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Phl to continue receiving Global Fund support after 2012

The Philippines is to continue receiving funding from the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria (GF) after December 2012. This according to Beatrice Bernescut, from GF’s communications department, who said that “it is true that there has been a lot of unclear and even conflicting information about the GF circulating lately”.

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The Philippines is to continue receiving funding from the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria (GF) after December 2012. This according to Beatrice Bernescut, from GF’s communications department, who said that “it is true that there has been a lot of unclear and even conflicting information about the GF circulating lately”.

Bernescut was responding to a letter sent by Pozzie Pinoy, a self-described “person living with HIV (PLHIV) living in Manila, Philippines”. As one of the “thousands of Filipinos who have been helped by (GF)”, he wanted to know if it will “still continue funding its programs for the Philippines, especially programs for HIV treatment”, largely believed to end by the yearend.

“There are a lot of speculations from my fellow Filipinos that the GF will stop funding the programs for HIV in the Philippines, and everything will end this December 2012. Even our good doctors can’t answer the question. Everything is speculative, and this scares a lot of us especially those who really can’t afford the treatment,” Pozzie Pinoy stated in his letter.

With GF’s support, “the different government treatment hubs in my country are providing us with free doctors (for) consultations, free lab testing including the very expensive CD4 test, free prophylaxis for opportunistic infections (OIs), and free ARVs. I am one of those who had a very low CD4 count when I started treatment last year, and because of the GF, my CD4 has jumped up to about 700% in just a few months,” Pozzie Pinoy added. “Because of this, I am so grateful to (GF) for (having) given me a second life, and very thankful for what you have given all my Filipino brother and sisters who are living with HIV.”

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In her response, Bernescut gave the assurance that “the Philippines will continue to receive funding after December 2012”. As an explanation, she elaborated: “The GF awards grants to countries through what we call ‘funding rounds’. In mid-2011, the Board of the GF decided to launch Round 11, on the basis that there was sufficient projected funding to approve new programs. However, by November 2011, a number of things had changed, including some donors making their contributions later than planned, changes in exchange rates, et cetera – so much so that our financial projections showed that there would not be enough money to fully support new programs. The Board thus decided to cancel Round 11. This was very difficult, as a number of countries – including the Philippines – had counted on new grants being approved in Round 11 in order to continue and scale up their existing programs. But we feel strongly that it would be wrong to approve grants for funding if we were not absolutely certain that the money would be available – why make promises you can’t keep?

“At the time that the Board cancelled Round 11, they anticipated that the next opportunity for countries to apply for new grants would not be until late 2013/early 2014. Knowing that a significant number of countries would see their grants come to an end before 2014, the Board of the GF established what we call the ‘Transitional Funding Mechanism’. This is not funding for new programs – this is money which will enable countries to continue lifesaving treatment under existing programs until they can apply for new funding in the next funding opportunity, i.e. until 2014.”

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Everything approved up to and including Round 10 continues to be fully funded by GF.

While the Philippines has one existing grant for HIV, it is coming to the end of its five-year period and is scheduled to close at the end of this year. However, added Bernescut, “I can share with you that the Philippines has been approved for funding through the Transitional Funding Mechanism. The approval of this funding and the notification to country were made only in the last week or so, so it is entirely possible that the implementers have not yet had the time to fully share this information. This additional funding will provide support for essential services such as ARV therapy for eligible patients and outreach work among most-at-risk populations.”

In anticipation of the ending of GF funding, the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) has already come up with a benefit package for Filipino PLHIV for the country to be able to meet Millennium Development Goal (MDG) No. 6, which is to “halt or reverse the spread” the virus. According to PhilHealth Circular 19-2010, outpatients with HIV or AIDS are entitled to a P30,000 insurance package for one year (after the infection is confirmed by the Sexually Transmitted Disease/AIDS Central Cooperative Laboratory or Research Institute for Tropical Medicine). Although still minimal, the package is still hoped to increase the number of PLHIV having access to effective HIV and AIDS treatment and patient education measures.

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"If someone asked you about me, about what I do for a living, it's to 'weave words'," says Kiki Tan, who has been a writer "for as long as I care to remember." With this, this one writes about... anything and everything.

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Apple updates Holding Hands emoji to represent more LGBTQIA relationships

In a major update to the Holding Hands emoji typically used to represent couples and relationships, users will now be able to select any combination of skin tone, in addition to gender, to personalize the people holding hands, opening up more than 75 possible combinations.

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Apple is previewing a selection of new emoji coming, revealing the newest designs that bring even more diversity to the keyboard, alongside fun and exciting additions to popular categories of food, animals, activities and smiley faces.

In a major update to the Holding Hands emoji typically used to represent couples and relationships, users will now be able to select any combination of skin tone, in addition to gender, to personalize the people holding hands, opening up more than 75 possible combinations.

Following Apple’s proposal to the Unicode Consortium last year to introduce more disability-themed emoji, a new guide dog, an ear with a hearing aid, wheelchairs, a prosthetic arm and a prosthetic leg will be available in the emoji keyboard. Celebrating diversity in all its many forms is integral to Apple’s values and these new options help fill a significant gap in the emoji keyboard.

Many additional emoji categories are getting exciting updates with a new smiley face for yawning, a one-piece swimsuit, new food items including a waffle, falafel, butter and garlic, and new animals like the sloth, flamingo, orangutan and skunk.

Fifty-nine new emoji designs will be available this fall with a free software update for iPhone, iPad, Mac and Apple Watch. Thousands of emoji are currently available, including emotive smiley faces, gender-neutral characters, more professions, various clothing options, food types, animals, mythical creatures and more. New emoji are created based on the approved characters in Unicode 12.0.

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Problematic smartphone use linked to poorer grades, alcohol misuse, more sexual partners

Study finds 1 in 5 university students affected by problematic smartphone use.

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A survey of more than 3,400 university students in the USA has found that one in five respondents reported problematic smartphone use. Female students were more likely be affected and problematic smartphone use was associated with lower grade averages, mental health problems and higher numbers of sexual partners.

Smartphones offer the potential of instant, round-the-clock access for making phone calls, playing games, gambling, chatting with friends, using messenger systems, accessing web services (e.g. websites, social networks and pornography), and searching for information. The number of users is rapidly increasing, with some estimates suggesting that there are now more than 2.7 billion users worldwide.

While most people using smartphones find them a helpful and positive part of life, a minority of users develop excessive smartphone use, meaning that smartphone use has significant negative effects on how people function in life. Previous research has linked excessive smartphone use to mental health issues such as anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and problems with self-esteem.

A collaborative team of researchers from the University of Chicago, University of Cambridge, and the University of Minnesota, developed the Health and Addictive Behaviours Survey to assess mental health and well-being in a large sample of university students. They used the survey to investigate the impact of smartphone use on university students. Just over a third (3,425) of students invited to take the test responded. The results of the study – “Problematic Smart Phone Use is Associated with Greater Alcohol Consumption, Mental Health Issues, Poorer Academic Performance, and Impulsivity” – are published in the Journal of Behavioral Addictions.

The self-report survey consisted of 156 questions. Based on their responses, the students were given a score ranging from 10 to 60, with a score of 32 and above being defined as problematic smartphone use. This definition was based on a threshold recommended previously in clinical validation studies using the scale. Typical characteristics of problematic use include: excessive use; trouble concentrating in class or at work due to smartphone use; feeling fretful or impatient without their smartphone; missing work due to smartphone use; and experiencing physical consequences of excessive use, such as light-headedness or blurred vision.

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The researchers found that one in five (20%) of respondents reported problematic smartphone use.

Problematic smartphone use was greater among female rather than male students – 64% of problem users were female. Importantly, the researchers found a link between problematic smartphone use and lower grade point averages (academic achievement).

Smartphones can help connect people and help people feel less isolated, and the findings suggest that they may act as an avenue for sexual contact, whether through sustained partnerships or more casual sex.
Photo by Neil Soni from Unsplash.com

“Although the effect of problematic smartphone use on grade point averages was relatively small, it’s worth noting that even a small negative impact could have a profound effect on an individual’s academic achievement and then on their employment opportunities in later life,” said Professor Jon Grant from the Department of Psychiatry & Behavioral Neuroscience at the University of Chicago.

While students reporting problematic smartphone use tended be less sexually active than their peers (70.9% compared to 74%), the proportion of students reporting two or more sexual partners in the past 12 months was significantly higher among problem users: 37.4% of sexually-active problematic smartphone users compared with 27.2% sexually-active students who reported no problem use. The proportion with six or more sexual partners was more than double among sexually-active problematic smartphone users (6.8% compared to 3.0%).

“Smartphones can help connect people and help people feel less isolated, and our findings suggest that they may act as an avenue for sexual contact, whether through sustained partnerships or more casual sex,” added Dr Sam Chamberlain, Wellcome Trust Clinical Fellow and Honorary Consultant Psychiatrist from the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Cambridge and the Cambridge & Peterborough NHS Foundation Trust.

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The researchers found that alcohol misuse was significantly higher in those with problematic smartphone use compared to the control group. To assess this, the team used a scale known as the Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test: a score of eight or above indicates harmful alcohol use. 33.3% of problematic smartphone users scored eight or above compared to 22.5% of other smartphone users. The researchers found no significant link with any other form of substance abuse or addiction.

In terms of other mental health problems, the researchers found that problematic smartphone use was significantly associated with lower self-esteem, ADHD, depression, anxiety, and PTSD, mirroring similar findings elsewhere.

“It’s easy to think of problematic smartphone use as an addiction, but if it was that simple, we would expect it to be associated with a wide range of substance misuse problems, especially in such a large sample, but this does not seem to be the case,” added Dr Sam Chamberlain.

“One possible explanation for these results is that people develop excessive smartphone use because of other mental health difficulties. For example, people who are socially isolated, those who experience depression or anxiety, or those who have attention problems (as in ADHD) may be more prone to excessive smartphone use, as well as to using alcohol. Smartphone use likely develops earlier in life – on average – than alcohol use problems and so it is unlikely that alcohol use itself leads to smartphone use.”

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While the sample size for this study was relative large, suggesting that the findings should be fairly robust, the researchers point out that as a cross-sectional study (one that takes a ‘snapshot’ at one particular time, rather than following people over a longer period), and so direction of causality cannot be established. In other words, the study cannot say that problematic smartphone use leads to mental health issues or vice versa.

The researchers point out the effect sizes were also generally small, and that more research is needed into positive and negative effects of smartphone use and mental health, including how this changes over time.

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Implementing rules and regulations of new HIV Law signed

The new law provides for the lowering of age of consent from 18 to 15 years old. This law also ensures the development of program for treatment, care and support for persons confined in closed-setting institutions. It likewise provides stiffer penalties for breaching confidentiality with regards to ones’ HIV status.

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The Implementing rules and regulations (IRR) of Republic Act 11166, otherwise known as the Philippine HIV and AIDS Policy Act, which eyes to address the growing HIV epidemic in the country, has been signed. The new law repealed RA 8504.

“We are confident that the new law will forge a stronger alliance among government, private sector, civil society organizations, faith-based organizations, media and all stakeholders in order for us to overcome the HIV epidemic,” Health Secretary Francisco T. Duque III said.

It should be noted that in 2008, an average of one infection per day was recorded. This has now ballooned to 36 new infections per day as of April 2019.

“We should act now as fast as we can since 29% (240/840) of all new confirmed HIV cases last April 2019 affect our youth aged 15-24 years old,” Duque said.

In order to address the worsening situation, the new law provides for the lowering of age of consent from 18 to 15 years old. The law specifically provides for intervention through the matured minor doctrine and the provision of proxy consent for children below 15 years old.

The education component of the program was also strengthened by mandating learning institutions to focus not only on the right information on HIV and AIDS but also in human rights principles to reduce stigma and discrimination. HIV education will also cover Indigenous Peoples (IP) communities and communities in the geographically isolated and disadvantaged areas (GIDA).

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A “Comprehensive Intervention” shall be provided to the key affected population which includes males having sex with males (MSM), sex workers, people who inject drugs (PWID), transgender people, and overseas Filipino workers (OFW). The law also provides care and support to all people living with HIV (PLHIV), their affected families and especially the orphaned children.

This law also ensures the development of program for treatment, care and support for persons confined in jails, rehabilitation centers and other closed-setting institutions. It likewise provides stiffer penalties for breaching confidentiality with regards to ones’ HIV status, and much higher liability for those who have access to this information.

No PLHIV shall be denied or deprived of private health insurance under a Health Maintenance Organization (HMO) and private life insurance coverage under a life insurance company on the basis of a person’s HIV status.

“The active involvement of all HIV and AIDS stakeholders will be the key element for the success in the implementation of this new law in achieving the overall health of the PLHIV Communities. This law ensures the effective implementation of our country response to HIV and AIDS through the Philippine National AIDS Council,” Duque concluded.

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Teens ‘mocked’ by their parents are at greater risk for bullying, victimization

Derisive parenting fosters dysregulated anger in adolescent children. Dysregulated anger is indicative of difficulties regulating emotion, which typically result in negative emotions, verbal and physical aggression, and hostility. Increases in dysregulated anger, in turn, place adolescents at greater risk for bullying and victimization, and for becoming bully-victims .

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New evidence suggests that adolescent bullying and victimization may have origins in the home. Many bullies have parents who are hostile, punitive and rejecting. Researchers from Florida Atlantic University’s Charles E. Schmidt College of Science, Concordia University in Montreal, Canada, and Uppsala University in Sweden, have identified another type of parenting that contributes to peer difficulties: those who direct derision and contempt at their children.

Derisive parents use demeaning or belittling expressions that humiliate and frustrate the child, without any obvious provocation from the child. These parents respond to child engagement with criticism, sarcasm, put-downs and hostility, and rely on emotional and physical coercion to obtain compliance.

The study, published in the Journal of Youth and Adolescence, emphasizes the emotional underpinnings of peer difficulties. The researchers followed 1,409 children for three consecutive years from grades 7 to 9 (ages 13-15 years).

Findings show that derisive parenting fosters dysregulated anger in adolescent children. Dysregulated anger is indicative of difficulties regulating emotion, which typically result in negative emotions, verbal and physical aggression, and hostility. Increases in dysregulated anger, in turn, place adolescents at greater risk for bullying and victimization, and for becoming bully-victims (bullies who also are victimized by other bullies).

The latter finding is noteworthy given that past research indicates that bully-victims are at the greatest risk for poor mental health, behavioral difficulties, and suicidal thoughts when compared to “pure” victims, “pure” bullies, or non-victims. Identification of the family-specific origins of bully-victim status may be a key step in limiting or preventing such poor outcomes.

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Importantly, these findings held after controlling for parenting behaviors implicated in child adjustment, such as warmth, control and physical punishment. This study suggests that derisive behavior is a unique form of parenting that increases the risks that adolescent children will adopt inappropriate anger management strategies that increases their risk for peer difficulties.

“Inappropriate interpersonal responses appear to spread from parents to children, where they spawn peer difficulties. Specifically, derisive parenting precipitates a cycle of negative affect and anger between parents and adolescents, which ultimately leads to greater adolescent bullying and victimization,” said Brett Laursen, Ph.D., co-author and a professor of psychology in FAU’s Charles E. Schmidt College of Science. “Our study is important because it provides a more complete understanding of how parents’ belittling and critical interactions with adolescents thwart their ability to maintain positive relationships with peers.”

Daniel J. Dickson, Ph.D., Department of Psychology at Concordia University, is the senior author of the study.

“Implications from our study are far-reaching: practitioners and parents should be informed of the potential long-term costs of sometimes seemingly harmless parenting behaviors such as belittlement and sarcasm,” said Dickson. “Parents must be reminded of their influence on adolescents’ emotions and should take steps to ensure that adolescents do not feel ridiculed at home.”

Co-authors are Olivia Valdes, a Ph.D. student in FAU’s Charles E. Schmidt College of Science, and Håkan Stattin, Ph.D, Department of Psychology at Uppsala University.

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Loneliness heightened among gay men in certain age group

Research shows men in 25-29 age group are eight times more likely to feel criticized and rejected than younger men.

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Gay men aged 25-29 are eight times more likely to feel criticized and rejected compared with men aged 20 or younger, new University of Hawaii at Manoa research shows.

The reason may be that 25- to 29-year-olds tend to be out of college and in the workforce, where they may face overwhelming social discrimination, according to a study co-authored by Assistant Professor Thomas Lee in the Office of Public Health Studies at the Myron B. Thompson School of Social Work.

The study, published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, is part of a recent effort among public health researchers to develop a better understanding of the mental health of the LGBTQ community.

Lee and colleagues administered questionnaires to 367 gay men in China. Some of the surveys were conducted face-to-face, but the majority were administered online. More specifically, the link to the survey was shared with live-chat applications specifically designed for gay men in China.

The men answered questions that allowed the researchers to measure feelings of loneliness and whether the study subjects were experiencing depression, anxiety or other psychological problems.

Several of the questions were aimed at measuring the men’s degree of “interpersonal sensitivity,” defined as a person’s propensity to perceive and elicit criticism and rejection from others. People who are high in interpersonal sensitivity may have difficulty in communicating with others and are susceptible to depression and anxiety.

The findings showed that gay men who had no siblings or college degree and who earned less money than average were more likely have a high degree of interpersonal sensitivity and loneliness. Also, those who had experienced more sexual partners during their lifetimes showed lower measures of interpersonal sensitivity and loneliness.

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“There is great pressure from society and family that may be imposed on (Chinese) gay men,” said Lee. “We found that these men feel criticized and rejected, and that these feelings are linked with loneliness.”

There was no link between disclosing one’s sexual identity to others and men’s degree of interpersonal sensitivity, however, men who had disclosed their sexual identity to others felt less lonely.

“Traditional… culture puts a strong emphasis on family inheritance and reproduction,” said Lee. “Our results suggest that we need to be more aware of… gay men’s mental health and that everyone, especially family members, should offer more support to… gay men and work to create a social environment that is more open and inclusive.”

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Virtual worlds can help social movements raise awareness and create safe spaces – study

Going forward, social movements may make use of other emerging technologies, such as virtual or augmented reality. Insights from this study could provide the analytical tools necessary to understand how different technologies impact LGBT and other movements.

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Online virtual worlds can help social movements raise awareness and create safe spaces for their members, according to a new study by an academic at the University of East Anglia (UEA).

The research examined how an LGBT group used a virtual world for their own cause, which was different to its intended design. These worlds are immersive, three-dimensional environments, where users create an avatar, or character, that enables them to interact with other users.

The study, by Dr Brad McKenna of UEA’s Norwich Business School, focused on the game World of Warcraft (WoW) and analyzed data from an LGBT ‘guild’ within it. It looked at how its members used the technology compared to ordinary game play.

The guild, known as ‘Alpha’ for the purposes of the study, was created to “better service the LGBT community and offer a safe, inclusive place to game for members of any sexual orientation or gender identity”. The group was the largest special interest guild in WoW, with up to 7800 members during the course of the study. There were approximately 15,000 characters in the guild, as it was possible for one player to have multiple characters.

The group held regular activities inside the game, including an annual Pride parade, model competitions and dance parties. The movement also had a website with discussion forums.

The findings, published in Information Systems Journal, show how members used the game’s features and virtual environment for their specific needs and objectives. For example, in ordinary game play, players have spells they can use in battle against others. However, the members used these as lighting effects to create an atmosphere during the parade and dance party.

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They also show how the group navigated changes made to the game by the developers. On one occasion, the parade route had to move when the virtual landscape it previously went through changed after an update. 

Another change involved introducing a cap on the size of guilds because the developers found that large ones did not function well in the system. This saw the group having to come up with creative ways to continue their existence without losing members.

To conduct his research Dr McKenna joined the LGBT guild, with permission from its leaders, and participated in their movement over a period of 18 months. He created an avatar, which became his identity when in WoW.

“This study provides some practical examples of how virtual worlds can act as a safe haven for social movements or to create awareness, for example about for LGBT issues, within a broader gaming community,” said Dr McKenna, a lecturer in information systems. “Many group members came from countries that do not support LGBT rights, so this was a safe space for them.

“By understanding the affordances, or possible actions, available to them groups can shape how the world works for them and think of more creative uses of the technology and features, using them in a much different way, without involvement from the game’s developers.

“This paper also raises some important issues for virtual world social movements. If a movement wants to use these worlds to advance their cause, their leaders and members need to be aware of what the virtual world can offer them and how they could use that to their advantage, or be aware of actions which could potentially be a hindrance to their cause.

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“Social movements also need to be aware of the type of virtual world they might use, for example a social virtual world, or a gaming virtual world, as depending on the type, different limitations or affordances might impact the movement.”

Other social movements have previously used WoW, for example to raise awareness for breast cancer, for political rallies and environmental protests. Dr McKenna said the findings may have implications for other users of virtual worlds and businesses.

“Different online communities could use these ideas, look at how the technology can be shaped for their causes. For organisations which operate within virtual worlds, these findings begin to shed light on the issues faced, and suggests that they need to be willing to evolve if they want to continue operating in these environments, which may constantly be changing.

“Going forward, social movements may make use of other emerging technologies, such as virtual or augmented reality. Insights from this study could provide the analytical tools necessary to understand how different technologies impact LGBT and other movements.”

The main sources of data in the study were participant observations, discussion forum data (128,773 posts downloaded), and chat logs. Additional sources included documents from the LGBT movement’s website, other WoW websites, patch notes about changes to the game’s implementation, and informal conversations with other WoW players.

‘Creating Convivial Affordances: a Study of Virtual World Social Movements’, Brad Mckenna, is published in Information Systems Journal.

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