Monthly Archives: November 2012

Homeless Young People Find Help at Larkin Street Youth Services in SF

The news this week from the Centers for Disease Control about HIV and young people may have startled some, but to people who work at San Francisco’s Larkin Street Youth Services, it was a spotlight on what they see every day.

More than a quarter of all new infections every year are in young people between ages 13 and 24 — and more than half of those youth infected don’t know it. Hardest hit are African Americans — 57 percent of people in this young age group.

In advance of World AIDS Day on Saturday, The California Report’s host Rachael Myrow visited Larkin Street Youth Services, which helps homeless teens get off the streets and get tested for HIV. She talked to two women who manage programs at the organization.

Here is an edited transcript of their discussion:

LARA TANNENBAUM, Larkin Street’s housing programs: The majority of our youth have experienced a severe amount of abuse or neglect in the home, parental substance use, perhaps a lot of poverty in the home where families weren’t able to care for them. Many of our clients are LGBT and their parents asked them to leave because of their sexual orientation. So people really become homeless for a variety of reasons.

RACHAEL MYROW: How do you start a conversation with a teenager about HIV/AIDS?

RAE SUBER, Larkin Street’s HIV testing & prevention program: Getting a client to consider testing is like getting them to consider medical care in general. Usually there’s a crisis. They think they might have a sexually transmitted infection. They think they might be pregnant. They think their partner might have an infection or be pregnant, and they’re concerned. So they come in and, if testing is indicated, we’ll recommend it. Continue reading

Quick Read: Dr. Joseph E. Murray, Who Performed First Successful Organ Transplant, Dies at 93

In 1954, Dr. Joseph Murray took the healthy kidney from one identical twin and sutured it into the other. With that, a new frontier in medicine was ushered in. He later won the Nobel Prize for his work.

Dr. Joseph E. Murray, the Nobel laureate who conducted the world’s first successful organ transplant, died Monday at the Boston hospital where the pioneering surgery was performed. He was 93. He had suffered a hemorrhagic stroke at his Wellesley home Thanksgiving night. On Dec.

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Brand Name Drugs vs. Generic? One Going Up Faster Than Inflation

Here’s a look at what The Incidental Economist is calling the “chart of the day”:

(Source: Express Scripts)

Since 2008, generic drug prices have fallen — by a whopping 60 percent. But brand name drugs? They’re way up — by 160 percent. Something to consider next time you fill a prescription. Check out the full report from Express Scripts for more detail or look at health policy.

California Faces Shortage of Primary Care Doctors

By Susan Valot

(Susan Valot/KQED)

Medical student gets information at the California Family Medicine Residency Fair. (Susan Valot/KQED)

At a Los Angeles hotel meeting room dozens of medical students mill around booths set up by residency programs. They pick up literature and stop to ask questions.

It’s the California Family Medicine Residency Fair, put on by the California Academy of Family Physicians. Its goal is to bring more general practice doctors into the fold. Dr. Jeff Luther runs the family medicine residency program at Long Beach Memorial Medical Center.

“There are benefits to living in California,” Luther says. “That’s why so many people do it and a lot of people want to come to California for training. It can be harder to attract people to practice in … the more developed parts of California, because it’s expensive to live there. And if you’re coming out of medical school with $200,000 in debt off the ground and then thinking about trying to buy a home and raise a family, that part of it can be a little more difficult.”

In general, specialists make a lot more money than general practitioners. A study three years ago by the California HealthCare Foundation found that only 16 of California’s 58 counties had enough primary care physicians, based on standards by the American Medical Association. Areas like San Bernardino and Riverside counties and the San Joaquin Valley fared the worst. Continue reading

New Law Helps LGBT Families Access Fertility Treatments

By Mina Kim, KQED

From left to right, Maya and MeiBeck Scott-Chung with their daughter Luna, and Daniel Bao. Bao donated his sperm to help Maya and MeiBeck conceive.  (Photo: Vaschelle Andre)

From left to right, Maya and MeiBeck Scott-Chung with their daughter Luna, and Daniel Bao. Bao donated his sperm to help Maya and MeiBeck conceive. (Photo: Vaschelle Andre)

Maya Scott-Chung knew she wanted to be a mom when she was seven years old and got to see a home birth.

Then in high school, she fell in love with a woman.

“When I began to realize when I was a teenager that I thought I might be gay, I thought I couldn’t be a parent,” Maya says. “It was a real conflict in my heart.”

Then Maya saw the movie Choosing Children that showed her lesbians could be parents.

“And that it’s also possible to build families in an intentional way,” Maya says. “It wasn’t exactly like replicating the nuclear family. It was really more creating an extended family.”

That’s exactly what Maya did about 20 years later, with her transgender partner MeiBeck Scott-Chung.

On a recent visit to their Oakland home, Maya and MeiBeck are helping their eight year-old daughter Luna Lee Yulien Gillingham Scott-Chung with her math homework. Luna’s name reflects the Irish, Scottish, Chinese and Hispanic heritages of Maya and MeiBeck, and their friend Daniel Bao. Bao donated his sperm to help conceive Luna. Continue reading

What is the Cost of Living with HIV?



Saturday is World AIDS Day, a time when we take stock of where we are globally in the fight against the disease and — according to its mission — show support for people living with HIV.

KQED’s Joshua Johnson had an unusually moving way of going about showing support on this morning’s air. He interviewed our colleague Mark Trautwein, editor of KQED’s Perspectives series. Much to my own surprise, Trautwein has been living with HIV, as Johnson describes, since a time when diagnosis was thought to be a death sentence.

Johnson wanted to explore the cost of the disease — not its emotional toll, but real dollars. Their four minute interview this morning was one of those times where you just stop and listen. And reflect. And peer right into someone else’s life.

Trautwein is one of 1.2 million Americans living with HIV/AIDS. As a health reporter, I find total treatment dollars are so huge they’re sometimes hard to grasp. But Johnson and Trautwein put a very real face on what it costs — from check ups to blood tests to endless prescriptions — to stay alive.

What follows is a lightly edited transcript of their conversation. But if you can, please listen here to the longer version. You won’t be sorry:

Continue reading

Study Questions Benefit of Many Double Mastectomies

By Richard Knox, for NPR and Kaiser Health News

It’s a startling finding: Many women with cancer in one breast are choosing to have their healthy breast removed, too.

But a study being presented later this week says more than three-quarters of women who opt for double mastectomies are not getting any benefit because their risk of cancer developing in the healthy breast is no greater than in women without cancer.

Double mastectomy “does not make sense” for about three-quarters of the women who are choosing the operation. 

“People want absolute certainty,” breast surgeon Monica Morrow of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center tells NPR’s Shots blog. “Unfortunately, even having a double mastectomy doesn’t provide certainty that breast cancer will not recur. So it’s a false sense of security.”

Morrow is a co-author of a paper that will be presented at the American Society of Clinical Oncology’s Quality Care Symposium in San Diego.

Another co-author, Sarah Hawley, of the University of Michigan, says double mastectomy “does not make sense” for about three-quarters of the women who are choosing the operation “because having a non-affected breast removed will not reduce the risk of recurrence in the affected breast.” Continue reading

Toxics Linked to Cancer Prevalent in Couches

By Christina Jewett, California Watch

Eight out of 10 couches contain flame retardant chemicals that are linked to heightened cancer risk, developmental delays in children or are lacking adequate health information, according to a study released today by researchers at UC Berkeley and Duke University.

(Chris Metcalf/Flickr)

(Chris Metcalf/Flickr)

The study also shows an increase in the number of couches bought throughout the U.S. that contain flame retardants. That number went up even though California is the only state that has a flame retardant regulation. While 75 percent of couches bought before 2005 contained a flame retardant chemical, the rate rose to 93 percent in couches bought since 2005, the study found.

“I didn’t expect to find such a high percentage of furniture bought outside of California to meet the standard,” said Arlene Blum, an author of the study and founder of the Berkeley-based Green Science Policy Institute. “It’s led to the use of more toxic chemicals.”

The study is coming out as California authorities, at the direction of Gov. Jerry Brown, are revising the state’s Technical Bulletin 117, which requires furniture foam to resist combustion when exposed to a flame for 12 seconds.

An updated bulletin is being drafted that will require couch upholstery to resist catching fire when it comes into contact with something, such as a cigarette, that is smoldering, according to Russ Heimerich, a spokesman for the Department of Consumer Affairs, which includes the state’s furniture safety bureau.

The change would mean that many couches would meet the fire-safety standard as they are currently made, without adding chemicals to foam, Heimerich said. Continue reading

Quick Read: Air Pollution May Be Factor in Autism

We know living near a freeway is bad for all manner of lung diseases — asthma, bronchitis, emphysema — and even heart disease. This study builds on 2010 research that also found an association between living near a freeway and autism.

Researchers have found that exposure to traffic-related air pollution during pregnancy is associated with autism, according to a new study released on Monday. The study, published online in the Archives of General Psychiatry, found evidence that pollution may affect the developing brain among children whose mothers lived in areas where there was poor air quality.

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What Are the Costs of HIV Treatment?

by Ian Hill, KQED News

Workers hang a red ribbon on the White House before World AIDS Day, 2011. Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Workers hang a red ribbon on the White House before World AIDS Day, 2011. Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Living with HIV is not cheap. Earlier this year NPR reported that monthly HIV treatments can cost between $2,000-$5,000 and that the lifetime cost of treatment is estimated at more than a half-million dollars. While public assistance programs can help cover some treatments, some people still find it a challenge to pay for the drugs they need to survive.

In advance of World AIDS Day this Saturday, KQED wants to know how the cost of treatments has affected people living with HIV. If you’re HIV positive, you can help inform our reporting by filling out the form below. The information you provide may be used in a future blog post or in our reporting on radio, unless otherwise noted. Continue reading