Guest blogger and editor/host of The Lancet News podcast Mario gives us his review of this week’s HIV related news stories…

The environmental impact of sex

I must admit, the environment is not the first thing that comes to mind when condoms are mentioned.

But now, with these new carbon-neutral condoms recently released in the UK, your sex need not leave a carbon foot print.

Carbon emissions aside, these new condoms got me thinking: do condoms or other contraceptives have and environmental impact?

Most condoms are derived from the natural rubber (latex) and are treated with a bunch of chemicals.

After fighting valiantly to protect users from sexually transmitted diseases and to prevent pregnancy, condoms unceremoniously meet their end down the toilet or in the garbage, eventually sinking to the bottom of the sewers or degrading for years in landfill sites.

Some oral contraceptives have also been linked to the feminisation of male fish as a result of oestrogen from these pills seeping into the environment.

But condoms contribute a negligible amount to waste and the amount of oestrogen that enters the environment is tiny.

I would argue that the environmental impact of not using contraceptives (ie, unwanted pregnancy and health resources needed to treat infections) is much greater.

Suicide among LGBT youth

October is National Bullying Prevention month in the USA, which makes bullying among Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) individuals a timely subject.

These groups are at an increased risk of bullying, the effects of which are devastating.

A recent study in Israel showed that the rate of attempted suicide among gay teens was 112% more than in the general population.

The problem is global. In the UK, more than half of lesbian, gay, and bisexual pupils have experienced bullying, 41% having attempted or considered taking their own life as a direct result of bullying.

In an era where so much progress has been made in support of equal rights and against racism, it seems absurd that sexual orientation should put people at risk of bullying.

More needs to be done to improve the civil rights of LGBT individuals and to stop their marginalisation.

Stigma and discrimination against LGBT groups denies them access to methods for HIV prevention. If we can prevent stigma and discrimination, we can help prevent the spread of HIV.


Contraception for all

Hot on the heels of World Contraception Day 2012, a group of governments and private donors, led by the former US President Bill Clinton, is set to finalise a deal for cheaper contraceptives, which could help up to 27 million women in 42 countries.

The contraceptive in question is the reversible progestogen implant, which can provide contraception for about 5 years.

This deal will not only help prevent reduce unwanted pregnancies (and mother-to-child transmission of HIV), it will save lives.

Wider access to contraception will reduce maternal mortality and reduce the number of unsafe abortions.

And if the ethical argument is not enough for politicians, the economic benefits of improving access to contraception are undeniable.

Slower population growth will cut the cost of social services, more empowered women will participate in the labour market, and having fewer, healthier children can reduce the economic burden on poor families.

What’s your favourite form of contraception?

The views expressed in this blog are those of the author.