Archive for the ‘Science’ Category

Sex in the sewers: Paris in summer (19/06/16)

Most people spend long summer evenings in Paris strolling arm in arm around the boulevards, sitting in cafes or lolling in parks. I spent this weekend in the sewers. Am I odd in finding drains a sexy subject? Perhaps. But they’re my number one candidate for a Song of Contagion. I’m lobbying for a diarrhoea […]

World Health Day: healthy for lobbyists (07/04/16)

Today is World Health Day. Judging from what’s in the Song of Contagion Twitter stream (@songfocontagion), this is above all an opportunity for a lot of lobbyists and marketing specialists to promote their specific cause. Greenpeace has been quite active, because of course you can always make a health issue out of the environment. There’s […]

Madness in music (03/04/16)

Yesterday, during a visit to the thought-provoking Museum of the Mind, on the premises of the Bethlem hospital (still active but now renamed), I was reminded both how far we have come in the treatment of mental illness since the ‘Bedlam madhouse’ was first opened, and how far there is still to go. At the […]

If HIV were music, would it be loud and screechy? (30/03/16)

As subscribers know, I’ve more or less dropped off the HIV map in recent years. That’s in part because there are so many other interesting health conditions out there to think about. And that keeps me thinking about why some conditions are more fashionable than others, why some things that affect very few people (such […]

Bad medicine is NOT better than no medicine (01/02/16)

Adult Intensive care ward at the Hospital for Tropical Diseases, Ho Chi Minh City, ©Chau Doan/Getty Images Recently, I have spent a good deal of time working on the issue of anti-microbial resistance. I was set on this path by the discovery, nearly a decade ago now, that the drugs we were using to treat […]

Elizabeth Pisani’s next project – “Indonesia Etc. – Exploring the Improbable Nation” (16/01/14)

                                        In late 2011, epidemiologist, writer and adventurer Elizabeth Pisani granted herself a sabbatical from the day job and set off to rediscover Indonesia, a country she has wandered, loved and been baffled by for decades. […]

I will never use a condom (11/08/12)

I learned this today from a subscriber to the Asian gay website Fridae, who was irritated by my tone in an post-midnight interview with Ng Yi-Sheng, a fabulous Singaporean poet. I am more than willing to accept that being snarky about other people’s sex lives is an irritant. But I’m not sure how it leads […]

A sad day for Indonesian sex workers (04/05/12)

Wednesday was a sad day for Indonesia, and for me. It marked the death of Endang Sedyaningsih, who encompassed what is best in the women everywhere: courage, determination, integrity, compassion and humility. It is a rare combination at the best of times; in the Indonesian cabinet, where Endang held the position of Minister of Health, […]

The last word in HIV prevention (and farewell for now) (25/10/11)

Much has been going on in the world of HIV, sex and drugs in the last month or so; the US marines recruiting at gay community centers, more mysteriously disappointing study outcomes for PrEP, encouraging news about the effect of microbicide gels against herpes, a new super-easy condom with a brand name that will put […]

Responsible porn hits the Financial Times (08/09/11)

It’s not that often that I sit reading the FT on a Tube full of morning communters. Even less often that the Pink Paper (no, boys, not THAT Pink Paper) carries full page ads from the Purveyors of Porn. The ad is pimping a new internet domain ending: .xxx (Slogan: Coming, now!) The porn industry […]

Björk does a few of my favourite things (16/08/11)

It’s no surprise to anyone that I’m interested in viruses. Many know of my on-going affair with Indonesia. Some will have heard me obsess recently about using art to make people think differently about science. And a handful will know of my growing interest in digital media. Conveniently, Icelandic singer Björk has brought all those […]

PrEP makes no sense for discordant couples – corrected (15/07/11)

First PReP worked for gay men, and we were happy. Then it didn’t work for straight women, and we were sad. Now, two big studies in heterosexuals have shown it can work for straight couples, and we are deeply confused. Or at least I am. Taking anti-HIV pills every day cuts the risk of infection […]

Fit guys are less floppy: no shit, Sherlock department (18/06/11)

Do we really need research to demonstrate the blindingly obvious? Yes, if you believe that people who call the political shots will change their mind on the basis of a published study (something about which I am skeptical) So here we have it: research published in the International Journal of Impotence Research shows that guys […]

HIV treatment really IS prevention, but… (19/05/11)

For some time now, I’ve been waltzing around casting doubt on the “treatment is prevention” mantra, the idea that putting people infected with HIV on meds sooner will reduce new infections, despite pretty good observational evidence that people on treatment are less likely to infect their partners. If I had been praying at the altar […]

The PReP roller-coaster: no good for women? (22/04/11)

Just as we were getting all excited about giving people antiretorvirals to protect them against HIV infection, a large trial of pre-exposure prophylaxis (PReP) in women is being shut down because the pills are unlikely to prevent HIV. It’s a huge disappointment to those who were hoping that the pill-a-day-to-avoid-a-pill-a-day solution might drag us out […]

Dirty pictures? Apple spreads filth about gays (23/03/11)

It wasn’t until Eve ate the apple proffered by the snake in the Garden of Eden that she became ashamed of her nakedness. But a couple of recent decisions by Apple have made me wonder whether their censors are the real snakes. The screen shot above shows a small corner of Filth Fair, a new, […]

Is polio the next Netscape? (01/03/11)

Wiping out diseases: it’s a seductive goal. And like many of the best serial seducers, it’s ultimately hard to pin down. The eradication fashion item for this season is polio, the Lothario sporting it is Bill Gates. Mr. Gates says we can eradicate polio in two years; that just a fifth of the time that […]

Sharing research data: a great day for public health (10/01/11)

Today, the world of public health research changed for ever. Or so I hope. The institutions that fund most health research in developing countries (and a good deal of research in rich countries too) have finally launched an assault on Data Hugging Disorder. They are pushing the scientists they fund to put any data they […]

Of peer review and perfume: how to be sweetly rude (21/12/10)

Year-end tends to be quiet on the work front: the time all those neglected peer reviews float to the top of the To Do list. Like so many others, I review out of a sense of duty. That same sense of duty often obliges me to say horrid things about papers or grant proposals that […]

The myth of hypothesis-driven science (04/12/10)

At a conference in Mexico recently, I ran into Wired editor Chris Anderson. His essay on the petabyte age, published a couple of years ago, sounded the death knell for scientific method. I was seduced by the argument at the time, as well as by the beautiful graphics that accompanied the piece. Visualising Big Data […]

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