What We're Dipping Our Balls in This Week
And Koalas with Chlamydia
So many people got so many things wrong this week it’s been hard to keep up. The good news is that there are a lot of others out there who have joined my “that’s not how it f**king works” chorus (albeit with slightly different phrasing).
When Lavern Spicer, a Florida Republican who is running for Congress, tweeted: “They let Magic Johnson play basketball with FULL BLOWN HIV but won’t let Kyrie Irving play because he won’t get a COVID shot,” the twitterverse and several major newspapers took her to task. Most pointed out that she was mixing up the risk of an airborne virus with that of one that requires direct contact with blood or other bodily fluids. Some pointed out that full-blown HIV is not a thing (we used to talk about full-blown AIDS but that’s pretty outdated.) Others noted that Johnson did initially retire and only returned when his doctors said the risk of him passing HIV to others was infinitesimal. Johnson was actually an early example of what we now think of as U=U or undetectable equals untransmissible. People living with HIV who take antiretrovirals and achieve viral suppression (less than 200 copies of HIV per milliliter of blood) are not at risk of transmitting the virus to sexual partners or point guards. My favorite twitter reply on this one asked simply: “Are you aware that NBA players do not have penetrative sex during a game?” And, I especially loved the reply to that from another funny twitter user: “Yes, that’s why I stopped watching.”
I also have to thank my friend Jamie Kenney who took down another infuriating twitter user. Conservative pundit Matt Walsh made fun of Secretary Pete Buttigieg for taking paternity leave, saying: “The thing about paternity leave is there isn’t much for dad to do when the baby is a newborn, especially if mom is breastfeeding. His main role is to take care of mom as she recovers, but of course that doesn’t apply to Buttigieg so I’m not sure why he needs paternity leave at all.” In a great article for Romper, Jamie covers the obvious homophobia, the hypocrisy of the “family values” crowd completely undervaluing the role of fathers, and the sympathy we should all aim toward Walsh’s wife (the couple has four children).
Then there’s the school in Miami that has decided any child who gets vaccinated against Covid-19 will need to stay home for 30 days to protect classmates from the virus they may be shedding. (Nope, not how it works.) This same school—a K-8 private academy that has three campuses and tuition of up to $30,000 a year—made headlines in April and got an honorable mention in Sex on Wednesday when co-founder Leah Centner said that teachers who got vaccinated would not be allowed near students. She also sent an email reiterating the debunked idea that vaccinated people spread infertility to those near them. Now, while other school administrators are weeping with joy that vaccines will soon be available to their young students, the Centners are providing parents with a disincentive to vaccinate because of “many anecdotal cases that have been in circulation.” This decision was awkwardly defended by David Centner who said:
“The school is not opining as to whether unexplained phenomena have a basis in fact, however we prefer to err on the side of caution when making decisions that impact the health of the school community.”
One thing that did work, however, was the tee-shirt raffle. I got more subscribers and some lucky readers will get a shirt (I’ll send an email asking for size and address information to winners this week). I may do this again. In the meantime, please continue to share the newsletter widely.
Ultrasonic Testicle Bath as Contraception
Once upon a TikTok time we were dipping our testicles in soy sauce to see if we could taste it but now we’ve moved on to an ultrasonic bath designed to immobilize sperm.
A German graduate student caught the attention of inventor James Dyson for a potential male birth control device. Rebecca Weiss, who studied industrial design at the University of Munich, invented the COSO testicle bath and was named Germany’s Dyson Award winner. You can see exactly how it works in this user video, but essentially men who are trying to prevent pregnancy soak their balls in water for a few minutes as the device uses ultrasound waves to temporarily hamper sperm’s motility. According to the inventor, the effects on sperm last up to six months but clinical trials have not yet been conducted.
James Dyson—known for his yellow vacuum cleaners, space-age fans, and $400 hair dryers—sponsors a design competition each year that “celebrates, encourages and inspires the designers of new problem-solving ideas." By winning Germany’s Dyson award, Weiss and her testicle bath are among the finalists for a $45,000 prize which she hopes will help her raise enough funding for clinical trials.
Weiss said she was inspired to create COSO when she and her partner were looking for alternative methods to birth control pills and were disappointed to find so few options for men. As we’ve discussed here many times, a new method of male birth control has been just around the corner for at least a decade with a number of promising studies and prototypes (none of which are anywhere near hitting pharmacy shelves). If it works, COSO has a leg up on some of the other recent ideas as a warm bath sounds far better than injections into the scrotum or hot magnets in the testicles.
Incidentally, a leg up may very well be the recommended stance when one is dipping one’s balls in ultrasonic water.
Solving the Koala Chlamydia Problem in Australia
Koala Chlamydia? (Or, would it be Koala Khlamydia?) Apparently, it’s not just a thing, it’s an epidemic among Australia’s koala population. In some areas over 50% of these lovable marsupials are infected with chlamydia which can cause urinary tract infection and conjunctivitis. Just like in humans, chlamydia can also lead to infertility which is a big problem as the number of koalas is already shrinking. Estimates released last month suggest Australia has lost 30% of its koala population since 2018 as a result of draughts, fires, and human intervention (clearing land for farms and houses).
In an effort not to add sexually transmitted infections to the list of extinction-level events, researchers have been working on a chlamydia vaccine for the last few years and are now ready to enter Phase 3 trials. The study will include 400 koalas at veterinary hospitals, rehabilitation centers, and in the wild. All koalas will be microchipped so they can be followed, and half will receive the vaccine.
Dr. Amber Gillet of the Australia Zoo and Wildlife Hospital said that chlamydia was the most common reason for koala admission to the hospital. While some animals can be treated using antibiotics, others can’t be saved because the illness is too severe by the time they are brought in. Gillet believes, "Having a vaccine that can help prevent both infection and the severity of the disease is a critical element in the species' conservation management."
Chlamydia is the most common bacterial STI in people too and frequently leads to infertility because it often has no symptoms. The CDC recommends that sexually active people under 25 get tested for chlamydia each year. There is no human vaccine for chlamydia, but condoms provide excellent protection.
I suppose koalas are facing the opposite issue. There is no such thing as a koala kondom, but soon they may have a vaccine. Let’s just hope there are no marsupials out there who feel the need to do their own research.