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National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day. Time For A Real Discussion On HIV/AIDS.

We wrote yesterday about National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day.  We shared such horrible facts as the following:

  • African Americans are the racial group most affected by HIV

  • In 2009, African Americans comprised 14% of the US population but accounted for 44% of all new HIV infections.

  • In 2009, black women accounted for 30% of the estimated new HIV infections among all blacks.  Most (85%) blackwomen with HIV acquired HIV through heterosexual sex.  The estimated rate of new HIV infections for black women was more than 15 times as high as the rate for white women, and more than three times as high as that of Latina women.

  • At some point in their lifetimes, as estimated 1 in 16 black men and 1 in 32 black women will be diagnosed with HIV infection.

As bad as these facts are, the truly terrifying thing is that the can actually get worse.  What is amazing is that these facts and trends are not really new.  This problem with HIV/AIDS has been growing and growing and yet many in our community continue to accept them for the threat they truly are.

The community is caught in a self fulfilling prophecy that was created by the unwillingness by the majority to accept that HIV/AIDS was a pandemic that was not limited to those that are gay.  We have all allowed a very vocal minority of individuals in our community to co-opt HIV/AIDS into a message of hate and intolerance.  We have allowed the so called religious leaders to continue to preach this message of hate because they are more worried about gay marriage then they are about the overall health of the community.

If we are ever going to get ahead of HIV/AIDS we cannot continue to allow these religious leaders to control the discussion.  HIV/AIDS is a real threat to the health of the community.  To beat this we need an honest discussion that focuses on prevention, diagnosis and treatment.  We cannot allow the message of hate to continue to force people to believe that if they are diagnosed with HIV/AIDS that they must “hide it” from their family, friend and loved ones.  This is key to keeping the infection rates down.  It is time that the community come out of our backwards view of HIV/AIDS and start a real campaign to stop it’s spread.

We hope that our readers will share these horrific numbers and start having this honest discussion.  We hope that our readers will no longer sit quietly in their houses of worship and allow those individuals who have been entrusted by their congregations to preach to them on Sundays to continue to preach a message of ignorance and hate regarding those that have HIV/AIDS.  It is time that the community demand that these religious leaders become part of the solution or give up their positions within the church.

You can visit the Black Aids Day website by clicking on the link.

National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day Is Tomorrow. Why This May Be The Most Important Day In Black History Month Celebrations.

Tomorrow will be the 12 Annual Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day.  We wish we could write a piece showing that as a community progress is being made against HIV/AIDS.  Unfortunately we can’t and we aren’t sure we will be able to write such a column in the future if we don’t start dealing with reality of the HIV/AIDS risk.

To demonstrate the real risk of HIV/AIDS that many in the African American community do not seem willing to discuss, here are some sobering statistics from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention:

  • African Americans are the racial group most affected by HIV

  • In 2009, African Americans comprised 14% of the US population but accounted for 44% of all new HIV infections.

  • In 2009, black women accounted for 30% of the estimated new HIV infections among all blacks.  Most (85%) blackwomen with HIV acquired HIV through heterosexual sex.  The estimated rate of new HIV infections for black women was more than 15 times as high as the rate for white women, and more than three times as high as that of Latina women.

  • At some point in their lifetimes, as estimated 1 in 16 black men and 1 in 32 black women will be diagnosed with HIV infection.

We hope that our readers will use these facts to have a much needed honest discussion with family and friends about HIV/AIDS.  We cannot continue to allow a certain group in our community to use their position of power, yes we are talking about those that say they are religious leaders, to continue to preach a message of hatred over the much needed message of fact and education.  Those that constantly talk that message of hate and ignorance are continuing to create an environment that forces those with HIV/AIDS into hiding and are responsible for allowing HIV/AIDS to ravage the community.

While we celebrate that accomplishments of such wonderful African Americans as Rosa Parks, Dr.Martin Luther King, Shirley Chisholm, Charles Drew, Maclom X, Rebecca Lee Crumpler, President Obama and others we cannot allow ourselves to deny one of the biggest threats that we face.  HIV/AIDS has the ability to wipe out a generation if we don’t deal with it today.  We don’t want to get to 2024 and look back at “our history” and realize that our inability to address HIV/AIDS has become a major segment of "the story".

You can view the CDC website for information on HIV/AIDS.  You can visit the National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day to read more about their sponsored events around the nation.

We will have more to say about HIV/AIDS tomorrow. 

California Announces Settlement With Brazilian Blowout Maker Over Use Of Formaldehyde. What Is Taking FDA So Long To Ban Brazilian Blowout?

California announced yesterday that they have settled their court action against manufacturers of Brazilian Blowout and Acai Professional Smoothing Solution.  The settlement requires both to stop their deceptive advertising practices and that they must use warning stickers on their products regarding the releases of harmful formaldehyde gas. 

The legal action in California was lead by State Attorney General Kamala D. Harris.  We appreciate the hard work of the Attorney General and wish that the FDA and EPA would follow her example in protecting consumers.  Remember ladies that real beauty is healthy beauty. 

You can read more about Attorney General Kamala Harris by visiting the California Attorney General's website.  Here is the text of her press release announcing the settlement.

SAN FRANCISCO -- Attorney General Kamala D. Harris today announced a settlement with the manufacturer of Brazilian Blowout products that will require the company to warn consumers and hair stylists that two of its most popular hair smoothing products emit formaldehyde gas.

The settlement requires GIB, LLC, which does business under the name Brazilian Blowout, to cease deceptive advertising that describes two of its popular products as formaldehyde-free and safe. The company must also make significant changes to its website and pay $600,000 in fees, penalties and costs.

"California laws protect consumers and workers and give them fair notice about the health risks associated with the products they use," said Attorney General Harris. "This settlement requires the company to disclose any hazard so that Californians can make more informed decisions."

Today's settlement is the first government enforceable action in the United States to address the exposures to formaldehyde gas associated with Brazilian Blowout products. It is also the first law enforcement action under California's Safe Cosmetics Act, a right-to-know law enacted in 2005.

In November 2010, the Attorney General's office filed suit against GIB, LLC for violating five state laws, including deceptive advertising and failure to provide consumers with warnings about the presence of a carcinogen in its products.

The settlement covers two products used in a popular salon hair straightening process, the "Brazilian Blowout Acai Smoothing Solution" and the "Brazilian Blowout Professional Smoothing Solution".

The complaint alleged the two products contained formaldehyde but were labeled "formaldehyde free."
Proposition 65 requires businesses to notify Californians about certain exposures to chemicals in the products they purchase. Formaldehyde is on the Proposition 65 list of chemicals known to cause cancer.

The complaint alleged that that GIB - the manufacturer of the Brazilian Blowout products - did not inform customers or workers that formaldehyde gas was being released during a Brazilian Blowout treatment, and therefore product users did not take steps to reduce their exposure, such as increasing ventilation. Under the terms of the settlement, GIB is required to:

- Produce a complete and accurate safety information sheet on the two products that includes a Proposition 65 cancer warning; distribute this information to recent product purchasers who may still have product on hand; and distribute it with all future product shipments. The revised safety information sheet -- known as a "Material Safety Data Sheet," or MSDS -- will be posted on the company's web site.

- Affix "CAUTION" stickers to the bottles of the two products to inform stylists of the emission of formaldehyde gas and the need for precautionary measures, including adequate ventilation.

- Cease deceptive advertising of the products as formaldehyde-free and safe; engage in substantial corrective advertising, including honest communications to sales staff regarding product risks; and change numerous aspects of Brazilian Blowout's web site content.

- Retest the two products for total smog-forming chemicals (volatile organic compounds) at two Department of Justice-approved laboratories, and work with DOJ and the Air Resources Board to ensure that those products comply with state air quality regulations.

- Report the presence of formaldehyde in its products to the Safe Cosmetics Program at the Department of Public Health.

- Disclose refund policies to consumers before the products are purchased.

- Require proof of professional licensing before selling "salon use only" products to stylists.

GIB will also pay $300,000 in Proposition 65 civil penalties, and $300,000 to reimburse the Attorney General's office fees and costs.

Susan G. Komen Cuts Money To Planned Parenthood For Breast Cancer Screenings. Komen Turns Back On Women’s Health. Time To Dump Support For Susan G. Komen.

We have been very harsh critics of the Susan G. Komen corporate money making machine for a very long time.  Komen has constantly demonstrated that they actually care very little about finding a cure for breast cancer and are more concerned about their growing corporate relationships/funders than anything.

Today’s CNN story regarding Komen’s decision to drop funding for breast cancer screening services provided by Planned Parenthood though is truly the straw that breaks the camel’s back.  It is time that women decide that we are no longer going to be blinded by the “PINK” and only support those groups that are actually committed to finding a cure and ensuring prevention of breast cancer.

As African American women we know that when one of us gets breast cancer that we are more than likely to have the more aggressive form of it.  This aggressive form of breast cancer kills at much higher rates than other forms.  In addition, to make matters worse, there have been multiple studies that demonstrate a clear disparity in breast cancer screenings and early detection of breast cancer for women of color.

At the same time, many women of color are very likely to lack health insurance and therefore lack the ability to access even the most basic of healthcare services.  Many women of color, and poor women in general, depend on organizations such as Planned Parenthood for accessing basic women’s health services such as breast cancer screenings.  If it was not for organizations such as Planned Parenthood many women would be forced to depend only on self exam and the use of Emergency Departments to attempt to access screening services.

This politically motivated decision by Susan G. Komen clearly demonstrates that their organization actually cares very little about stopping breast cancer.  In fact we would argue that this decision demonstrates just how culturally deaf and borderline racist this organization is.

We want to remind readers that this is not a new concern with Komen.  Instead it is a culmination of years of decisions to value their big money corporate donors over women’s health.  For example we wrote about a story in Forbes magazine that clearly demonstrate efforts by Komen to fund studies that downplayed the connection between chemicals and breast cancer.  Mother Jones wrote a detailed article of how Komen was helping corporate friends by helping them fight off growing and overwhelming evidence of the connection between BPA exposure and breast cancer.  Unfortunately there are far too many of these type of stories to list, but you get the picture.

This decision as outlined by the CNN story on the decision to stop providing screening funds for Planned Parenthood also takes us to another issue we have with Komen that at some point must be said.  As you read the CNN story you eventually come to paragraphs that discuss Nancy Brinker, the founder and CEO of the Komen Foundation, who created this organization after the death of her sister Susan G. Komen.

“The Komen Foundation did not respond to repeated requests for more information about the decision.

Nancy Brinker, the founder and CEO of the Komen Foundation, was a political appointee of the George W. Bush Administration, in which she served as U.S. Ambassador to Hungary and as Chief of Protocol. Susan G. Komen was Brinker's sister.”

Did that make the light go on?  You see it seems to us that Nancy has used her position for personal gain and is willing to place politics before women’s health.  Now we know that there are those that will be upset that we wrote this, but we don’t care.  The truth is that Nancy and Komen are not and will not be about a “cure” but instead will continue to allow her and the organization to be used a political and corporate tool that places profit over women’s health.  Not sure that Nancy and Komen are all about politics?  Just read the following quote from the same CNN story:

“But the decision was applauded by some in the anti-abortion community, which has long called for the dismantling of Planned Parenthood.

Tony Perkins, a major social conservative leader who heads the Family Research Council, quickly praised the Komen Foundation's decision Tuesday as “good news” for women seeking help with breast cancer, as well as for the “lives of many unborn babies.”

"Susan G. Komen can chose to stop subsidizing the abortion giant, surely Congress can redirect its resources to those helping women, not making a profit off the lives of unborn children," Perkins said in a statement. “

Look the time has come that women understand that Komen and Nancy are not about a cure.  Instead they are about a “race” for the money.  They are concerned about a “race” for personal power.  They are about a “race” to deny women the right to control their own healthcare decisions.  Enough is enough and it is time to stop this absurd pinkwashing that we have allowed to go on for far to long.

Finally we close with an open remark to Nancy.  Nancy you are not and will not be the only person to lose a loved one to breast cancer.  Just because your sister died of breast cancer does not mean you get to control and manipulate efforts to prevent and cure this horrible disease.  Nancy, no one elected you to speak on behalf of all women.  If you want to play politics then play politics.  But stop playing games and politics with our lives.

University of Missouri Professor Frederick vom Saal Leads Fight To Ban BPA. The Missourian Publishes Best Story On The Health Risks Of BPA.

It is only January and this may be the story of the year. Simina Mistreanu writes for The Missourian about University of Missouri Professor Frederick vom Saal’s ongoing research and advocacy to remove endocrine disruptors, such as BPA, from consumer products that we use daily.

“For the past 20 years, much of MU biology professor Frederick vom Saal’s research, thoughts and time have converged into one point: trying to get endocrine disruptors — chemicals that interfere with the hormone system and can cause obesity, infertility and cancer — out of daily use.

He's accomplished the laboratory part, which resulted in dozens of scientific papers outlining the negative effects of bisphenol-A, an endocrine disruptor. These chemicals are everywhere in the environment: in plastics, food cans, clothing fabrics, furniture and household and beauty products.

Now he's doing the communicator's part, trying to convince U.S. authorities to regulate the chemicals.

In mid-September, vom Saal was among 20 scientists who met in a closed session in St. Louis to discuss why, in the face of what they see as mountainous evidence, U.S. regulatory agencies such as the Food and Drug Administration don't ban endocrine-disrupting chemicals.

Vom Saal's work, and that of other scientists, has so far persuaded 11 states, Canada, China and the European Union to enact legislation prohibiting or restricting endocrine disruptors. Now he’s making further attempts to crack a tougher nut: the U.S. regulatory system.”

The article provides readers with one of the best overviews of the health and safety issues surrounding endocrine disruptors such as BPA.  Simina does a wonderful job of providing readers with a clear understanding of the fight over BPA and just how far corporations and their trade organizations are willing to go to block this type of research.  Here is a telling quote from the article:

“A few months later, when the MU professors were preparing the publication of a second article on BPA, they received a visit from someone at Dow Chemical Co., one of the leading BPA manufacturers.

Vom Saal has repeatedly described that visit in media interviews over the years: The Dow Chemical representative allegedly asked the scientists not to publish their paper unless approved by the Chemical Manufacturers Association, offering MU instead a research budget for a new study.

Vom Saal and Welshons refused and reported the visit as inappropriate and potentially illegal in a letter to the FDA, the MU chancellor and the media. Dow Chemical's spokesman has repeatedly explained that the incident was just an "enormous misunderstanding."”

All we can say is WOW. We are sure DOW Chemicals will be on full spin today and we are not sure there is any way to spin that section.  But we are sure DOW will try.

The article though is not the only aspect of this story that deserves accolades.  The Missourian also includes supplemental materials that provide readers with a timeline of the issue, how BPA effects the cells of a fetus and how to avoid BPA.  These supplemental materials are amazing and worth reading and sharing.

We want to acknowledge the Missourian for running this article and supplemental materials.  It is journalism such as this that will make the difference in efforts to restrict/ban the use of BPA in consumer products.

We want to recognize that Dr. vom Saal, Simina Mistreanu and The Missourian as our first Coily Heroes for 2012.  Dr. vom Saal’s dedication and determination on this issue deserve our gratitude.

You can read the entire article by following the link to The Missourian website.  Please share this information with friends and family so they can take the necessary actions to remove products that use BPA from their daily lives.