Monday, May 30, 2011

India Brings the World a Better Vasectomy

(Anatomy of a Testicle - The Vas Deferens is where the RISUG injection is made)
The Better Vasectomy currently goes by the ungainly acronym RISUG  (for reversible inhibition of sperm under guidance) and it is the elegantly simple and effective brainchild of  "a maverick Indian scientist named Sujoy Guha, who has spent more than 30 years refining the idea while battling bureaucrats in his own country and skeptics worldwide. He has prevailed because, in study after study, RISUG has been proven to work 100 percent of the time. Among the hundreds of men who have been successfully injected with the compound so far in clinical trials, there has not been a single failure or serious adverse reaction. The procedure is now in late Phase III clinical trials in India, which means approval in that country could come in as little as two years."

What is RISUG?  Where the current vasectomy involves cutting the vas deferens (the tiny tubes that carry sperm made in the testicles to the penis, where they are mixed with nutritive prostate fluids to form semen), Guha's RISUG technique pulls out a section of the vas deferens and injects a nontoxic polymer, which coats the interior of the tube and, amazingly, chemically incapacitate the sperm that flow past, making them incapable of fertilizing an egg.

How do I get a RISUG vasectomy? In India, where RISUG was invented, it's on a fast track to wide availablility.  There's no reason you can't go to India and get one just like you can go to any other country and have a medical procedure.

Because RISUG was invented out of the mainstream worldwide pharma/medical device development system, there are obstacles to RISUG's availability in the rest of the world due to a combination of skepticism and, frankly, the inability of the big, important world to deal with something that came out of, to their way of looking at it, nowhere.  Wired Magazine explains:
As a contraceptive, RISUG faces a far more difficult road to approval and commercial acceptance than, say, a new antidepressant medication. While an antidepressant would be considered a success if it worked in 75 percent of patients, a contraceptive like RISUG will be compared to a conventional vasectomy, which works more than 99 percent of the time. Furthermore, it has to be free from the serious side effects that were common with early experimental hormone-based male contraceptives. And it cannot cause birth defects down the line—ever. “Nobody wants another thalidomide,” says Ron Weiss, the Canadian vasectomy doctor.

In human tests, RISUG performed extremely well. In the first clinical trial of 17 men, published in 1993, all the subjects who received above a certain dosage became azoospermic—that is, they produced no viable sperm. By 2000, it was in Phase III clinical trials in India, the final stage before approval. The compound was injected into 139 men, and the early results looked promising. In May 2002, it was announced that RISUG was on track for approval in India and would be rolled out on a limited basis within six months.

At around the same time, a World Health Organization team came to visit Guha’s lab in Delhi and examine his data. This itself was a triumph: It meant RISUG was finally on the international radar. Weiss, a long-time advocate of the process, was with the group and performed the operation. But the five-person team came away skeptical.
In its report, the WHO team agreed that the concept of RISUG was intriguing. But they found fault with the homegrown production methods: Guha and his staff made the concoction themselves in his lab, and the WHO delegation found his facilities wanting by modern pharmaceutical manufacturing standards. Furthermore, they found that Guha’s studies did not meet “international regulatory requirements” for new drug approval—certain data was missing. The final recommendation: WHO should pass on RISUG."
Fortunately, that's not the end of the story.  A woman activist in the US, fed up with the lack of options for birth control from the male side, has taken up RISUG's cause and in 2010 the Gates Foundation awarded Guha $100,000 - and some much needed recognition - to bring cheap, nontoxic, one-time, 100% effective male birth control to a very needy world.

MORE:  Read all about Guha, see a video of the RISUG procedure, and learn more about the current efforts to bring RISUG to market outside of India at Wired Magazine.

Friday, May 27, 2011

"Right to Life" T-Shirt - Shades of Blue and Gray

"Right to Life" shouldn't be limited to the unborn.  Expand your life-affirming stand to include women, who suffer and die unnecessarily around the world from intimate partner violence, lack of access to healthcare, good food and clean water.  Pick your t-shirt style and color. Made especially for you.

The story behind the shirt:  I've been an artist and feminist for a long time now, and there is something painfully useless about making images that spring from my passion about women, their lives and their needs, that might find their way onto somebody's wall at home, or maybe make a good greeting card.  Transforming some of my work into t-shirt graphics gives me a louder voice, and allows my voice to join with your voice when you wear it.  Maybe working together we can make a dent in the woman-ignoring world out there.  That's my hope and that's the story of this t-shirt :)

When you've fried your brain looking at t-shirt styles and colors, drop by Lyn Southworth Words and Pictures to see more of the dark, woman-centered products of my passion for making women matter.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

"Right to Life" T-Shirt - Dusty Pink Version

Expand your life-affirming stand to include women, who suffer and die unnecessarily around the world from intimate partner violence, lack of access to healthcare, good food and clean water.  Pick your t-shirt style and color.  Made especially for you.

Take a moment to drop by Lyn Southworth Words and Images, home for all this woman-centered, dark, ironic stuff to see what else is going on.

(Additional colorways available soon.)  

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

What Happened to Lara Logan - In Her Own Words

UPDATE:  Since the post below, Lara Logan appeared, after recovering privately with her family, on the CBS news show "60 Minutes" for an extended interview, explaining in detail exactly what happened to her in Tahrir Square.

Her interview was an extremely important moment in the long history of harassment and assault of women everywhere, in any conceivable circumstance.  She has the privilege of breaking the silence.

By reading the transcript of her interview you will no doubt remember experiences you have had as a woman and probably said nothing about.  Lara's voice can show the rest of us that speaking up is possible, and we need to do it to move the world closer to a place where women are safe in public.  I don't know of any place that has achieved that goal yet.

PREVIOUS POST:  Experienced CBS journalist Lara Logan made news herself recently when she was grabbed out of Tahrir Square, where she was reporting with her team on the political protests for Egyptian President Mubarak's removal, by a bunch of "youths" who ripped her clothes off, beat her, and attempted to rape her.  The reason the picture at left is the one you might have seen associated with this story is that the attack occurred moments after the picture was taken.

CBS issued a statement at the time, but WNL has been waiting to hear from Lara herself.  In this article for South African news service IOL, she tells not only the whole story of what what happened, but also describes a previous incident when she and the crew were detained by Egyptian militia.

IOL reporter Liz Clarke includes a bio of Lara, who is from South Africa, with examples of her persistence in being at the scene of world events, taking danger in stride.  She concludes by making the point that this attack isn't about Lara in particular, her blondness, or whether or not she should have been there - obviously she has the chops - but about the threats against journalists who try to get the news of revolution out to the world.
This week, the US Committee to Protect Journalists told the UN that attacks on press personnel had “reached alarming levels” and that leading international bodies - including the UN - had failed to consistently come to their defence.
“With the example of Egypt fresh in our minds, it is a pivotal moment to focus public attention on the importance of press freedom,” said Paul Steiger, chairman of the group. - Sunday Argus
WNL comments:  While I appreciate Liz Clarke's point that journalists in general are in danger, Sabrina Tavernise and Kim Barker, both writing pieces for The New York Times, have more to say about what is involved in what Sabrina calls "reporting while female".

Lara Logan's officially noticed assault stimulates her to explain "women reporters face another set of challenges. We are often harassed in ways that male colleagues are not. This is a hazard of the job that most of us have experienced and few of us talk about."  She recounts a page-full of close calls we would never have known about if the subject hadn't come up because of Lara's experience.

Kim Barker makes some very important points for those of us who watch the news under the headline "Why We Need Women in War Zones".  After recounting some of her own experiences, Kim says
...The Committee to Protect Journalists may be able to say that 44 journalists from around the world were killed last year because of their work, but the group doesn’t keep data on sexual assault and rape. Most journalists just don’t report it.
The CBS correspondent Lara Logan has broken that code of silence. She has covered some of the most dangerous stories in the world, and done a lot of brave things in her career. But her decision to go public earlier this week with her attack by a mob in Tahrir Square in Cairo was by far the bravest. Hospitalized for days, she is still recuperating from the attack, described by CBS as a brutal and sustained sexual assault and beating.
Several commentators have suggested that Ms. Logan was somehow at fault: because she’s pretty; because she decided to go into the crowd; because she’s a war junkie. This wasn’t her fault. It was the mob’s fault. This attack also had nothing to do with Islam. Sexual violence has always been a tool of war. Female reporters sometimes are just convenient.
In the coming weeks, I fear that the conclusions drawn from Ms. Logan’s experience will be less reactionary but somehow darker, that there will be suggestions that female correspondents should not be sent into dangerous situations. It’s possible that bosses will make unconscious decisions to send men instead, just in case. Sure, men can be victims, too — on Wednesday a mob beat up a male ABC reporter in Bahrain, and a few male journalists have told of being sodomized by captors — but the publicity around Ms. Logan’s attack could make editors think, “Why take the risk?” That would be the wrong lesson. Women can cover the fighting just as well as men, depending on their courage.
More important, they also do a pretty good job of covering what it’s like to live in a war, not just die in one. Without female correspondents in war zones, the experiences of women there may be only a rumor.
Look at the articles about women who set themselves on fire in Afghanistan to protest their arranged marriages, or about girls being maimed by fundamentalists, about child marriage in India, about rape in Congo and Haiti. Female journalists often tell those stories in the most compelling ways, because abused women are sometimes more comfortable talking to them. And those stories are at least as important as accounts of battles.

Monday, May 2, 2011

"Hazard" T-Shirt

"The Hazard" is now available as a dramatic inky black t-shirt graphic.  Get yours here.
When you've picked out your t-shirt style and color, drop by Lyn Southworth Words and Pictures to see all the dark, woman-centered goodies.