remember when I first started having pain. I was 14 years old and told my mom about a constant pain in my side. She brushed off my comment and gave me some Advil thinking it would help. After a while the pain just never subsided so I told her I needed to see the doctor. After a number of tests, hospitalizations, surgery, and a year of searching for “what was wrong”, it was confirmed that I had endometriosis.

Even though the process of figuring out “what was wrong” had concluded, my pain was still present. It did subside a bit after going on birth control pills and other pain alleviating remedies, but every now and then there would be moments of unbearable pain. My parents and friends would comment and say things to me like “You must be feeling so much better, or “I’m so glad you’re in less pain, the surgery and medicine really must have been what you needed”. Little did they know that endo is not like a cold that goes away after a few days.

What I really wish my parents knew is that the pain is always there and taking hormone medicine doesn’t mean that I’m cured. I know when I’m stressed out or under a lot of pressure my pain is worse than normal, and although I’m able to manage it, I don’t always get the support that I need. I wish my parents asked me how my pain is more often. As soon as I was diagnosed it seemed like there was a solution to the problem, and no one had to think about it anymore because the problem was “fixed”. My parents stopped asking me about my pain, how I was feeling and what they could do to help.

I think the biggest thing that parents and friends don’t realize it how much endometriosis changes the way you feel about your body. At first, I felt a little strange not to experience a menstrual cycle like the rest of my friends each month, and it was weird not to have to carry tampons in my purse anymore. However, I’ve embraced the changes that have occurred in my life and sometimes I’m happy that I don’t have the burden of getting my period every month.

I wish my parents still talked to me about having endometriosis, and how it makes me feel to be a young woman with this disease. My suggestion to you is the same advice I give myself, which is to talk about your pain and tell the people who care about you what’s bothering you. Don’t assume that others know how you’re feeling. The only way to let someone know that something is wrong is to tell them. Have a conversation with those that love you and give them a chance to be helpful and supportive.
Continue to Read more ...

Coping with Endo Pain and Headaches

Coping with Endo Pain and Headaches

HeadacheWhen I first started to get endometriosis pain I noticed that it would coincide with terrible headaches. I never thought there was a connection, but as the years went on I noticed it more and more.

I was in the middle of doing some school work recently, and started to experience some endo pain. I tried to resist the urge to do something else because I was really focused on getting my work done, but I started to feel a bad headache coming on. At that point I bargained with myself and decided to lie down for a little while and watch something on the Food Network. The pain from my headache eventually went away, but I couldn’t help but wonder if there was a connection between my endo pain and my headache.

I decided to go online to Google scholar and see if I could find any medical articles that connected the dots. After a few searches I found an article that did show a connection between the two, but it’s important that I note that the study only evaluated 171 women ages 18 years and older. Similar to other published research studies, the authors admit that this study has limitations; it was a small group of women, and teens under the age of 18 were not evaluated. More research is definitely needed, and participants under the age of 18 should be included.

What I read was that researchers at Duke University Medical Center and the University of Toledo Medical Center in Ohio found that women in their study diagnosed with migraines and endometriosis had more frequent and disabling migraines than women with a history of migraines without endometriosis. The sub-group of women with migraines and endometriosis in this study were also found to be more likely to have other conditions affecting mood and pain. (Tietjen, G., Bushnell, C., Herial, N., Utley, C., White, L., & Hafeez, F. (2007). Endometriosis is associated with the prevalence of comorbid conditions in migraine. Journal of Head and Face Pain, 47(7), 1069-1078.)

I was a little surprised when I read the results of this study, but then I realized that I’ve experienced headaches for over six years. Maybe there is a connection after all! I was happy that I did the research, but I wondered how it would make a difference in the way I handle the pain.

Whenever I feel a headache or endo pain coming on, I take three deep breaths and think of something that makes me happy. That tends to relax me and ease some of the pain I’m feeling. If I’m in busy or in the middle of something I try to remain relaxed and think of positive things rather than focusing on the pain. If I’m able to, I try to lie down and engage in some sort of mindless activity, such as watching TV or a funny movie. If I’m not in a lazy mood I’ll do some yoga or go for a run to relax my mind and leave my thoughts at the doorstep. However, these are just things that work for me, and they might not work for everyone.
Here are some other suggestions that may help you cope with your endo pain:
  • Write a story
  • Paint or draw a picture
  • Listen to music
  • Take a nap
  • Go for a walk and take pictures of what you see
  • Go someplace you have never been with a friend
  • Make a new recipe
  • Read a new book
  • Take a bath or long shower
Continue to Read more ...

An Endometriosis Diet?

An Endometriosis Diet?

Young woman with a plate of foodWhile attending the 6th annual Endometriosis Conference for Teens and Families (at Children’s Hospital Boston on March 24th), I noticed that a lot of young women were concerned with what to eat and whether consuming certain foods could either aggravate or ease their endo pain. Personally, I notice that I get stomach aches or my endo pain is worse when I eat certain foods, so I asked myself, “why”?

I had never heard of an “Endo Diet”, and after searching online, I confirmed that there is no specific “Endo Diet”. Then I thought, “Well, are there connections between nutrition and endometriosis?” I decided to do a search using Google Scholar, and found an interesting article describing research on the intake of dietary fats and the risk of endometriosis.

Researchers from Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School analyzed twelve years of data (beginning in 1989) and assessed the intake of dietary fats. Of the 1200 women who took part in this study, it was found that those who consumed the most omega-3 fatty acids were 22% less likely to be diagnosed with endo, and those who consumed the most trans fats were 48% more likely to be diagnosed with endo. Experts know from other studies that trans fat is associated with heart disease, and now there’s reason to believe that trans fat may put a woman at risk for endometriosis, too.

So, should you stop eating all fats? No. The study actually found that a woman’s risk of getting endo wasn’t related to the amount of fat she ate, just the type of fat she ate. It’s important to note that this study only included women over the age of 25. Since the study didn’t include any adolescents, there’s no conclusion regarding types of fat eaten and endometriosis in teens. The good news is that the findings of the study support something that we should already be doing anyway – eating healthier omega-3 fats (found in fish, walnuts, and flaxseeds) and less unhealthy trans fats (found in margarine, fried foods, and baked goods)!

After reading the article and reflecting on my own diet, there are certain things that I think I can change so that my diet is more balanced and I’ll get the nutrients I need. I already limit the amount of meat I eat because it upsets by stomach, but I know it’s also important to have protein in my diet because it keeps my body going. I plan to pay more attention to food labels and avoid foods that have trans fats, such as processed sweets. I guess the moral of the story is that there might not be an “Endo Diet”, but being mindful of what you eat will help you maintain a healthy body.
Some tips for mindful eating with endo:
  • Look at food labels and understand what you are putting into your body
  • If a label contains hydrogenated vegetable oils or hydrogenates then it contains trans fats
  • Keep a food diary and note if certain foods increase your endo pain
  • Have everything in moderation
  • Try recipes that are healthy for you!
Continue to Read more ...

Body Piercing Rant

Body Piercing Rant

Facial PiercingsBody piercing has become so common that it’s not even unusual to meet a person who has several piercings. I wonder where and when this trend started. Personally, I believe that teens in particular may opt to get pierced because of peer pressure, or because they want to seem “cool” and accepted by certain people at school. However, pressure from others can make a person do things impulsively that they might regret later.

I think that the media has a lot to do with why teens want to get pierced. Just about every “teen” channel you click on, whether it’s B.E.T., VH1, or MTV, there’s a show where members of the cast are sporting some sort of body piercing. Just as the media shows us that being a size “2″, having perfect skin and long, flowing hair is the ideal look, I believe that the media also tries to persuade teens that piercing every inch of their body is beautiful as well.

I remember when I was an incoming seventh grader; none of the girls or boys had piercings. Now, lots of my friends have at least one piercing in their eyebrow, tongue, nose or someplace else on their body. I’m not saying that it’s a completely bad decision for someone to get pierced; it’s their body! However, people should take a moment to stop and think about how a piercing will affect their appearance. Having certain types of piercings can even limit their job opportunities. All I’m saying is that teens should make an informed decision about body piercing before getting pierced, rather than letting the media or peer pressure influence them.
Continue to Read more ...

Skechers Shape-Ups – Proven Sketchy!

Skechers Shape-Ups – Proven Sketchy!

Skechers Shape-UpsThe first time I heard about Sketchers Shape-Up shoes I knew they weren’t going to be a success. It was like I was watching another commercial on diet pills that help you lose weight fast without changing your diet. It’s all a scam, because there’s no such thing as easy weight loss. I think it’s just another example of consumerism in our society.

I read part of an article in the Boston Globe that talked about a study on three different brand toning shoes: Skechers Shape-Ups, MBT, and Reebok’s EasyTone. The study showed that the people who participated in the study had no difference in muscle activity wearing the toning shoes instead of regular running shoes. Consumers who bought these products saw no change and are now eligible for a refund under a lawsuit settlement for the companies’ false advertisements.

So, in other words, you shouldn’t always believe what you see on TV – especially when the ads claim the product will help you to lose weight. Weight loss takes effort and hard work. Wearing a certain kind of sneaker or taking diet pills isn’t the answer. Weight loss starts with healthy eating habits and moving more by getting into an exercise routine. Don’t believe everything you read or see on TV. If the ad sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
Continue to Read more ...

Supplement Scams

Supplement Scams

Dietary SupplementsI’m taking a nutrition class this semester and I’ve learned many things – some more interesting than others. I already knew that supplements (protein bars/shakes, weight loss products, etc.) were popular, but I didn’t really know much information about them. Did you know that the popularity of certain types of supplements varies between different ages, genders, etc.? For instance, I hear many guys talk about protein supplements and other products that are supposed to make them stronger, while girls often buy supplements to lose weight. However, most supplements don’t work.

My professor told us that most growth and strengthening supplements do not actually work. I thought that was interesting, because these products are really expensive and the ads sound so convincing. Tons of people invest in these products and take them continuously, which is sad because it’s a scam. They either don’t get the results they’re looking for, or if they do, it’s probably not because of the supplement itself.

Guys who take protein probably also go to the gym, which is how they build more muscle. If they don’t go to the gym, though, the excess protein can actually get stored as fat. Girls who are on weight loss pills probably change their eating and exercise habits, as well. They lose weight as a result, but not because of the pills. Diet pills may also cause temporary loss of water weight, but this doesn’t last. In both scenarios, they would probably be getting the same results without the supplements.

This is not to say that all supplements are bad or that you shouldn’t take any. There are some supplements that are both useful and safe such as folic acid supplements for pregnant women, vitamin D and calcium supplements, and that sort of thing. For the most part, supplements that promise weight loss and stronger and bigger muscles are probably not that effective. Don’t throw your money away. There’s no such thing as a quick fix supplement. If you want to gain muscles or lose weight, work out and eat right!
Continue to Read more ...

About Bullying…

About Bullying…

Being BulliedUnfortunately, bullying seems to be a part of growing up. In a sad way, it almost seems like a natural evolutionary instinct for some people. It’s like they need to be mean to make themselves feel better. People who bully others are sad individuals, and if you’re being bullied, just remember that when all is said and done, and everyone has grown up, one of two things will happen to bullies. They will either realize the error of their ways (stop bullying, and become normal people) or they won’t stop and probably turn out to be pretty awful people. Certainly not people I’d like to be friends with.

Kids can be so mean sometimes. They find the stupidest reasons to pick on others. When I was in first grade, I distinctly remember getting teased because of this one food I would eat at lunch. Do you know what that food was? Nutella! (If you’re not familiar with Nutella, it’s a brown, chocolate-hazelnut flavored spread which has a similar consistency to peanut butter. It’s very popular with Italians.) The other kids would laugh at me and say, “You’re eating poop! You’re eating poop!” This was fine with me at first, ‘cause I didn’t have to share any of my amazing chocolate-hazelnut goodness, but eventually it would start to make me really sad, and eventually I didn’t want to bring Nutella for lunch.

My mother realized what was happening and gave me a whole long speech about how I should be proud of who I am, and my culture. She said I “shouldn’t be ashamed to eat what I want” and all the usual stuff people tell a young child when they’re being teased. I really wish I listened more to people who were trying to help me through being bullied. Maybe I wouldn’t have been so self-conscious when I was younger, or maybe I’d be more confident in myself today.

As part of an ethnic minority in my neighborhood, I was constantly bullied growing up. Now, I’ve developed the “I don’t care what others think of me” attitude, and to be honest, it’s a much more suitable mentality for adulthood. Something you should always remember if bad things are happening to you at school or in your neighborhood is that things will change and get better when you are grown up. It’s not that everything will be perfect and you won’t ever run into mean people, but when you do – you won’t care as much about what they think or say.

If you are having trouble in school, it’s best to talk to a trusted adult and explain things to them. Don’t be afraid of sounding like a tattle. You can do what you have to do without lowering yourself to their level (or punching them in the face and getting in trouble for it). Sounds like a good plan to me! Ten years later, you’ll see them picking up Nutella in the supermarket, and you’ll smile, relax, and feel really good about yourself.
Continue to Read more ...

Beauty Is In The Eye Of The Beholder – and The Pageant Rules

Beauty Is In The Eye Of The Beholder – and The Pageant Rules

Jenna TalackovaThere’s been much talk in the news recently about Jenna Talackova, a 23 year-old woman who was disqualified from the Miss Universe Canada Pageant after officials found out that she wasn’t a “naturally born female”.

Jenna Talackova always knew she was in the wrong body, even at a young age. At the age of 19, after taking hormone therapy for a number of years, she underwent transgender surgery where physicians removed her male genitalia and converted it to female. She’s had other surgeries to make her look more female as well, such as breast implantation and removal of her Adam’s apple. The question that remains is whether or not Jenna is really any different from other contestants or young women who have had enhancements such as these. My answer is no.

After reading her story it’s clear to me that Jenna truly knew who she was on the inside, but couldn’t be herself on the outside until starting hormone therapy at the age of 14. I admire her vigor and would never have guessed that she was originally born a male. Her yearbook pictures from middle school have a feminine look about them and I mistook her for being a girl even before her surgical procedures.

Jenna was disqualified to compete in this year’s Miss Universe Pageant, which is run and owned by Donald Trump. However, she worked with her lawyers to have the committee members of the pageant change the official rulings so that she would able to compete. She has all the legal documentation that states she is a female, and Canada (her birth country) recognizes her as a female, so why shouldn’t she be able to compete? The rules and policies have now been resolved by the pageant’s committee members and Jenna will be able to compete when the pageant begins on May 19th.

Jenna is not only a female; she’s an advocate for other women who have experienced discrimination as transgender females. She’s working hard to pave the way so that more women will feel comfortable enough to fight for themselves and stand up for who they truly are. We’re all our own best advocates and I think that Jenna is making true strides; not only for herself, but for the transgender community as well.
Continue to Read more ...

Peer Pressure

Peer Pressure

Peer PressureMost teens are affected by peer pressure in some way but they may not consciously realize it. Peer pressure is when a friend, classmate, or someone you know tries to convince you to do something you don’t want to do, or you know is wrong. The “something” is usually an activity that comes with some sort of risk. Most of us have been pressured by our peers in some way. For example, some teens have been pressured to have smoke, cut class, drink alcohol, or try drugs.

Peer pressure often works because the person who pressures uses guilt and insults to wear the person down and make their target feel like they have to do what they say. But, the truth is you don’t have to do anything; it’s up to you to decide what the best choices are for you. It’s okay to say “No” especially if you feel uncomfortable or if you know the activity comes will a lot of risks. Before making any decision you should consider the possible consequences of your choices; both positive and negative.

It’s important to remember that true friends are supposed to support and care for each other. If someone you consider to be your friend is pressuring you into doing something you don’t want to do, then you should reconsider whether that person really is worthy of your friendship. Don’t fall into the trap — “Do this or you can’t hang out with us.” This is a tactic that is often used in order to intimidate you into doing what others may want you to do. A true friend wouldn’t give you an ultimatum because they value you as a person and friend. Maintaining friendships is important; however, having healthy and positive friendships is more important.
Some Ways To Deal With Peer Pressure:
  • Think about your choices — what would happen if you do it? What if you don’t?
  • Follow your instincts. (If something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t right for you.)
  • Hang out with people whose choices make you feel comfortable!
  • Be assertive. Say what you think. Talk about what you feel.
  • Say “No.” Suggest a healthier alternative. If you are still being pressured, walk away.
Continue to Read more ...

Chia Seeds

Chia Seeds

Chia SeedsI’m sure you’ve heard all the chatter about chia seeds. Some sources are saying they’re super healthy and others say they are just part of another fad diet. What it is about these little seeds that has everyone all excited anyway?

Chia seeds come from a plant that belongs to the same family as mint. Although these seeds seem to just be gaining attention, they have actually been around for hundreds of years. It’s been said that chia seeds were once part of the Aztec and Mayan diet, and used by Native American tribes to treat fevers. If you’ve ever had a chia pet, you’ve actually seen chia seeds grow. With all the attention they are getting these days, it seems that chia seeds have come a long way from their days as “chia hair” on those ceramic pets.

Many health-related claims about these seeds have been made-from helping weight loss to making you feel full faster to lowering blood pressure. Are these little seeds really the “miracle catchers” they claim to be?
Nutritionally speaking, chia seeds are very similar to flaxseeds, a well-known source of protein, fiber, and healthy (unsaturated) fats. While chia seeds are slightly higher in fiber, flaxseeds have higher amounts of protein and healthy fats. Although many health-related claims have been made, there has been limited research done about the actual health benefits of eating chia seeds. There haven’t been any studies done with teens, but a study done in adults found that eating chia seeds for 3 months did not help with weight loss. Another study found that adding chia seeds to a sports drink before a long distance running event did not improve athletic performance.

More research about the health benefits of chia seeds (especially in teens) has to be done.  If you’re consuming enough healthy fats, protein, and fiber in your daily diet already, you may want to stick to what you’re doing now until more research about chia seeds is done.
Continue to Read more ...

Tattoos in High School

Tattoos in High School

TattooLately I’ve noticed that getting a tattoo has become a popular trend among teens in high school. Do you agree? Many teens have been getting tattoos, (most without parental consent), just so others think they’re cool or to fit in.
I’m not against people getting tattoos, but if someone is going to get a tattoo it makes sense to get a design that’s meaningful. For example, getting a tattoo of your mothers name would make more sense than getting a tattoo of your partners name. In many cases, the relationship with a partner won’t last, but your mother will always be your mother.

Many people that get tattoos don’t know the possible consequences. For example; some young teens don’t get their tattoos done by a licensed tattoo artist. This usually means that they go to someone’s house or a shop that isn’t clean or safe. They figure that the person injecting the ink knows what they are doing. The truth is that although getting a tattoo by an unlicensed tattoo artist may be cheaper, it can also be very dangerous. If the tattoo artist doesn’t sterilize the tools, you’re at risk of getting hepatitis and/or HIV.

It’s also important to think about your future and the type of career you might want to pursue. If you are positive that you want a tattoo, think about the type you want to get and where on your body you want to get it, so that you won’t be sorry later. What I’m trying to say is that getting a tattoo is a serious decision so you should think it through before making a quick decision to run off to a tattoo parlor. The bottom line is that you should never get a tattoo because you feel pressured or because you want to fit in. If you do decide you want to get a tattoo, go to a licensed professional.
Continue to Read more ...

Digital Enhancement = Not Cool

Digital Enhancement = Not Cool

Digitally Enhanced ModelJust about every piece of advertising that we come in contact with has pictures that have been photoshopped. It is very hard nowadays for girls to be able to tell whether or not a computer program has been used to shave off some pounds to make a model look “perfect”, or if the girl’s body is really her own. This not only puts a lot of pressure on teen girls because they want to be beautiful, it’s gotten so bad that the models are feeling the pressure as well. Technology has become so advanced that body parts from one girl can be cut and pasted on another with ease.
In reaction to this craziness, France has proposed a new law which would require a label when an image is digitally enhanced. I totally agree with this law. Girls need to know the truth about the pictures they see in magazines, or they will continue to have unrealistic expectations about their own body image. Girls should also understand that it’s okay to have a curvy upper body, or a body with no curves at all. Young women come in all different shapes, sizes, and colors. Our world would be too similar if everyone looked the same.
Click here to watch a video from the Dove Campaign for Real Beauty that shows step-by-step how a normal looking girl is unrealistically transformed into a “model”, using makeup and computer tools.
Here is our guide on self-esteem and body image.
Continue to Read more ...

Dear HIV

Living With HIVHIV affects thousands of teens and young adults. Between 2006 and 2009, 29,740 teens and young adults between the ages of 13-24 were diagnosed with HIV. In 2009, the young adults between the ages of 20-24 accounted for the highest rate of new HIV diagnoses. Even though HIV has been around in the United States for approximately 30 years and HIV/AIDS education is included in school based health curricula, there are still misconceptions and stigma associated with the disease.
We feel that it is imperative for kids, teens, and adults to have a better understanding of HIV and those who live with it.
Beginning with this entry, the “Living with HIV” blog series will communicate multiple facets of what real life is like for teens and young adults who are currently living with HIV. All of the material was written by teens and young adults living with HIV, and reflects their struggles, worries, and resilience. These entries will cover various aspects of daily life, including school, friendships, and worries about the future.
-The Young Men’s Health Initiative staff
Dear HIV:
  • “You’re the annoying eyelash that I can’t get out of my eye. You’re there, bothering me every second and I can’t see you, can’t get you out. You just keep bothering me.”
  • “I am MAD because you took my parents away from me.”
  • “The medication to treat you sucks, why does it have to be so difficult?”
  • “Go away.”
  • “I don’t like you; no one likes you, go away!”
  • “You know those gnats that you can never get out of your house in the summer, the fruit flies? They’re all up in your business and you keep swatting them away and they go away for a while but then they come right back annoying you? That’s HIV. It’s always there, even if I can forget about it for a little while, I always get sick or something happens and it comes back.”
Continue to Read more ...

S.A.V.E (Students Against Vector Exploitation)

S.A.V.E (Students Against Vector Exploitation)

Students Against Vector ExplotationIt’s Ty!
While doing some research for work, I came across an article about the organization S.A.V.E, which stands for Students Against Vector Exploitation. This article immediately caught my eye because Vector Marketing is a company that contacted me about applying for a job, and I jumped at the chance.
Vector is a marketing company that has been targeting young students for years with their catchy ads that sound more than appealing. I received a flyer from them in the mail about a month ago which instructed me to call to apply. The ad stated that if I was hired I would  immediately make about 30 dollars for each appointment I scheduled. It sounded a little like the cosmetics company Avon, which hires representatives to sell their products; only with Vector all I had to do was make an appointment. Boy was I wrong.
In the article, I learned that Vector hires you to sell professional knives by going to peoples houses and doing demonstrations. Based on a study by the 1996 Washington Post, more than half of Vector representatives lost money rather than earning it. If they did make money, they earned on average, about 3 dollars a day.
When they hire you, you have to buy or put a down payment of approximately 200 dollars for a knife set to demonstrate with. You also have to go to trainings that you don’t get paid for. Think about it; most people are reluctant to let strangers in there homes, let alone with a set of knives! Also, the knives are fairly expensive and hard to sell in this economy. So, basically as a Vector representative you have more out of pocket expenses than you are earning. They also target young students because they know we are easily manipulated and don’t really look into things before getting involved. So for anybody who has been or may be approached by Vector, beware.
Continue to Read more ...

Teen Pregnancy

Teen Pregnancy

Teen Pregnancy My 18 year old friend just had a baby. I know it’s not exactly a new trend but it just seems like more and more young women around me are getting pregnant. It bothers me that girls are having unprotected sex without considering the consequences of their actions. Not only are they risking the chance of having an unplanned pregnancy, but also the possibility of contracting an STI. Personally, I don’t think that it’s worth it. Don’t get me wrong, life is a beautiful thing, but I think having a baby should be planned at a time in a woman’s life when she is well situated and is sure that her baby will be well taken care of.
My parents had my sisters and me at a very young age. In fact, when my mother was only 21 years old, she had three young children to support. I am convinced that this has had a huge impact on my life and my sibling’s lives and childhood. Watching my mom struggle to support us as a single mom has helped us understand the importance of abstinence. To this day my parents tell us that if they could change one thing in their lives, they would have waited longer to have kids. Having a child before you’re ready doesn’t only affect your life, it also affects your child’s life. It’s hard to raise a child when you’re young because in many ways you’re still a child yourself.
Although abstinence is the most effective way to prevent unplanned pregnancies and STI’s, I’m aware that many young women are sexually active. So, if you’re sexually active and you don’t want to get pregnant, talk to your health care provider about the best birth control method for you. Remember, only condoms protect against most STI’s.
Continue to Read more ...

Making Healthy Sexual Decisions

You may be thinking about what it means to be involved in a sexual relationship. As a young adult, it's normal to think about sex, have sexual feelings, and have a desire to learn more about your own body. Deciding to have a sexual relationship is an important decision since it involves both your body and your emotions. You need to make sure that it is the right decision for you. It's always good to have a trusted adult to talk to.


  • Becoming sexually active and with whom is a big decision.
  • Having sex should be YOUR choice.
  • You should NEVER feel pressured or rushed into having sex.
  • Wait until you are ready and protect yourself against unwanted pregnancies & STI's.
What should I think about before I decide to have sex?
There are many things that are important to think about before you decide to have sex, including whether this is what you want and whether this is the right time in your life. You should also think about how you will feel afterwards. It should be a decision made without any pressure from your partner or friends.

You should never let others pressure you into having sex if you don't want to.
  • The decision to have sex for the first time (and every time after) is yours, not anyone else's!
  • Remember that it's completely okay to wait to have sex.
Young women choose to wait to have sex for many reasons, including wanting to wait until they are older or married, because they are not sure if it is what they want, because of their religious beliefs, or because they don't want to deal with the possibility of getting a sexually transmitted infection (STI) or getting pregnant.

What do I need to know if I'm sexually active or I'm thinking about becoming sexually active?
Young women have to make lots of decisions about sex, including whether to abstain (not have sex), or become, or continue being, sexually active.

If you are sexually active, you'll also need to think about the:
  • Gender of your sexual partner(s)
  • Kind of relationship you have with them
  • Type of contraception and sexually transmitted infection (STI) prevention methods you use
Continue to Read more ...

Drinking and Driving

If you drink, then drive, you're a bloody idiot.Sometimes it’s hard to understand the severity of things until they have been put into context. For example, I always hear people saying “Don’t drink and drive”. I don’t drink and drive, but I also never thought that an accident related to drunk driving would happen to someone in my family or to one of my friends. Well, a couple of days ago I was able to fully understand and relate to the dangers of drunk driving. Someone I know was driving under the influence and obviously didn’t have the capacity to think clearly. He caused a horrific accident in which the victim (the driver of the other car) died, and he is now in critical condition at a hospital. He was arrested, but it comforts me to know that he is still alive. Like my mom says, you can visit someone in jail and hope to see them again one day; but if they die you can only visit their grave, as there is no hope of them ever coming back to life.

Drinking and Driving

I know that many people have the notion that bad things won’t happen to them. But, guess what? You’re not indestructible, you’re not invincible, and you’re not immortal. So, please be safe. Don’t drive drunk and don’t drive while being “tipsy” either, because it all comes down to the same thing – not being able to react quickly to things while on the road. Although I used to think I wasn’t going to be affected by drunk driving, the danger suddenly seems very real because now my friend is in a hospital bed trying to survive.
Continue to Read more ...

Whisky In a Can

Whisky In a Can

Whisky In a CanOn the heels of the complete marketing fiasco known as Four Loko, Panama-based company “Scottish Spirits” is apparently looking to one-up the morally reprehensible product. For the first time ever, a company is promoting a 12 ounce can of whiskey. Yes, 12 ounces of straight whiskey. Allow me to add a little perspective to this. The average percent of alcohol in a can of beer is roughly 4.5%. Therefore, this 12 ounce can (which contains 8 shots of liquor) is equivalent to approximately 8 beers.
Is it just me, or is this potentially disastrous? The company has said that they are marketing it for three people to share in an outdoor venue, to put in a mixed drink. Sure, for some, this could be seen as advantageous. Apparently no one at these business meetings consider the cons or potential societal implications of this product. This is an aluminum can that can not be sealed. It is packaged in such a way that it has to be consumed rather quickly. Also, the can of whiskey looks just like a beer can. If you’re not paying careful attention, you might not notice the alcohol content is MUCH higher than one can of beer.
The Food and Drug Administration seems to have heeded the call with regards to the dangers of Four Loko, but what about Scottish Spirits? The company’s website states that they are planning to come out with rum, tequila, vodka, bourbon, brandy, gin and other canned liquors. I feel that whisky in a can (and the  canned liquors to follow) may become the next problematic alcoholic beverage(s) to hit the shelves. For me, the potential danger outweighs potential convenience factor. As citizens, it is our responsibility to pressure our representatives to tell the FDA that we don’t want this product on our shelves.
Continue to Read more ...

Preventing Destructive Decisions: Contract for Life

Preventing Destructive Decisions: Contract for Life

SADDAre you familiar with the Contract for Life? Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD) designed a contract that facilitates communication between young people and their parents about potentially destructive decisions related to alcohol, drugs, peer pressure, and behavior. In this contract, a teen acknowledges the many destructive decisions they may face, and promises to avoid risking their well–being and their parent’s trust.
The teen agrees to:
  • Never drive under the influence or ride in a car with someone that has been drinking
  • Always wear a seat belt
  • Call a parent or guardian if they are in a situation that could possibly endanger their safety
In return, the parent or guardian of the teen must agree to:
  • Try their best to understand and talk to the teen about destructive decisions
  • Provide a safe ride home
  • Postpone discussions about the situation until they can both talk about it in a calm manner
  • Not drive under the influence and avoid riding in a car with someone who has been drinking
  • Always wear a seat belt
The Contract for Life is a great way for teens to be responsible about their decisions. It gives teens the opportunity to be more open with their parents about their actions, even if their actions could be destructive. This contract also provides teens with a safe ride home if they don’t have a designated driver, or in the event that their designated driver decides to drink.
Continue to Read more ...

Alcohol On the Brain

Alcohol On the Brain

Alcohol and BrainTo be completely honest, when I was younger I never understood why the legal drinking age in the US is 21. I always thought of age as a random line in the sand, and that it really didn’t mean much. No one ever “suddenly” feels mature and completely responsible when they turn 21. I know plenty of 18 and 19 year olds that are more mature than many other adults.
However, I recently started taking a neuroscience course and learned some fascinating things about brain development. The legal drinking age that used to seem so random to me now makes a lot more sense. I learned that during adolescence, your brain is actually still developing. Using alcohol and drugs between the ages of 15-22 can really impair your development. It’s a kind of like drinking heavily while pregnant – not a good idea. Having toxic substances floating around in the body just isn’t beneficial.
Lets put things this way. It isn’t good to be subjecting your body and brain to toxins while you’re still growing and developing. So please kids, don’t try to rush through life. It’s important to protect your brain during your adolescent years; you’re going need to use it for a long, long time.
Continue to Read more ...

How to Have a Healthy Pregnancy

The best thing you can do is to begin taking care of your baby before it is born.
  • Make an appointment with your healthcare provider and begin prenatal care early.
  • Make sure you don’t drink alcohol or take drugs. If you smoke, quit right away.
  • Talk with your healthcare provider (HCP) about what medications are safe to take during your pregnancy. Be honest and tell your HCP if you have used or abused drugs in the past or present. Be sure to tell your HCP about ANY medication you take - including herbs or over-the-counter medicine. Certain drugs can cause birth defects.
  • Take the prenatal vitamins that your HCP has prescribed.
  • Talk to your guidance counselor at school about your pregnancy, and find out about ways you can attend classes and finish your education. Many schools have special programs for teen parents.
  • Eat nutritious food. Teens need extra calories. Your body is still growing so while you are pregnant, you’ll need more calories from nutritious food to keep you and your baby strong and healthy. Your baby depends on you for food and water. Ask your HCP if you can meet with a nutritionist (a person who is trained to give advice on how to eat healthy).
  • Stay active and keep moving. Don’t be a couch potato. Unless your HCP has told you otherwise, you can participate in activities such as walking, running, swimming, dancing, etc. Exercise will keep your body strong and flexible, but avoid risky physical activities such as contact sports, downhill skiing, and amusement park rides.
  • Drink plenty of water - 6-8 glasses a day.
  • Brush your teeth after meals and take care of your gums every day.
  • Rest whenever you can. Pregnancy takes a lot of energy! There will be times when you feel tired. Resting will help.
  • Keep a diary or blog of your pregnancy; reflect on your thoughts and feelings.
  • Stay away from chemicals that could be harmful to you or your baby, such as certain strong cleaning products, paint, hair dyes, and chemicals that straighten or perm hair. It’s a good idea to think about a low-maintenance hair style during your pregnancy that doesn't involve the use of hair chemicals.
  • Learn the early signs of labor so you know what to do.
  • Take a parenting class. Ask your HCP about teen parenting classes. You may want to check your school or local YWCA or YMCA for classes. Being proactive and learning about how to care for your baby before it is born will help you feel more in control and confident about your ability to be a good parent.
  • Find out about resources such as WIC (Women, Infants and Children Programs), Healthy Start, options for completing your high school or college degree, and childcare options.
  • Stay positive. You'll need to surround yourself with people who love and care about you. You’re going to need help during your pregnancy and when your baby is born. Aim to limit your stress so you can be healthy mentally as well as physically.
Continue to Read more ...

Deep Breathing Exercises

Deep Breathing Exercises


  • Deep breathing has many benefits.
  • Deep breathing exercises can be used when you feel stressed or anxious.
  • Deep breathing exercises are useful before medical tests and procedures.
Do you ever just need a minute to yourself so you can relax? Do you ever let out a big sigh after experiencing some stress or anxiety? Do you ever notice how your breathing is fast when you're nervous right before or during a test? If you answered yes to any of these questions you might want to try deep breathing exercises to help you relax. Read on to learn more about deep breathing and about the positive affects it can have on your body.

What are deep breathing exercises?
Deep breathing is a type of exercise that makes you aware of your breathing so when you inhale (take in air) through your nose, the breath is long and slow so and the air completely fills your lungs. The second part of the exercise is to blow out all of the air from your lungs, nice and slow. You should see your lower belly rise when you breathe in and lower when you breathe out.

What affects breathing?
Stress, anxiety, anger, fear and other emotions can cause your breathing to become faster than normal. When you are happy and content your breathing is slower, and more regular.

How can deep breathing exercises help me?
Deep breathing can help you relax, decrease anxiety, improve coping skills and even help to lower your blood pressure.

When should I use deep breathing exercises?
Deep breathing exercises can be used when you feel stressed, anxious, or you're in any situation where you need to slow down and feel in control. For example: if you're anxious before a test at school, deep breathing is a great tool to use to help you relax and focus. Even if you feel stressed in the middle of a tough day, taking a few deep breaths will help you feel relaxed and calm.

Deep breathing can also be useful before any medical tests or procedures, such as when you have your blood drawn. Deep breathing gives you a feeling of peace and is an easy skill to learn and use whenever you feel anxious or tense.

Who can teach me about deep breathing exercises?
Many different types of health care providers can talk to you about deep breathing exercises including nurses, health care providers, social workers, and psychologists. Deep breathing is often connected with yoga and meditation so teachers who are trained in these activities can also show you how to do it.

I don't have a lot of free time, is deep breathing exercise something I can do on my own?
Yes! You can use deep breathing exercises anytime for as long or short as you want. Unlike other forms of exercise you don't need any equipment, and it's free!

How do I do deep breathing exercises?
Something simple to do is: Close your eyes for a few minutes and imagine yourself on a beach or another place you find relaxing. Then, take a deep breath through your nose and count to ten. Release the breath through your mouth until you have pushed all the air out. Then repeat the exercise.

Important things to remember when practicing deep breathing exercises:
  • Find a quiet and comfortable place where you can sit or lie down where no one will bother you for a while.
  • Sit or lie in a comfortable position with your back straight.
  • Close your eyes and imagine yourself in a relaxing place.
  • Take a couple of "cleansing breaths" (breathing in through your nose and out through your mouth) and find a comfortable position, either sitting or standing.
  • Breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth using your abdominal muscles so your diaphragm can flex and contract.
  • Inhale slowly. This should take about 10 seconds. (You can count in your head to 10) so that your lower abdomen rises and falls. Now, exhale slowly for another 10 seconds.
  • Try to get into a routine and practice deep breathing for 5-10 minutes each day. Practicing helps you get into a routine so you can use deep breathing whenever you feel the need to relax or calm down.
Deep breathing is a practice that has many benefits. It is often combined with yoga, meditation, guided imagery and other relaxation techniques for even more positive results. Try an activity that you think you might enjoy. Learning ways to relax will help you to become more in tune with your body so you can respond to stress in a healthy way.
Continue to Read more ...

Nature Deficit Disorder: It’s Taking Over American Teens!

Nature Deficit Disorder

Nature Deficit Disorder, or NDD, is exactly what it sounds like: a condition caused by too much time spent away from the great outdoors. This disorder can be linked to many health problems: weight gain, diabetes, depression, poor sleep, attention problems, and poor problem-solving skills.
You’re probably wondering: Wait a minute – is this a real “disorder”?
Well, no, not really. NDD is not a medical condition in the same way as asthma or a broken leg. Rather, NDD is an idea that describes something that is happening to young people. “Nature Deficit Disorder” is just a clever term to catch people’s attention.
Many factors have caused this condition to become common among American teens. First, as we spend more time in front of screens – TVs, video games, computers, iPads, and smart phones – we spend less time doing other things, including spending time outside. The average teen spends over 6 hours a day in front of a screen! Second, we are spending more and more time on wheels (cars, subways, buses) to get us to and from school, to the store downtown, and even to our friend’s house a few blocks away. Most teens spend very little of their free time outdoors.
So how exactly does NDD lead to all those health problems?
It’s easy to see the connection between too much indoor time and obesity and diabetes – if you’re spending 6 hours a day in front of a glowing screen, you can’t possibly be moving around enough to stay healthy. However, we are learning more about the other health benefits of spending time outside. For instance, spending free time outdoors has been shown to improve people’s ability to concentrate and pay attention in school. Time spent in nature can improve your mood. And navigating the natural world, such as going hiking in the woods, can improve your self-confidence and problem-solving skills.
In short, spending time outdoors is healthy for you.
Now let’s talk about the cure for NDD. Luckily, you don’t need to live in the mountains to get the benefits of the great outdoors. Your backyard, a local park or wooded area, or even a tree-lined street can give you the right “dose” of nature. The next time you have some free time – either by yourself or with friends – put down the remote, game controller, iphone, or ipad, lace up your shoes, and go outside. The next time you need to run an errand or visit a friend’s house, walk there instead of getting in the car. If you feel unsafe in your neighborhood, plan an outing somewhere with a friend to a local park. They’ll probably enjoy the change of pace.
Also, use your summers wisely! This is a great time to restore the “nature deficit” that has built up during the school year. Go to a summer camp (as a camper or a counselor, depending on your age) or take advantage of programs offered by your city or town. Many programs offer free or reduced-price tuition.

Good luck fighting Nature Deficit Disorder!
Continue to Read more ...
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

Popular Posts