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Israelis Ignoring Condoms, HIV Cases Jump

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Many Israelis are having sex without using a condom and end up contracting a virus (HIV) that causes AIDS.

Israel’s AIDS Task Force issued statements urging Israelis to follow safe sex practices in recent weeks, after they noticed a jump in positive HIV tests recently, compared to previous months.

The task force stressed that many of those who tested positive stated that they had sex without a condom with a partner who claimed that he was on PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis), a medicine used to prevent contracting HIV from sex or injection drug use.

While official data on the reports is not yet available, a number of doctors have described similar cases.

PrEP is a drug that only protects the person who takes it. The task force recommends that people not rely solely on partners’ claims concerning sexual safety, especially concerning casual partners or relationships not based on mutual or certain trust.

Some of those who were checked said that they take PrEP at specific events or before sex and not on a daily basis.

The task force stressed that taking PrEP on demand is effective only if taken accurately. If taking PrEP on demand, the task force recommends taking two PrEP pills at once, at least two hours before having sex.

Protection should last up to 24 hours, as long as you take another pill 24 hours after taking the first two pills and then a third pill 24 hours after the second.

“Do not be tempted to take off your condom if you are asked to. It is your full right to choose how to have sex, with whom, when and, at the same time, to succeed in protecting yourself and your health. If your partner continues to ask and pressure you, it may be better to just say goodbye as friends,” wrote the task force on Facebook.

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Health

You Can Still Get Covid After Being Vaccinated

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When a Covid cluster includes people, who are vaccinated against the virus, we inevitably hear rumblings of complaint from people who wonder what the point is of vaccination.

But when you read past the headlines, you usually see the answer: in most cases, those who were vaccinated and contracted Covid-19 didn’t die, didn’t develop severe symptoms and didn’t need to be hospitalised.

For the unvaccinated in their later years, the chance of dying from Covid is high. For unvaccinated people in their 80s, around 32% who contract Covid will die from it.

For people in their 70s, it’s around 14%. (For unvaccinated people in their 60s, it drops to around 3%. And for under-50s, it’s less than 1%.)

The good news is both Pfizer and AstraZeneca are very effective at preventing severe disease and death from Covid-19, even from the more virulent Delta strain.

So how effective are our vaccines?

Preliminary data from the United Kingdom shows after your first dose of either Pfizer or AstraZeneca, you’re 33% less likely than an unvaccinated person to contract the Delta variant.

Two weeks after your second dose, this rises to 60% for AstraZeneca and 88% for Pfizer. This data is for any form of Covid-19, from mild to severe.

But when you look at how much the vaccines reduce your risk of developing severe illness that requires hospitalisation, the coverage is high for both.

Pfizer and Astrazeneca vaccines are 96% and 92% effective (respectively) in preventing Delta variant hospitalisations.

Why do some people still get Covid after being vaccinated?

Vaccines aren’t magic barriers. They don’t kill the virus or pathogen they target.

Rather, vaccines stimulate a person’s immune system to create antibodies.

These antibodies are specific against the virus or pathogen for the vaccine and allows the body to fight infection before it takes hold and causes severe disease.

However, some people won’t have a strong enough immune response to the vaccine and may still be susceptible to developing Covid-19 if exposed to the virus.

How a person responds to a vaccine is impacted by a number of host factors, including our age, gender, medications, diet, exercise, health and stress levels.

It’s not easy to tell who hasn’t developed a strong enough immune response to the vaccine. Measuring a person’s immune response to a vaccine is not simple and requires detailed laboratory tests.

And while side effects from the vaccine indicate you’re having a response, the absence of symptoms doesn’t mean you’re having a weak response.

It also takes time for the immune system to respond to vaccines and produce antibodies.

For most two-shot vaccines, antibody levels rise and then dip after the first dose. These antibodies are then boosted after the second.

But you’re not optimally covered until your antibody levels rise after the second dose.

What does Covid look like after being vaccinated?

The PCR tests we use to detect SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19, are very sensitive and can detect a positive case even if you have low levels of the virus in your system.

This means a person can test positive for SARS-CoV-2 but still not have symptoms of Covid-19.

Of those vaccinated people who have reported symptoms, the vast majority report mild ones, with a shorter duration.

There is always a chance a vaccinated person could pass the virus onto a non-vaccinated person without having symptoms themselves.

But vaccinated people who develop Covid-19 will likely have a lower viral load than unvaccinated people, meaning they’re less likely to spread the virus.

One study estimated those who were vaccinated with either Pfizer or AstraZeneca were 50% less likely to pass it on to an unvaccinated household contact than someone who wasn’t vaccinated.

This transmission will likely reduce again if both household members are vaccinated.

But if you’re not vaccinated and contract Covid-19, you’re much more likely to spread the virus.

What about future variants?

So far, the preliminary data (some of which is ongoing and/or yet to be peer reviewed) shows our current vaccines are effective at protecting against circulating variants.

But as the virus mutates, there is increasing chance of viral escape. This means there is a greater chance the virus will develop mutations that make it fitter against, or more easily able to evade, vaccinations.

Scientist are closely monitoring to ensure our current and/or future vaccines are effective against the circulating strains.

To help the fight against Covid-19 the best thing we can do is minimise the spread of the virus.

This means get vaccinated when you can, ensure you maintain social distancing when required and get tested if you have any symptoms.

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Health

Pope Recovering After Surgery

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Pope Francis is expected to spend about seven days at Gemelli hospital after a successful bowel surgery on Sunday.

According to a statement released by the director of the Holy See Press Office, Matteo Bruni, in the latest medical bulletin released regarding the surgery, Pope Francis is doing well and is alert.

Matteo Bruni said in his statement that Pope Francis is doing well overall, alert and breathing on his own. He said a hemicolectomy on the left side took place during the surgery, which lasted around three hours.

He added that the Pope will remain at Gemelli hospital for seven days, barring any complications.

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Science

Another Human Species Discovered

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Scientists have found a large skull at the bottom of a well in northeastern China. The researchers have said this skull may belong to a new species of early human they have called “dragon man.”

The well-preserved skullcap, found in the Chinese city of Harbin, is between 138,000 and 309,000 years old, according to geochemical analysis, and it combines primitive features, such as a broad nose and low brow and braincase, with those that are more similar to Homo sapiens, including flat and delicate cheekbones.

The ancient hominin — which researchers said was “probably” a 50-year-old man — would have had an “extremely wide” face, deep eyes with large eye sockets, big teeth and a brain similar in size to modern humans.

Three papers detailing the find were published in the journal The Innovation on Friday.

“The Harbin skull is the most important fossil I’ve seen in 50 years. It shows how important East Asia and China is in telling the human story,” said Chris Stringer, research leader in human origins at The Natural History Museum in London and coauthor of the research.

Researchers named the new hominin Homo longi, which is derived from Heilongjiang, or Black Dragon River, the province where the cranium was found.

The team plans to see if it’s possible to extract ancient proteins or DNA from the cranium, which included one tooth, and will begin a more detailed study of the skull’s interior, looking at sinuses and both ear and brain shape, using CT scans.

With these discoveries overtime, it means we weren’t the only humans on the block.

In the millennia since Homo sapiens first emerged in Africa about 300,000 years ago, we have shared the planet with Neanderthals, the enigmatic Denisovans, the “hobbit” Homo floresiensis, Homo luzonensis and Homo naledi, as well as several other ancient hominins.

This also means we had sex with some of them and produced babies. Some of these ancestors are well represented in the fossil record, but most of what we know about Denisovans comes from genetic information in our DNA.

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