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Here’s how Pakistani women get judged buying contraceptives

Here’s how Pakistani women get judged buying contraceptives



KARACHI: It’s no surprise that unwanted pregnancies occur all around the world. And to avoid these, people use different types of contraceptives – some of which, also prevent sexually-transmitted diseases from spreading. Birth control pills and condoms are some of the most common types of contraceptives used by both men and women worldwide. However, in a country like Pakistan – where even the use of the word ‘sex’ raises concerns – buying contraceptives can sometimes invite judgmental gazes. Likewise, a young girl based in Karachi, was also judged for buying emergency contraceptive pills (ECP) off the shelf. Sharing her experience, Kulsoom Masood, a 22-year-old university student, posted a status on Facebook.

She wrote, “I went to a medical store to buy ECP for my research and presentation on sexual health in Pakistan. I knew that there will be some reaction but little did I know that things will get so interesting. I went to the counter and asked ‘Sabz Sitara Ki ECP de dein’ (Please give me ECP by Sabz Sitara). The guy, who was smiling and staring at literally every lady in the line, changed his expressions suddenly. He looked at my university bag which also had a student ID card on it and started speaking to the guy next to him in Pashto.”

Kulsoom, being a Pashtun understood every word he said. She continued, ‘He said to the other guy, ‘This girl is asking for ECP, should I give it to her? She doesn’t look like a ‘bad girl’ from the way she is dressed.’ The other man replied, ‘Tell her that the tablets are very expensive.’ The same guy then came towards me and told me in Urdu that the tablets are very costly. I replied to him in Pashto, ‘Pa su dee?’ which meant, ‘How much do they cost?’ which is when both of their expressions changed.”

The 22-year-old then told them that her father was waiting in the car outside the pharmacy and she wouldn’t mind if they gave her the contraceptives in front of him. Kulsoom said that the men later apologised and gave her the pills right away. However, she did school them further in Pashto and added, “I told them, ‘You gave me the pills because I replied to you in Pashto, but normally, you would start taking advantage of such people who are in dire need of contraceptives. You’re going to tell them that they are expensive and if they can’t afford them despite that, you would only be creating problems for them.’ I also said that God has given them a responsibility of helping people out but by doing so, they’re only going against Him.”

Recalling the experience, Kulsoom explained that the stigmatization of sex and not being openly able to discuss topics related to it, has also sexualized medicines/drugs that has something to do with a sexual activity. She said, “The shopkeeper readily judged me for buying it and even though the Pakistani Government has made sure that people could get contraceptives without any prescription, women still go through judgmental eyes of shopkeepers and pharmacists.”


New Drug Combo Wakes HIV in Order to Kill It

New Drug Combo Wakes HIV in Order to Kill It


esearchers at the Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute (SBP) in La Jolla, Calif., have made a fascinating discovery which may help finally cure HIV. When the virus enters the body, it hides in certain cells where it may lie dormant for months, years, even decades. Today, antiretroviral therapy (ART) can eliminate the virus’s ability to replicate itself. But it cannot eliminate hidden viruses lying dormant in host cells—safe from the immune system. Now researchers may have found a way to wake up these latent viruses in order to kill them and eliminate the disease from the body. Though this shock and kill strategy is not new, previous attempts either have either been too weak or have caused the immune system to become overactive, which can be dangerous to the patient. This study published the journal Cell Host & Microbe, surrounds two classes of drugs. The first is called smac mimetics.

A previous class, latency reversing agents (LRAs) were thought to be effective. But according to the lead author of this latest study Lars Pache, PhD, LRAs are either not strong enough to cause an immune response, or trigger over-activity. SBP investigators first examined the genes within host cells. They isolated one gene called BIRC2. Smac mimetics block BIRC2 and all molecules associated with it. Researchers wanted to see if by eliminating this gene the virus would once again become activated, and in doing so allow the immune system to recognize and eliminate it.

Another reason HIV is hard for the immune system to spot is because it contains “tightly wound DNA.” The SBP team suggested the use of another class of drugs called histone deacetylase inhibitors. These can unwind DNA, which reveals the virus underneath for the immune system to recognize and eliminate. Researchers at SBP believe that using these two classes of drugs together could help the immune system identify and erase HIV from an infected person’s body. When testing their theory, they found that the drug combination reawakened HIV without causing the immune system to go into overdrive. The next step is for the team to work together with a drug company and bring the drug combination to clinical trials. There are still a few hurdles ahead. In the meantime, every sexually active adult should get tested for HIV at least once per year, according to the CDC. Those in at-risk groups should be tested more often. Visit a clinic, physician, or urologist if it is time to do so.shutterstock_236439424