In a sense, I am a sex worker
Well, that ought to give me a boost in hits, eh? (Practicing my Canadian so as to get better service in French resteraunts.) I say that, because much of my virology related work centers on Sexually Transmitted Diseases.
I am attending a conference in Paris - shortly after Thanksgiving - in which I will be making a presentation on the technical aspects regarding detection and quantitation of HSV (Herpes Simplex Virus) shedding. Specifically HSV-2 (commonly known as genital HSV) which has recently become more and more recognized as playing a key role in HIV transmission, particularly in parts of Africa, as this paper written by a physician I work with suggests. (warning: not for the technically faint of heart.) In general, having HSV-2 makes you twice as likely to become infected with HIV, even when behavior is factored into the mix.
The goal of the "International Workshop on HSV-2 and HIV shedding" is simply to swap ideas, compare methods, and come to some level of consensus in order to better correlate the various studies that are ongoing - particularly in the developing world where STD's are especially prevalent and deadly.
But, let me sigh for a moment. There is so much morality related to what I do, but as scientists we are, in many senses, forbidden to consider such matters. For instance, I recently heard a talk (and have read papers) lauding the STD protective features of male circumcision which led one scientist to say in essence that a great way to protect future generations from STD's is to circumcise your boys. Which may all be well and true, but the extent of protection is significantly less than say...abstinence and marital fidelity, which when practiced is truly the only form of "safe sex."
As far as I know, no one has ever done a study to quantitate the effectiveness of abstinence and marital fidelity in preventing STD's...because...well...for obvious reasons: it's 100% effective...IF YOU PRACTICE IT. Therein lies the problem: nobody believes its possible or reasonable to expect such a thing. And of course, we as scientists, must deal with the world as it is, not as we might like it to be. Furthermore, to recommend such a thing would be tantamount to endorsing some form of (GASP!) morality. Fair enough. Sigh.
But then, clearly not everyone uses condoms...and the strong endorsement to use them by the scientific community, isn't THAT a moral prescription? Circumcision might actually be construed as a religious prescription! I mean how are you going to convince cultures and soceities that have no semitic tradition of this nature to cut off a piece of their privates - especially if you are having trouble getting them to use condoms? Good luck. But, the single most (read: completely) effective weapon against STD's, is eschewed and laughed at.
It's as if we, the entire world, have looked around and having seen the state of things, we thus resign ourselves to being unable to change...unable to aspire to something higher and greater...rather we accept our unquenchable sexual appetite as being "natural" and then spend billions of dollars in developing ways to "fix" the damage we do to ourselves. But not a single educational cent is spent on trying to better ourselves - we treat the symptom and not the disease. Liver transplants for perpetual alcoholics...perhaps we can develop a means of recylcing old livers and then we can just rotate through them - hoping to avoid hepatitis.
Yes, it's a crazy world. I'll try and write while in France, okay, eh?
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In a sense, I am a sex worker