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Sexual Health: Intersections in politics and society

ucyow3c18 November 2014

pencil-icon Written by Michael Espinoza, PhD candidate, UCL Institute of the Americas

HIV virology testing form“By then, it was too late to hate him [for being gay].” – a self-described ‘former gay-basher’ reveals how he unknowingly befriended a gay man.

This testimonial, part of a research project by Dr Richard Mole (UCL School of Slavonic Studies and Eastern European Studies), shows how a lack of human understanding can dictate how people relate to others whom they perceive as ‘different’. The difference in this instance involved sexuality and its relation to sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

The first presenter was Professor Jonathan Bell (UCL Institute of the Americas), whose paper was titled The Economic Closet: healthcare, sexuality, and the politics of respectability during the AIDS crisis.

Professor Bell discussed how healthcare politics in the 1980s saw gay rights leaders face two difficulties – one was the struggle against private health insurance companies and the other was the attempt to “adapt the socially-regressive and gendered New Deal safety net to their needs”.

Not only did they have to accept that HIV positive gay men “had to be classified as disabled and unable to work to be entitled to welfare”, they also had to fight against profit-driven private health insurance companies who sought to portray HIV positive gay men as unproductive citizens who have “sexually promiscuous lifestyles” in order to deny their claims.

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Genomics and Medicine, with Aroon Hingorani

James M Heather19 March 2013

DNA double helix (courtesy of the National Human
Genome Research Institute via
Wikimedia Commons)

In recognition of February’s status as National Heart Month, Professor Aroon Hingorani recently took to the stage for a Lunch Hour Lecture about the opportunities and challenges associated with using genomics to improve personal and public health.

Genomics is the study of genomes – all of the DNA contained in the cell of an organism.

The ability to read, or ‘sequence’, DNA has been improving exponentially over the last few decades and we can sequence far more DNA than ever before, in less time and at a lower cost.

One of the most significant recent developments in this field was the completion of the Human Genome Project in 2003. This ambitious undertaking provided scientists everywhere with a blueprint of what our genomes look like.

By comparing DNA test results to this template researchers can identify the differences that might cause disease.

However, things are rarely that simple in medicine.

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