Health and Wellness

Sexuality and Spirituality: Using art and contraceptives to teach sexual health


SAS_ART-H poster


(Quezon City, Philippines—September 22, 2011) Sex and Sensibilities (SAS), in partnership with DKT Reproductive Health (Frenzy Condoms and Filipinay), will be holding a mandala art making contest using contraceptives on September 26-28 at theUniversity of the Philippines-Diliman. A cash prize of up to P15,000 is at stake for groups with a winning mandala design.

The word “mandala” is Sanskrit for both “circle” and “center.” Mandalas are a good way to communicate sexual health, because mandalas are seen as a model for the organizational structure of life itself. Mandalas are also reflections of the spiritual self because they offer a unique and powerful way to self-discovery and healing through the use of imagery, symbolism, color and balance.

About 100 UP students are expected to participate in the ART-H contest. On Monday, September 26, registered groups will attend the ART-H primer: a sexual health workshop and mandala art making orientation in Palma Hall. This primer is open to all: contestants, bloggers, journalists, writers, students, RH advocates.

During the contest on Tuesday and Wednesday, the participants will create mandalas using Frenzy condoms and birth control pills to be provided by DKT-Reproductive Health. They are expected to create designs linked to the related key issues: reproductive health, maternal health, women’s sexual health rights, and informed choice.

The mandalas will be evaluated based on a panel of judges and the number of most “Likes” on the Sex and Sensibilities Facebook page. All artworks will also be displayed in front of the office of the College of Social Science and Philosophy Student Council, located at the West Wing of Palma Hall, for a week.

“By using art, students will get to touch, feel, and interact with condoms and birth control pills. We want to create an environment that will allow young people to ask questions about their sexual health and openly discuss sexuality issues. We see this as a concrete step in fostering a healthy and responsible attitude towards sex among young adults,” says Ms. Ana Santos, founder of SAS. “We highly encourage the participants to attend the workshop as a primer to the contest because the story has to be complete–it is not enough that you’ve touched or felt condoms or know about birth control pills. You need to know how to use them properly and responsibly,” she adds.

DKT Reproductive Health, manufacturer of Frenzy condoms and Filipinay line of contraceptive pills, has always been a staunch supporter of SAS in actively promotion positive sexuality and informed choice.

This project is supported by the UP-Diliman based network, RH AGENDA (Reproductive Health and Gender Advocates Movement).

Students must join in groups of 4-10 members, and must indicate time slot for the ART-H primer: 10AM-12PM or 12-2PM. The participants will then be divided in two groups for the contest on Tuesday, September 27, and Wednesday, September 28 from 11:30AM-1PM at the Palma Hall lobby. The group that lands first place will win P15,000, 2nd P12,000, and 3rd P10,000 in cash.

To inquire and/or register, students may email [email protected], or contact +63917-851-0209 or +63917-836-0345 from September 1-22, 2011.

For the complete mechanics and details, please visit and follow @dash_of_sas on Twitter.


Sex and (SAS) is a non-profit website committed to improving the level of understanding of sexual reproductive health rights among Filipinos through the dissemination of accurate, practical and factual information on STI/HIV prevention and population and development in governance. SAS open to all, and is represented in other online media outlets, including popular social media networks Facebook and Twitter.



Sex in Switzerland: How the Swiss do it

SWITZERLAND — On a recent trip to Switzerland, I stayed at a friend’s apartment which was a welcome respite from having to stay in another box of a hotel room.  It also allowed me another benefit:  watching “regular” TV and not being limited to channels that are pre-screened by the hotel.

I was pleasantly shocked by what I saw on TV, almost continuously.
In the middle of the afternoon (maybe even in the morning), there was all this sex and nudity on TV.

And I’m not even talking about the subtle stuff we normally see: the slow music (usually from horn instruments), kissing, exposed neck and shoulders rubbing together and then–before we get too excited–zoom out!  Everything else is left to the imagination.

I think the most daring scenes I ever saw was Miranda revealing one boob to her neighbor and Charlotte showing one boob to an overzealous sailor during Fleet Week, but in Switzerland, they were at it in broad daylight, in the middle of the day, on regular cable TV (not pay per view) going at like bunnies, and in such splendor, and at times, with much bravado.

There was sound–oh, was there sound! There was certainly no absence of grunts, moans and heavy breathing.  There were various positions, some even acrobatic, and to complete the whole caboodle– there was nudity. Yes, boys and girls, only genitalia remained hidden.

May be I shouldn’t have been shocked to see such things in Switzerland. This was after all the sight that greeted me at the bathroom of the Geneva  Airport.

Vending machine for condoms and tampons. One pack costs CHF1, roughly around Php50.

Isn’t that such a kind reminder to have a “safe” trip? : )

In the souvenir shops, there were stuffed vibrators for sale and just about every usual souvenir from cups, mugs to calendars was decorated with explicitly sexy illustrations.

Stuffed vibrators that pledge monogamy: “I vibrate only for you.” And yes, they do actually vibrate.

With sex being so omnipresent, just oh, so casual, I felt compelled to research more on the sexual attitudes and behaviors of the Swiss—the nation that is known for being neutral (Swiss history), precise (Swiss watches) and calculating (Swiss banks).

Here are some interesting discoveries:


In Zurich, where prostitution continues to be a major problem, sex-boxes have been installed by authorities so that sex workers and their clients can do business discretely hidden from the public eye. A statement issued the police read: “We can’t beat or stop prostitution, but can try to control it.”


Hotshot Condoms have been created specifically for 12-14 year old boys.  Hotshot costs about (£4.70 ) for a pack of 6 and were produced after government research showed that more 12-14 years olds were having sex compared with the 90s, but were not using sufficient protection when having sex.The study, conducted on behalf of the Federal Commission for Children and Youth, interviewed 1,480 people aged 10 to 20 and found that the average condoms on sale were often too big for these boys, leaving them and their partners, at risk for unwanted pregnancy or sexually transmitted infection.

Hotshot Condoms are produced by Lamprecht AG, a leading condom manufacturer in Switzerland.

SWITZERLAND IS NAMED ONE OF THE 10 PLACES IN THE WORLD TO HAVE SEX IN 2011 names The Swiss Chocolate Train as one of its “major panty droppers” for this year.  In your chocolate-induced friskiness, you can ahem, ride the Swiss Chocolate Train from the Swiss town of Montreux to Guyeres for just USD22.


They not only have knives, banks and chocolates branded as “Swiss”, they also have lubricant.  Swiss Navy Lubricant boasts of being the Rolls Royce of lubrications with a “more natural touch and feel–like you are not using any lubrication at all.”

It even has a patented leak proof bottle design with single hand pump for easy one-hand application. They’ve thought of just about everything, haven’t they?

Of course, being the SASsy girl that I am, I had to check out the related teen pregnancy rates and incidence of HIV and AIDS.




In Switzerland, age of consentis 16 and mandatory sex education is taught in school starting age 10. There is easy and inexpensive, if not free, access to safer sex information and services for the youth.




Guttmacher Institute published a study in 1993 as part of the Swiss Multicentre Adolescent Survey on Health, 5% of 1,726 sexually active adolescents (15-20 years old) in a group of 3,993 had ever been pregnant. This study confirmed Switzerland as having the lowest adolescent fertility rate in Western Europe.


A 2006 article in the Washington Post, which quotes a Swiss healthcare practitioner reaffirms this.


According to Pierre-Andre Michaud, chief of the Multidisciplinary Unit for Adolescent Health at the University of Lausanne Hospital in Switzerland, “Switzerland has one of the world’s lowest rates of abortion and teen pregnancy.”


The article goes on to say:


A 2001 Guttmacher Institute report, drawing on data from 30 countries in Western and Eastern Europe, concluded: “Societal acceptance of sexual activity among young people, combined with comprehensive and balanced information about sexuality and clear expectations about commitment and prevention childbearing and STDs [sexually transmitted diseases] within teenage relationships, are hallmarks of countries with low levels of adolescent pregnancy, childbearing and STDs.” The study cited Sweden as the “clearest of the case-study countries in viewing sexuality among young people as natural and good.”




According to 2009 data available on Switzerland has a 0.4% adult HIV prevalencerate.  In terms of actual number, this is estimates about 18,000 people living with HIV.Here’s a snapshot of the HIV and AIDS in Switzerland according to the Swiss AIDS Federation:


  • In Switzerland there are currently about 25,000 people living with HIV and Aids
  • From the start of the epidemic to the end of December 2009, more than 9000 cases of Aids have been notified. Nearly 6000 people have died of the consequences of Aids.
  • In 2010, 609 new positive HIV test results were notified. Of these, 25% were women.
  • Approx. 44% of all infections are due to heterosexual contacts


To put this in perspective and to compare it to the Philippines:




HIV Incidence




7.6 million

92 million


Source for HIV incidence in the Philippines: DOH HIV Registry as of June 2011 


In terms of number, Switzerland may have four times more PLHIV, but their population is 10 times less than ours.


This led me to conclude either one of two things. One, may be the Swiss are so open about talking about sex more and therefore have less time to have it. Or two, sex was just made so available, that after awhile, it was like my reaction to seeing yet another couple on top of one another on daytime TV. I simply said, almost exasperated, “Again?!” and just changed the channel to watch something else.


‘How common is thyroid cancer?’

Q: A female friend of mine was diagnosed with papillary cancer of the thyroid last week. She underwent an operation also last week and the doctor said the cancer has not spread yet. How common is thyroid cancer? What is the outlook for thyroid cancer victims?  –Mary S., Manila

A: Thyroid cancer (i.e., cancer that originates from the thyroid gland) is the most common cancer that affects endocrine glands, yet it is rather rare; it accounts for less than one percent of all cancers. The thyroid gland though is a common site of metastases or spread of cancers that originate from other organs of the body such as the skin, the lungs, breast, and esophagus.

Thyroid cancer can occur at any age, but its incidence increases with age. It is three times more common in females than in males. At higher risk for the disease are those who received radiation therapy to the neck (note: in the 1950s radiation was sometimes employed to treat some skin disorders and enlarged thymus glands, adenoids and tonsils); and, those who have a family history of thyroid cancer.

The behavior and natural course of thyroid cancer depends on the type, and there are several. Some types metastasize or spread rapidly while others are relatively benign. Some are rapidly fatal while most are so slow growing that cancer victims “outlive” them.

The different types of thyroid cancer can be classified into either differentiated or undifferentiated. As a rule, differentiated thyroid cancers are slow growing while the undifferentiated ones are highly invasive.

Fortunately, more than 90 percent of thyroid cancers are differentiated. Of these, seven out of 10 are either papillary (the kind your friend has) or mixed papillary-follicular in type. The rest are follicular types.

Read more at Manila Bulletin


First Man cured from HIV, is the End of AIDS near?

American Timothy Ray Brown both had leukemia and Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). In 2007, Brown received a bone marrow transplant from a man, immune to HIV. Then his HIV went away. This stunned scientists. He became known as “The Berlin Man”, and scientists hope he becomes an icon for the end of AIDS.

Scientists reveal that 1 percent of caucasians are immune to HIV. According to Wired, HIV immunity comes from “a pair of mutated genes” in each chromosome that prevent AIDS breaking into a cell.

HIV is a lentivirus that causes acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS).

HIV was discovered 30 years ago. Is it too early to say that HIV is no longer a “death sentence”? In the span of 30 years, tests have been developed that help in early HIV detection. Antiretroviral AIDS drugs are in the market to keep the virus in check for many years. HIV-positive humans can live relatively normal, and full lives.

Now science has set on the target to kill HIV.

The cost for caring for HIV Patients in developing countries is estimated to be at US$13 billion per year.

Will the cure that work for Brown, work for all HIV patients?

That’s that thing, it does not. Exact donors would have to be found for all the victims. Those immune are just a tiny portion of Europeans. Not to mention, the procedure is complex, expensive, and risky.

While the Brown procedure might not work for other HIV patients, it does offer scientist hope that there is a cure for HIV told Reuters, “It’s clearly unrealistic to think that this medically heavy, extremely costly, barely reproducible approach could be replicated and scaled-up … but from a scientist’s point of view, it has shown at least that a cure is possible”.

Medial epidemiologist and head of International AIDS Vaccine Initiative (IAVI) Seth Berkley on the one hand told Reuters this, “From a science point of view, it’s a fabulous thing to do. It’s a great target and a lot of science will be learned. But from a public health point of view, the primary thing you need to do is stop the flow of new infections,” says Berkley. “We need a prevention revolution. That is absolutely critical.”

While there is hope for a cure, it may not be found for awhile. Prevention is still on top of the agenda it would seem.

Photo credit: Some rights reserved by sassy mom

MSG linked to weight gain

The flavor enhancer monosodium glutamate (MSG), most often associated with Chinese food and after-dinner headaches, may also be enhancing waistlines, a new study finds.

Researchers found that people who eat more MSG are more likely to be overweight or obese. And the increased risk wasn’t simply because people were stuffing themselves with MSG-rich foods. The link between high MSG intake and being overweight held even after accounting for the total number of calories people ate.

Ka He, a nutrition expert at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, who led the study, said that although the risk of weight gain attributable to MSG was modest, the implications for public health are substantial. “Everybody eats it,” He told Reuters Health.

MSG is one of the world’s most widely used food additives. Although it tends to be more popular in Asian countries, Americans manage to get their share in processed foods, from chips to canned soups, even when it’s not labeled as such.

Read more at Manila Bulletin


Contraception and Catholicism–Posner

Contraception and Catholicism

by Richard Posner

It is always difficult to decide whether a religious tenet of a hierarchical religion, such as Roman Catholicism, reflects religious belief or institutional strategy. The Roman Catholic Church is a huge “corporation,” one that reached its present size, wealth, and influence in a competitive environment, where it had first to confront paganism and Judaism, and later Protestantism and secularism.

The Church has long been hostile to contraception, but the nature of its hostility has changed, and may be changing yet again with the Pope’s recent acknowledgment that the use of condoms may sometimes be justified as a way of preventing the spread of AIDS. I want to consider the institutional as distinct from doctrinal considerations that might explain the history of orthodox Catholic views of contraception.

In the early years of Christianity, the Church had to steer a middle course between Christian extremists who thought sex a form of purely animal behavior that Christians should eschew, and pagans, who had a notably relaxed attitude toward sex, including masturbation, homosexual and other nonmarital sex, and contraception in the form of coitus interruptus and abortion. Rejecting sex altogether was not a viable policy for an ambitious Church (think where rejection of sex got the Shakers), but accepting the pagan view would have resulted in a failure to differentiate Christianity from paganism, and perhaps reduce Christianity’s appeal to women.

The compromise position that the Church adopted was that sex was proper as long as it was oriented toward its proper function, which, the Church held, was procreation within marriage. But it had to qualify this view to avoid condemning sex by married people who turned out to be sterile, for example because the wife had reached menopause. So the Church allowed that a secondary lawful purpose of sex was to reinforce the marital bond.

Many centuries later the “demographic transition”—the tendency for the birthrate to fall when a nation achieves a certain level of prosperity—placed the Catholic condemnation of contraception under pressure. Married couples wanted to have sex, but didn’t want to have the number of children that an active sex life would produce without contraception. And contraceptive methods improved. Eventually the Church achieved a partial accommodation by authorizing the “rhythm” method of contraception, since that was a form of abstinence and abstinence was consistent with Catholic doctrine—indeed it was enjoined on priests and nuns. But few married couples found it satisfactory.

Greatly improved contraception (notably the pill), improved treatments of venereal diseases, increased privacy, relaxation of parental controls, continued declines in family size, and increased divorce rates (in part a consequence of lower birthrates and women’s greater access to the job market)—all factors that reduced procreative relative to nonprocreative sex (in part by increasing the prevalence of nonmarital sex)—put irresistible pressure on the Catholic prohibition of contraception, to the point where today in the United States and most European nations, even such traditionally strongly Catholic nations as Ireland and Italy, Catholics use contraception at the same rate as non-Catholics.

With the Church unable to resist the sexual revolution, efforts to prevent contraception were seen as likely to have perverse consequences. True, if contraception were unavailable, there would be less promiscuity; but there would be some promiscuity, and probably a good deal, and a higher fraction of sex acts would result in unintended pregnancy, and therefore in an increased number of births to unwed teenagers and an increased number of abortions. The net effect would be unclear, but could well be worse from the standpoint of overall Catholic doctrine.

(read the rest of this post on The Becker-Posner Blog)

Daily Pill Greatly lowers AIDS risk, study finds

Donald McNeil Jr., for the New York Times wrote:

In the study, published Tuesday by the New England Journal of Medicine, researchers found that the men taking Truvada, a common combination of two antiretroviral drugs, were 44 percent less likely to get infected with the virus that causes AIDS than an equal number taking a placebo.

But when only the men whose blood tests showed that they had taken their pill faithfully every day were considered, the pill was more than 90 percent effective, said Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, head of the infectious diseasesdivision of the National Institutes of Health, which paid for the study along with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

“That’s huge,” Dr. Fauci said. “That says it all for me.”