The New Westminster school district is yet again leading the way to destigmatize menstruation.
Starting in January, 100 New Westminster Secondary School students will learn, as part of a study, about a medical condition that causes painful periods.
Researchers hope the pilot program will improve students’ knowledge and increase early diagnoses of the condition.
Endometriosis causes tissue normally found inside the uterus to grow outside the uterus, such as on the ovaries, fallopian tubes and the tissue lining the pelvis. This can cause little to no symptoms, or it can cause debilitating pain in the pelvic area during menstruation.
But Catherine Allaire, medical director of the Centre for Pelvic Pain and Endometriosis at B.C. Women’s Hospital, said there’s a serious gap in diagnoses of endometriosis. Allaire said it’s estimated to take eight years from the start of symptoms to reach a diagnosis.
Part of the issue is that the typical diagnosis requires a laparoscopy, a surgical procedure – though Allaire said there’s a movement in Canada and elsewhere toward treating the symptoms without necessarily requiring the procedure.
But another part of the issue, Allaire said, is the lack of popular knowledge about the issue and the general discomfort of Canadians in discussing menstruation – despite the fact that it affects roughly 10% of women and girls of reproductive age.
“If you never talk about something, you don’t know what’s abnormal,” Allaire said. “It’s 50% of the world that menstruates, so I’m not sure why it’s still such a difficult thing to discuss or talk about as if it’s some kind of dirty, hidden thing.”
But if endometriosis affects so many people, why the lack of public knowledge and discussion? In large part, it’s a mix of historical downplaying of women’s pain and inadequate research on and funding for women’s sexual health, Allaire said.
“It’s just a systemic issue,” she said. “There’s a huge gender bias in terms of where research money is going. It’s taken a long time to get to this, but it’s finally happening.”
Allaire’s pilot program is building on a 2017 study in New Zealand that showed a similar program led to more women and girls seeking medical help for the condition at a younger age.
“We thought this would be something worthwhile to introduce into high schools in British Columbia,” Allaire said.
“At the time we were looking for a partner, [the New West school district] announced that they would be offering free menstrual products in the high school. … We thought, ‘Wow, there’s a school board that’s open-minded and willing to discuss menstruation.”
The New West school district was the first in B.C. to approve paying for free menstrual product dispensers in their schools.
In the pilot, half of the 100 boys and girls will take a one-hour course on endometriosis. They will take questionnaires, including a six-week follow-up, to determine retention of the knowledge. After that, the other half will take the questionnaire before taking the course to compare results.
Allaire said the program is expected to bring results by April, and potentially be published by the summer, depending on how the publication process goes.
“The goal is to basically arm patients and advocates and school educators and stuff with data that supports such an educational intervention and then advocate for other school boards and even ministries of education … about putting this as a standard in the curriculum,” Allaire said.
Austrian government proposes law to legalise assisted suicide
Austria’s federal government has submitted a draft law to make assisted suicide for seriously ill adults legal, the federal chancellery said in a statement on Saturday.
The new law lays out the conditions under which assisted suicide will be possible in the future, following a ruling by Austria’s Constitutional Court last December according to which banning assisted suicide was unconstitutional because it violated a person’s right to self-determination.
“Seriously ill people should have access to assisted suicide,” the federal chancellery said in the statement.
The new law allows chronically or terminally ill adults to make provisions for an assisted suicide.
They have to consult two doctors who have to attest the person is capable of making his or her own decisions. A delay of 12 weeks also has to be respected that can be reduced to two weeks for patients in the final phase of an illness.
(Reporting by Silke Koltrowitz; Editing by Christina Fincher)
Namibia suspends use of Russian COVID vaccine after S.Africa flags HIV concerns
Namibia will suspend the rollout of Russia’s Sputnik V COVID-19 vaccine, its health ministry said on Saturday, days after the drugs regulator in neighbouring South Africa flagged concerns about its safety for people at risk of HIV.
Regulator SAHPRA decided not to approve an emergency use application for Sputnik V for now because some studies suggested that administration of vaccines using the Adenovirus Type 5 vector – which Sputnik V does – can lead to higher susceptibility to HIV in men.
South Africa and Namibia have high HIV prevalence rates.
Namibia’s health ministry said in a statement that the decision to discontinue use of the Russian vaccine was “out of (an) abundance of caution that men (who) received Sputnik V may be at higher risk of contracting HIV,” adding it had taken SAHPRA’s decision into account.
The Gamaleya Research Institute, which developed Sputnik V, said Namibia’s decision was not based on any scientific evidence or research.
“Sputnik V remains one of the safest and most efficient vaccines against COVID-19 in use globally,” the institute told Reuters, adding over 250 clinical trials and 75 international publications confirmed the safety of vaccines and medicines based on human adenovirus vectors.
Namibia said the suspension would take effect immediately and last until Sputnik V receives a World Health Organization Emergency Use Listing. But it will offer people who received a first dose of Sputnik V a second to complete their immunisation course.
Namibia received 30,000 doses of Sputnik V as a donation from the Serbian government, but only 115 had been administered as of Oct. 20.
Namibia has also been using COVID-19 vaccines developed by China’s Sinopharm, Pfizer, AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson, acquired through a mix of procurement deals and donations.
So far it has only fully vaccinated around 240,000 of its 2.5 million people, reflecting African nations’ difficulties securing enough vaccines amid a global scramble for shots.
(Reporting by Nyasha Nyaungwa in Windhoek and Polina Devitt in Moscow; Editing by Alexander Winning and Ros Russell)
Britain reports highest weekly COVID-19 cases since July
Britain recorded the highest number of new cases of COVID-19 since July over the past week, government figures showed on Saturday, a day after Prime Minister Boris Johnson played down the prospect of a return to lockdown.
Some 333,465 people in Britain tested positive for COVID-19 over the past seven days, up 15% on the previous week and the highest total since the seven days to July 21.
Daily figures https://coronavirus.data.gov.uk showed there were 44,985 new cases on Saturday, down from 49,298 on Friday. Daily death figures were only available for England, and showed 135 fatalities within 28 days of a positive test.
Deaths have risen by 12% over the past week, and the total since the start of the pandemic now stands at 139,461, the second highest in Europe after Russia.
While vaccination and better medical treatment have sharply reduced deaths compared with previous waves of the disease, hospitals are already stretched and Britain’s current death rate is far higher than many of its European neighbours.
Government health advisors said on Friday that preparations should be made for the possible reintroduction of measures to slow the spread of the disease, such as working from home, as acting early would reduce the need for tougher measures later.
Johnson, however, said he did not expect a return to lockdown.
“We see absolutely nothing to indicate that is on the cards at all,” he said on Friday.
(Reporting by David Milliken, Editing by Timothy Heritage and Christina Fincer)
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