The Campaign Against Female Genital Mutilation (CAGeM) invites you to attend a conference on Saturday June 16, 2012 from 9am-6pm, at the New York Academy of Medicine (1216 Fifth Avenue).

FGM is an unacceptable non-medical practice that serves to preserve a female’s innocence or purity by altering the biological exterior of her genitals.  There are an estimated 100 to 160 million girls and women worldwide currently living with the consequences of the painful and traumatic procedure, and it is practiced approximately every 16 seconds.

In CAGeM’s full commitment towards stopping the clock and eradicating the practice of FGM globally, the conference on the 16th of June serves to inform the public of this atrocious procedure by providing various perspectives on the impact of FGM. Nana Sylla, a high school senior, is the driving force behind the conference, showcasing CAGeM’s mission of linking grassroots activism to inform the community about FGM. Speakers at the event will include human rights experts, physicians, legal professionals, religious scholars, and victims themselves. The conference aims to form a dialogue between communities and panelists in order to make the efforts toward eradicating this inhumanity a priority. Aside from panel discussions, there will also be a live Off-Broadway performance on FGM, with the use of theatrical pieces and films to inform viewers.

While, the largest proportion of girls and women who have undergone FGM are in Africa, we should not neglect the practices right here at home. Although the United States outlawed FGM in 1997, migrant communities continue to practice, with the second largest population in New York state. Survivors have provided testimonies of the practice occurring in the back of a barbershop in New York City, a least suspecting location. The conference’s setting in New York City on the 16th is an attempt to raise awareness and begin a dialogue to eliminate all FGM procedures. A 2010 proposal to the Supreme Court to outlaw transportation out of the country momentarily in order to have the practice done abroad is currently pending. This means that while it is illegal to practice it in this country, it is legal to take an American-born girl overseas for the procedure.

Most recently, FGM has been in the news regarding the launching of an anti-FGM campaign in the United Kingdom. An estimated 500 girls are taken out of the UK each year to get the procedure done elsewhere, and 2,000 girls in Bristol are thought to be at risk. In Kenya, laws banning FGM are failing to protect women, even though it is punishable by imprisonment and a fine.

It is important to restate that the practice is not medical in nature and therefore carries no medical benefits. Children born to mothers who have undergone the practice suffer high rates of neonatal death than compared to women who had not undergone the practice. Women themselves may have recurrent bladder infections, cysts, infertility, painful urination from the wound, and septicaemia (sepsis, a blood infection). Some may even die shortly after the procedure from hemorrhaging, sepsis, and shock. The procedure does not use anesthesia. Tools are used on more than one girl, therefore increasing the risk of  the transmission of HIV.

The practice of FGM is a gross violation and an infringement of human rights, including the lack of informed consent of the child or young adolescent, the right to be free from gender discrimination, the right to life and physical integrity, the right to health, and the right to be free from torture.

Come out to the conference on June 16, 2012 from 9am-6pm, at the New York Academy of Medicine (1216 Fifth Avenue). Listen to the voices of survivors, and together let us become the voice that speaks for those who cannot. Help us make sure that our message is not falling on deaf ears.

Register here.


I am participating in a summer public health research internship and was required to take this training about ‘human subject protection’ in research before I begin my work.

We’ve spoken a lot throughout the class about ethics and human rights in research studies and I thought this could be interesting for anyone who wants to read what the actual protocols for ethics in human research studies are. It largely discusses informed consent, rights of children, prisoners, and other vulnerable populations, and a lot of other topics that came up this semester in Global Access to Medicine.

Anyone who wants to complete the training or just review some of the information it provides can sign up on

.    –Click on the Register Button
.    –Complete the Registration form with your email and personal information.  Institutional affiliation should be either college/university or medical school depending upon your primary current institution.  The state entered should be the state where your current (or immediate past) academic institution is located.  Click Create Account button when finished and you can begin the training.

Acupuncture in America

Something that we’ve spoken about very much over this semester was what actually falls under the umbrella of “access to medicine”.  We’ve spoken about big pharmaceutical companies and TRIPS and about the unfair pricing of medicine, but this article brings up how valuable alternative treatment methods could be in fighting illness.  I do believe that in some instances you do need a “Western” approach to fighting an illness; it’s been proven over and over that antibiotics are an effect way to kill certain kinds of pathogenic bacteria that cause us to get sick.  But there is a grey area of medicine (especially in the realm of pain management) that has room for a more open interpretation.  Especially going into the field of health of physical therapy, I am very open to the idea of treatment that looks at the body as a whole instead of just the immediate problem.  As a PT, many times someone might have pain in their feet from say, plantar fasciitis, which is inflammation of the connective tissue on the bottom of someone’s feet.  Although you must treat that immediate pain, a good PT will also explore what else is going on in your body to produce such pain; hip weakness or sometimes tight calves could be the culprit.  The point is, in the long run what will alleviate this person’s pain?  Homeopathic medicine often does this as well; how can the body be improved beyond what its condition was prior to the illness being treated.  Many times alternative medicine comes under fire as being “voodoo” because there are no FDA regulations and because, well, honestly people are just very skeptical of home remedies and something that isn’t made in a lab.  But the truth of the matter is that more and more people are realizing their health is a reflection of their body’s imbalances, and often you don’t need very much to push yourself back into alignment.  One of the bigger picture problems that is on the horizon is because of the skeptics, many times insurance companies will refuse to pay for homeopathic treatment (such as acupuncture), so people are very often left to pay out of pocket.  Isn’t it my right to be able to chose my own treatment?

Two of the women with HIV featured in the fashion show put on by Doctors Without Borders in the DRC.

This past March, Doctors Without Borders, in association with Médecins du Monde and the Réseau National Des Organisations d’Assise Communautaires des PVV, put on a fashion show in the Democratic Republic of Congo where a dozen DRC women living with HIV/AIDS were used as the models. All twelve women donned fashions that reflected the colors that were symbolic of the HIV/AIDS movement. Local fashion designers who were part of the organization, Amicale des Stylistes de Kinshasa (which was also a partner in the event) created the clothing that was worn by the women.

Although Doctors Without Borders’ intentions were notable: “…to fight discrimination against people living with HIV, to alert the public to the tragic lack of access to treatment in the country, and to show what is possible when treatment is made available” (DRC: A Fashion Show Featuring Women Living With HIV), there still exists an estimated 300,000 individuals in the DRC who will only have a life expectancy of three years (DRC: A Fashion Show Featuring Women Living With HIV). And the primary reason why many of these individuals are faced with this short life expectancy is because of their inability to pay for the badly needed antiretroviral drugs (ARV), as well as other vital medications and health screenings needed to enhance their life expectancies.

The reality is HIV/AIDS is not a glamorous disease. It is filled with feelings of embarrassment, misery, and mortality. And by putting on a fashion, Doctor’s Without Borders is blinding society from the harsh reality of living with HIV/AIDS. In fact, Doctor’s Without Borders is violating Article 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which states: “Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care…” How so? Because Doctor’s Without Borders was not actually assisting the models with funding or supplying their medication; or even other DRC citizens living with HIV/AIDS.

Rather than put on a fashion show, I believe that Doctors Without Borders should have organized a fundraising event where other humanitarian relief organizations could donate money towards supplying the citizens of the DRC with condoms and ARVs. In addition, Doctors Without Borders could have devised a plan that would have raised awareness to the citizens of the DRC on how to prevent HIV/AIDS; like the proper method of using condoms, proper use and disposal of needles in hospital settings, and how to actually take care of oneself in the event that one contracts the disease.

Throughout this semester we have discussed many issues pertaining to access to medicine. Most of our discussions have centered on the removal of negative restrictions that limit an individual or groups access to necessary medications.

New York State implemented an assisted outpatient treatment, involuntary treatment, law after two people were assaulted in the subway system by untreated men. The law is known as Kendra’s Law, named after one of the victims. DJ Jaffe writes for

Studies over 10 years have shown Kendra’s Law helps the seriously mentally ill by reducing homelessness (74%); suicide attempts (55%) and substance abuse (48%); keeps the public safer by reducing physical harm to others (47%) and property destruction (43%); and saves money by reducing hospitalization (77%); arrests (83%) and incarceration (87%). Surprisingly, 81 percent of those ordered into treatment said AOT helped them get and stay well.

Forced medication seems to benefit the individuals who receive the treatment. Does the fact that these people do not seek the initial treatment themselves constitute a violation of their rights? Or is forced treatment a mechanism that seeks to protect the human rights of the greater portion of society? Jaffee argues that the New York State Office of Mental Health does not go far enough, and does not extend treatment to a large enough population. I am not sure how I feel about this. Jaffe is founder of Mental Illness Policy Org, a pro-treatment organization. The organizations overwhelming website has vast amounts of information in support of forced medication.  

Implied within Jaffe’s argument is mental health patients are a violent threat to society, and therefore should be forced to take medication. I do acknowledge that there have been violent acts committed by patient who may have been well served by medication, but these acts represent a minority of cases.

This week South Korea is chemically castrating a repeat sex offended. This is the first time the judiciary of the nation is implementing this punishment after its allowance by a 2010 law. The offender is pending release from prison, conditional upon regular injections to decrease his level of testosterone. The injections deal with his deviance on a hormonal level, though they do not serve to socially rehabilitate his condition. 

In discussing the rights of the patient who receive involuntary treatment- Is it possible that these procedures are a violation of individual civil rights, while concurrently serving to protect the human rights of a larger society?

A trial for an HIV vaccine had to be stopped before the trail could be completed because the vaccine was doing the complete opposite of what it was supposed to do. A number of 1,836 were followed and 172 of them contracted the virus.  It was found to be making some men MORE LIKELY to get HIV.  Men that were uncircumcised and received the vaccine were more vulnerable to acquiring the virus after getting the vaccine even when not participating in risky behaviors.  This higher susceptibility however, lessen after 18 months.

Why is it that when researchers realized that the vaccine was not protecting anyone from getting HIV and when they had suspicions hat it was making some men more susceptible to HIV that this faulty vaccine being administered?  Did this pharmaceutical company figure that their profits would be worth more than the lives of these men that were put in danger?

This is an example of a human rights violation because Merck, the pharmaceutical company, should have been a guardian of health and stopped administering this vaccine once they had suspicions that the drug was failing men.

Often we don’t think about how policy outside of healthcare can have major impacts on our health. This becomes a question of rights to an environment in which one can live a healthy lifestyle, rather than the rights to healthcare access. We don’t always realize how environmental factors that are often determined through politics and policy can either fail to address or create the health issues that then need to be addressed through healthcare. These policies have a broad scope from FDA approval of chemicals and ingredients used in medicines and food, to amounts of fumes and pollutants allowed, to school lunches, and much, much more. However, for the moment I would like to focus on the policies surrounding drinking water quality, especially in the New York region.
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