Circumcision to Fight HIV Transmission

Voluntary male circumcisions (VMMC) in high-risk areas reduce HIV acquisition among men by approximately 60%, for only about $6 per treatment. The evidence is strong enough that the treatment has gotten heavy hitters like the CDC, WHO, the Gates Foundation, and the White House (at least the last one …) onboard.

Kenya made it its long-term goal to circumcise 80% of its male population in 2008. In the first couple years, they circumcised almost 400,000 people. Since then, 13 African countries have followed suit, getting 3 million done from 2008 to 2012, and doubling from 2011 to 2012.

Image Credit: UN AIDS Global Report 2013


Male circumcision provides a degree of protection against acquiring HIV infection, equivalent to what a vaccine of high efficacy would have achieved. Male circumcision may provide an important way of reducing the spread of HIV infection in sub-Saharan Africa.
Public Library of Science

 

Kenya’s 4-year VMMC target is to circumcise 860,000 (80%) of uncircumcised males aged 15–49 years by 2013. During 2008–2011, trained clinicians performed 391,383 VMMCs for HIV prevention in Kenya, of which 340,958 (87.1%) were conducted in 260 MOH sites supported by CDC-funded partners, from which the data were obtained
The CDC

 

“Providing men with information about male circumcision and HIV risk can encourage safer sexual behavior among uncircumcised men, and fears that information will lead to riskier behavior among circumcised men may be overstated. The 2008 information campaign led uncircumcised men to adopt safer sexual behavior one year after a short information session, suggesting that VMMC information can have longer-term effects on sexual behavior.”
Jameel Poverty Action Lab

 

While challenges persist in preventing new infections, opportunities to dramatically lower HIV incidence have never been more promising. In recent years, evidence has emerged that antiretroviral therapies can reduce the risk of HIV transmission by as much as 96%, voluntary medical male circumcision by approximately 60% […]
The UN

 

The number of those responding positively is below the ages of 18. Maybe this is due to peer pressure. Once school children are circumcised, they tend to influence others to undergo the procedure. I think there is need to teach everyone a lot about these programmes.
VOA Zimbabwe

Walking Barefoot in Human Poop Held the American South Back for Centuries

Hookworm is a parasite that causes lethargy and lower performance. It is transmitted when human waste (used as a fertilizer on fields) comes into contact with human feet (barefoot field workers) in climates where it can survive (the American South).

Almost half of the American South was infected with this parasite as of 1910, causing stereotypes about lower-class Southern people being lazy and dumb. It was only around then, after centuries of lives held back from their potential, that someone thought to figure out why and discovered hookworm.

Despite some pushback from Southerners who were offended by the accusation that they were all infected by parasites, improving conditions and a big campaign by the Rockefeller Foundation eventually wiped out the parasites, but only in the mid 20th century.

Image Attribution: Marion Post Wolcott [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons


[…] as recently as the 1950s, hookworms were an intimate and ever-present threat for those living in the South. It was nearly impossible for the rural poor—the majority back then—to avoid hookworms […] Because iron is critical for brain function, hookworm infection could also lead to irreversible cognitive and intellectual defects. A 1926 study of Alabama school children found that the greater the number of worms that students harbored, the lower their IQ. 
PBS

 

Areas with higher levels of hookworm infection prior to the RSC experienced greater increases in school enrollment, attendance, and literacy after the intervention. This result is robust to controlling for a variety of alternative factors […]
The NIH

 

Hookworms live in the small intestine. Hookworm eggs are passed in the feces of an infected person. If the infected person defecates outside (near bushes, in a garden, or field) of if the feces of an infected person are used as fertilizer, eggs are deposited on soil. They can then mature and hatch, releasing larvae (immature worms). The larvae mature into a form that can penetrate the skin of humans. Hookworm infection is mainly acquired by walking barefoot on contaminated soil.
The CDC

 

Southerners initially distrusted RSC efforts. Many were offended by accusations of infection and refused to accept testing and the treatment of Epsom salts and thymol. Others believed that the disease simply did not exist. Regional newspaper editorials also strongly criticized RSC employees and viewed them as a Northern imposition.
The Rockefeller Foundation

The File Drawer Effect, or Why Your High School Psychology Class was Useless

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The world of psychology was rocked recently by a study showing that huge chunks of psychology research weren’t able to be replicated. High-profile studies, like the one linking feeling clean and pure to the judgment of other people’s morals, were involved in The Great Debunking. 

This problem isn’t unique to social psychology. Most fields of science, especially for lower-profile, IFL-science-style studies, are plagued by this replication bias. Even cancer research is impacted.

There’re a few issues contributing. For one, there’s a bias toward findings that are surprising and prove something. That bias, which leads to studies with negative or confirmation results, to end up sitting around file drawers unpublished, is called “publication bias,” or “the file drawer effect.” It also discourages studies simply replicating the results of previous studies. No one makes their mark that way.

The scientific community has been making efforts to fix the problem, and it doesn’t affect high-profile issues of scientific consensus, like the Big Bang, Evolution, or Climate Change, but we have a long way to go.

Image By Sara Franses (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0
(http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons


Given the stakes involved and its centrality to the scientific method, it may seem perplexing that replication is the exception rather than the rule. The reasons why are varied, but most come down to the perverse incentives driving research. Scientific journals typically view “positive” findings that announce a novel relationship or support a theoretical claim as more interesting than “negative” findings that say that things are unrelated or that a theory is not supported. The more surprising the positive finding, the better, even though surprising findings are statistically less likely to be accurate.
http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/science/2014/07/replication_controversy_in_psychology_bullying_file_drawer_effect_blog_posts.html

 

Publication bias is a type of bias occurring in published academic research. It occurs when the outcome of an experiment or research study influences the decision whether to publish (or otherwise distribute) it. Publication bias is of interest because literature reviews of claims about support for a hypothesis or values for a parameter will themselves be biased if the original literature is contaminated by publication bias.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Publication_bias

 

“Positive results in research studies overall, became 22% more likely to appear in scientific journals from 1990 to 2007,” says the study, which looked at a sample of 4,656 papers over this time period, looking for trends in science journals.
[…]
The analysis looked at studies where authors proposed a hypothesis and then sought to test it, either confirming it for a positive result, or not. Overall, 70.2% of papers were positive in 1990–1991 and 85.9% were positive in 2007. “On average, the odds or reporting a positive result have increased by around 6% every year, showing a statistically highly significant trend,” says the study.
http://content.usatoday.com/communities/sciencefair/post/2011/09/science-studies-neglecting-negative-results/1#.V-r3E_ArK70

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The Guy Who Inventer Copying Machines Couldn’t Sell Water to a Drowning Man

Chester Carlson invented Xerography. As in Xerox machines/copiers. They aren’t the sexiest of inventions, but trillions of copies are made a year for a good reason. The modern world couldn’t exist without them.

Yet, between 1938 and 1944, over 20 groups turned down his invention, saying they just didn’t get it, including IBM and the US Navy. He finally lucked his way into finding a small company in Rochester NY that was interested, and what would become Xerox was born.

The invention was so out of the blue and unique at its time (most attempts at copying were using chemical photography) that if Carlson was just a little less lucky, his crappy salesmanship could’ve made modern offices continue using hand-copying for decades.


“Electrophotography had practically no foundation in previous scientific work. Chet put together a rather odd lot of phenomena, each of which was obscure in itself and none of which had previously been related in anyone’s thinking. The result was the biggest thing in imaging since the coming of photography itself. Furthermore, he did it entirely without the help of a favorable scientific climate. There are dozens of instances of simultaneous discovery down through scientific history, but no one came anywhere near being simultaneous with Chet. I’m as amazed by his discovery now as I was when I first heard of it.”
— Dr. Harold E. Clark, Battelle Memorial Institute, New Yorker, 1967
http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/1967/04/01/xerox-xerox-xerox-xerox

The road to Carlson’s success—or that for xerography’s success—had been long and filled with failure. He was turned down for funding by more than twenty companies between 1939 and 1944. He tried for some time to sell the invention to International Business Machines (IBM), the great vendor of office equipment, but no one at the company saw merit in the concept—it is not clear that anyone at IBM even ‘understood’ the concept. His next-to-last attempt to garner the interest—and funds—he needed to commercialize the physics was a meeting with the Department of the Navy. The Navy had a specific interest in the production of dry copies, but they did not “see” what Carlson saw.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chester_Carlson

Carlson obtained the first of many patents for the xerographic process and tried unsuccessfully to interest someone in developing and marketing his invention. More than 20 companies turned him down. Finally, in 1944, he persuaded Battelle Memorial Institute, Columbus, Ohio, a nonprofit industrial research organization, to undertake developmental work. In 1947 a small firm in Rochester, N.Y., the Haloid Company (later the Xerox Corporation), obtained the commercial rights to xerography, and 11 years later Xerox introduced its first office copier.
https://www.britannica.com/biography/Chester-F-Carlson