Review Category : Health

Gay Man Documents Protest over FDA Blood Donation Policy

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — After being turned away when he wanted to donate blood, an LGBT activist documented his efforts to meet the new requirements to give blood as a gay man, including abstaining from sexual relations for a year.

On Tuesday, Jay Franzone, 21, gave blood for the first time since he announced his protest against what he and other critics say are regulations that unfairly stigmatize and limit gay men.

Franzone, a recent college graduate, has previously participated in protests against the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) policy as part of the National Gay Blood Drive. He has been widely interviewed during his year of protest.

“It’s been a wild ride, I’m really grateful to have given blood,” Franzone said, expressing gratitude for the encouragement he has received. “I was able to hear directly from so many different blood donors and their recipients.”

Under FDA rules, men who have sex with men are banned from donating blood unless they abstain from sex for one year. The current policy was introduced in December 2015 as a change to policy set in 1983 during the AIDS crisis: a lifetime ban on blood donations for gay and bisexual men. For 30 years, the FDA disallowed their donations over concerns about infected blood from men who could have HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, which can be transmitted through transfusions.

The new guidelines are in line with the policies in other countries, including the United Kingdom, Brazil, Australia and Japan.

The American Medical Association had pushed for the lifetime ban to end and praised the FDA when the new policy was first introduced.

“The AMA has been a strong advocate for eliminating public policies that do not align with scientific evidence and best ethical practices in public policy,” AMA officials said in a statement when the FDA policy was changed in 2015. “The FDA’s final guidance takes important steps to improve the balance ensuring health equity, engaging with high-risk populations, and protecting the safety of the national blood supply.”

Franzone said he believes even though the lifetime ban was lifted, the current policy encourages “misconceptions and stigma.” He believes the FDA policy should look at whether a potential donor’s individual behavior is risky rather than restricting large groups of people. The FDA continues to ban sex workers, people who have been incarcerated for more than a year, intravenous drug users and people who have traveled to certain countries from donating blood.

“You can be a heterosexual person and have multiple high risk encounters,” Franzone said, “and give blood the same day.”

Franzone wrote an article about his experience, published in the New York Times Thursday, as he ended his waiting time to donate blood.

He has received support from both people who have dealt with blood donation and community leaders, he said. One of them is Illinois Congressman Mike Quigley, who serves as vice chair of the Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus and has advocated for removing questions about sexual orientation on blood donation questionnaires.

“It has been a privilege to work with Jay on this critical issue, and I applaud him for his leadership and commitment,” Quigley told ABC News. “Our nation’s blood donation policy, which requires gay men to observe a 12-month celibacy period before donating, is both discriminatory and outdated. All healthy Americans who want to help save lives through blood donation should have the opportunity to do so.”

Franzone said many families have also shared their experience with blood donations, encouraging his protest. One woman contacted him via Facebook he said, and thanked him after her cousin, a gay man, was unable to donate blood to help her son who had a cardiac condition.

“His partner and his friends kept [her son] company in a hospital,” far from home, Franzone recounted. But they could not donate blood to help his medical condition.

The woman thanked Franzone over social media for both donating blood and drawing attention to the policy, he said, writing “thank you for giving him and kids like him the tools to fight.”

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Your Body: Teen Drug Use

iStock/ThinkstockBy DR. JENNIFER ASHTON, ABC News Senior Medical Contributor

Teens are not using drugs and alcohol as much as they used to, the latest government survey shows.

Federal health officials surveyed more than 45,000 eighth, 10th and 12th graders and found their use of everything from meth and heroin to tobacco and alcohol were all down.

Conversely, however, the National Institute on Drug Abuse says 12th grade marijuana use is up in states that have legalized its use.

So what are the signs your kids may be using?

  • Look for physical and behavioral signs first, like changes in their pupils and odor to their breath or a difference in their sleeping and eating patterns.
  • Are they asking for more money or missing classes in school?

While it’s always important to respect your child’s privacy, it’s more important to protect their health and their lives.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

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Two Women Share How They Collectively Lost 100s of Pounds

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Two women who each lost over one hundred pounds shared their secrets and tips for how they were able to shed the weight Thursday on Good Morning America and in People magazine’s “Half Their Size” issue.

“These women have an incredible mindset,” Catherine Kast, staff editor at People magazine said Thursday. “They have developed methods to help them keep [the weight] off.”

Joanne Raymond, 49, a mother of two from Pennsylvania, said that she lost a total of 133 pounds, after going from 249 pounds to her current weight of 116 pounds.

“As I approached 50,” Raymond said, “Looking in the mirror … I was shocked at the belly that I now had, and no clothes fit. … I’ve gained and lost hundreds of pounds and each time I gained it back.”

Raymond said she turned to fitness apps, looking for something that would help her “stay on track.”

“I weigh myself every day,” Raymond added. “When my weight goes up a little bit, I moderate my diet. I’ve been there two other times and I’m not going back. Whatever the number is, I’m not upset by it and I don’t fixate on it. Instead, I use it to empower me to make good choices.”

She said she plans out her meals the night before and relies on an app called MyFitnessPal to track her meals and strictly eats only three meals a day with no snacking in between.

“No snacking at all,” Raymond said. “I used to graze pretty much all day long. It’s about telling myself: ‘You get to eat three times a day. That’s it.'”

Lindita Halimi, 27, an aspiring entertainer from Kosovo in Eastern Europe, lost a total of 130 pounds; dropping from 250 pounds to 120 pounds. She also kept the weight off for four years and can now squat 355 pounds.

Halimi said her poor eating habits began when she was growing up in war-torn Kosovo, where she didn’t know when she would be able to get her next meal.

“We were refugees,” Halimi said. “We boiled leaves, and we ate that just to survive.

“After we all got back home,” Halimi added, “I had this mentality of, ‘Let me eat now ’cause I don’t know when I’m going to eat later.'”

Halimi said she reached her heaviest weight of 250 pounds in her late teens, following years of overeating. She says she hit rock-bottom after she won an Albanian singing competition in 2009.

“Every magazine I was opening, every page I was turning to, there was something about … my weight,” Halimi said, “and all the criticism started to affect me.

“I knew I had to make a change,” she continued. She began her weight-loss journey, crediting working out with transforming her health.

“I drastically changed my diet and started walking since I couldn’t run or jog, but it wasn’t until I started lifting weights that I really lost the weight,” Halimi said. “I like weights because they pump you. They give you energy.”

Both women share their full stories in People magazine’s “Half Their Size,” issue, which is currently on newsstands nationwide.

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New Case Study Reveals Details on First Local Florida Zika Infection

Thinkstock/iStock(MIAMI) — The first person to be infected locally during Florida’s Zika virus outbreak was nearly 5 months pregnant, according to a new case study published Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine.

The case study reveals how doctors figured out that a 23-year-old pregnant woman was the first person in the continental U.S. to be infected with locally acquired Zika virus.

The unnamed patient appeared at a Miami hospital in July with a rash, sore throat and fever, according to the report. These symptoms were all signs of Zika infection. However, there had been no reported local spread of the virus at the time, and people in the U.S. with Zika infections were those who had traveled abroad or who had sexual contact with Zika-infected people.

The first person to be infected in a Florida outbreak of Zika was a pregnant woman, who showed up to the hospital with a rash on her stomach.

Dr. Lucky Chen, a dermatologist at Jackson Health System in Miami, treated the patient and said Zika was on everyone’s mind, despite the fact that the patient hadn’t traveled abroad to areas with high-levels of Zika transmission — namely, Central and South America.

“When the patient came in, she was obviously very concerned about her pregnancy,” Chen told ABC News. “She had been following the news and she had a fever and rash.”

During an examination, doctors were particularly interested in the extensive rash that affected the woman’s stomach, chest, back of her arms and legs.

“When we saw her, her rash was nonspecific. It just looked like pink bumps from head to toe,” Chen said.

The doctors tested the woman for Zika virus in addition to a host of other viruses, such as mumps and measles. When doctors got her lab results, they found that she was the first person to have locally acquired Zika virus in the continental U.S.

The virus has been linked to a host of birth defects, most notably microcephaly. That birth defect is characterized by an abnormally small head and brain, which can lead to developmental delays.

While the patient tested positive for the virus, the doctors treating her found that the fetus did not show signs of microcephaly. The woman went on to give birth naturally late last year to an infant who showed no signs of birth defects and tested negative for the virus. Both mother and infant are being followed to determine if there are any lasting effects of the Zika virus.

Chen said she and her co-authors wrote the report to give people in the medical community a clearer picture of what a Zika rash can look like on a patient.

“Dermatologists and clinicians had an idea of what the Zika rash looked like, but it wasn’t until the patient presented here that we were able to get an up-close and personal look and photograph the skin,” Chen said in a statement Wednesday. “Any doctor now has a visual sense of the rash to properly diagnose and refer patients to the appropriate specialists.”

Florida ended up having three areas with ongoing Zika transmission during last year’s outbreak. Since the outbreak was first reported, there have been 256 people infected with locally transmitted Zika in Florida, according to the state health department.

Last month, Florida Gov. Rick Scott declared the state free of locally transmitted Zika for the first time since July.

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Medical Experts Concerned After Trump Meets With Vaccine Skeptic

Thinkstock/Ingram Publishing(NEW YORK) — Doctors and members of the medical community are raising concerns after President-elect Donald Trump met with Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., who has advocated for parental opt-out provisions on routine childhood vaccines in the past.

“President-elect Trump has some doubts about the current vaccine policies and he has questions about it,” Kennedy told reporters immediately after the meeting on Tuesday. “His opinion doesn’t matter but the science does matter and we ought to be reading the science and we ought to be debating the science. Everybody ought to be able to be assured that the vaccines that we have — he’s very pro-vaccine, as am I — but they’re as safe as they possibly can be.”

Kennedy also told reporters that Trump had asked him to chair a commission on vaccine safety, but the Trump team did not confirm that appointment and said the president-elect was exploring a commission that would look broadly at autism.

“The President-elect enjoyed his discussion with Robert Kennedy Jr. on a range of issues and appreciates his thoughts and ideas,” the Trump transition team said in a statement. “The President-elect is exploring the possibility of forming a commission on Autism, which affects so many families; however no decisions have been made at this time. The President-elect looks forward to continuing the discussion about all aspects of Autism with many groups and individuals.”

The meeting, coupled with Trump’s past statements on vaccines, has raised alarm within the medical community, which stands by a preponderance of current evidence that shows no link between autism and vaccines.

Kennedy has made controversial statements about vaccines for many years, generally unsupported by the larger medical community. He authored a 2014 book that supported a theory born in the 1990s that claimed a mercury-based vaccine additive called thimerosal is a dangerous “neurotoxin” that could trigger autism and should be completely banned. Kennedy has also linked vaccines and autism on his website.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have reviewed hundreds of studies since then and have consistently found no link between thimerosal-containing vaccines and autism. The additive is no longer used in routine childhood vaccines and is considered safe in the doses used in influenza vaccines, according to the CDC.

In 2015, Kennedy visited several states to argue against rules that would make it more difficult for students to be exempt from vaccine requirements, although he said he is “pro-vaccine,” according to his website.

In response to Trump’s meeting with Kennedy, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) released a statement emphasizing the safety of vaccines and their importance in safeguarding children’s health against common, easily spread and sometimes deadly, childhood illnesses.

“Claims that vaccines are linked to autism, or are unsafe when administered according to the recommended schedule, have been disproven by a robust body of medical literature,” Dr. Fernando Stein, president of the American Academy of Pediatrics, and Dr. Karen Remley, Vice President, American Academy of Pediatrics said in a joint statement Wednesday.

“Delaying vaccines only leaves a child at risk of disease. Vaccines keep communities healthy, and protect some of the most vulnerable in our society, including the elderly, and children who are too young to be vaccinated or have compromised immune systems.”

“We stand ready to work with the White House and the federal government to share the extensive scientific evidence demonstrating the safety of vaccines, including the recommended schedule,” Stein and Remley wrote.

Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious disease expert at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, said he was hopeful about a commission on autism and hoped it would leave out any mention of vaccines.

“A commission on autism might well be a very good thing to direct attention” to the condition, said Schaffner. But “As regards to vaccines, we would keep reinforcing the notion that vaccines are one of the greatest public health triumphs, they are safe and effective and not associated with autism.”

Other medical groups have also responded to the meeting, including The Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA), which released a statement in support of vaccines this morning saying the group, “stands behind the overwhelming scientific evidence that has repeatedly demonstrated the overall safety and benefit of routine childhood vaccinations.”

“Children are far more likely to be harmed by vaccine preventable illness, such as measles, than by the vaccines that prevent such infections,” IDSA officials said in the statement.

Trump has expressed skepticism about vaccines previously. During one debate Trump reiterated statements he had previously made, associating autism with vaccines.

“We had so many instances, people that work for me,” Trump said. “Just the other day, two years old, a beautiful child, went to have the vaccine and came back and a week later got a tremendous fever, got very, very sick, now is autistic.”

“Autism has become an epidemic — 25 years ago, 30 years ago you look at the statistics, not even close,” Trump said. “It has gotten totally out of control.”

Alison Singer, president and co-founder of the Autism Science Foundation, released a statement after his debate saying science overwhelmingly supported vaccinations as safe. In a new statement Tuesday Singer said she is concerned that under-immunizing children will put them at risk for contracting preventable diseases –- and opting out of vaccines will not lower the risk for developing autism.

“Science has answered,” the question, Singer said. “All of the studies that we have done have shown there is no link between vaccines and autism.”

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Your Body: Brain Injuries Database

iStock/ThinkstockBy DR. JENNIFER ASHTON, ABC News Senior Medical Contributor

The goal of a project in Texas is to create a database of brain injuries in kids and teens. The program will track about two dozen sports, recording the cause of a head injury, recovery times and other data.

Officials say this can be a key step in developing a national database of youth brain injuries.

Here’s what you should know about concussions:

  • Always keep your eyes on your child. Coaches and trainers have many players to watch, but no one knows your child like you do, so watching him or her play is key in recognizing an injury.
  • Symptoms of concussion can include sleep disturbances, difficulty concentrating, feeling nauseated or having a headache, or emotional changes. And these can take weeks to resolve.

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Boy, 10, Sells Baseball Cards to Raise Money for Friends with Cancer

Jessie Kahle(SPRINGFIELD, Mass.) — A 10-year-old boy had been selling his collection of baseball cards to raise money for two friends who have been diagnosed with cancer.

Brady Kahle of Springfield, Massachusetts, has sold over $13,000 in cards so far. The money will go toward medical bills for his buddies Landen Palatino and Ben Manzi.

“Proud seems like such a small word for what we feel,” mom Jessie Kahle told ABC News. “How selfless he’s been has been pretty incredible. The way he’s so proud of what he’s doing. He’s always coming up with new ways to make it better and make it bigger. He’s so excited to make a difference.”

Ben, 7, was diagnosed with leukemia in December 2015, while Landen, 9, was diagnosed on Jan. 6 with glioblastoma — a grade 4 brain tumor. The tumor was removed two days later and MRIs have shown no evidence of a progression, Landen’s mother said.

After Brady learned of his friends’ battle with cancer, he asked his parents if he could sell his baseball cards to help, Kahle said.

The Boys & Girls Club of Chicopee, a youth development agency, allowed Brady to set up a table at its facility. He calls his project “Cards for a Cause.”

Brady has sold hundreds of thousands of baseball cards from the collection he started at 3 years old, including a Mickey Mantle card for $150. He also sells bobble heads, signed hockey sticks, autographed baseballs, photos and original “Cards for a Cause” T-shirts. He’s received many items as donations from collectors of sports memorabilia.

Because of his cause, the trading card company “Upper Deck” inducted Brady into its Heroic Inspirations campaign by printing his face on to his very own card.

Tina Palatino said she will be forever grateful to Brady and his family for their generosity.

“Most children Brady’s age would never want to give up cherished items and thr fact that Brady wanted to sell his beloved cards to help us, is beyond heartwarming,” Palatino told ABC News. “Landen has always looked up to Brady and I think this just makes him look up to him even more.”

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Charlie Sheen Opens Up About His Battle with HIV

ABC News(NEW YORK) — Golden Globe-winning actor Charlie Sheen opened up about his diagnosis of HIV, saying he feels like he’s “carrying the torch” for others battling the disease that causes AIDS.

“I feel like I’m carrying the torch,” Sheen told ABC News’ Michael Strahan in an interview with that aired Wednesday on Good Morning America, “for a lot of folks out there that are suffering from the same thing.”

“The day I was diagnosed, I immediately wanted to eat a bullet,” Sheen said. “But my mom was there, I wouldn’t do that in front of her, or let her find me to clean up that mess.”

“But then, something else came over me. They gave me a handful of pills and said, ‘You can go home now, and you’re going to live,'” he said.

“If I was there with, you know, brain cancer or, or, a stomach thing, or some meningitis,” he added. “We wouldn’t be sitting here right now.”

Sheen said he is “grateful” for the health care he has received since being diagnosed with the disease that effects more than 1.2 million people in the U.S., according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“I’m so grateful for what was available when it happened,” Sheen said, “and even more grateful for what’s available right now, when I’m, I’m in the middle of it, you know?”

He added that some days “are better than others. But, but most days are pretty frickin’ cool.”

The Major League actor went public with his HIV diagnosis in November 2015, four years after he was first diagnosed.

Currently, he told Strahan that he feels “really good.” After a four-year film hiatus, Sheen will return to the screen in a new movie, Mad Families, a comedy streaming on Crackle, about three families from different backgrounds forced to spend a vacation together.

Sheen said that he has been a part of a Food and Drug Administration study for a new HIV treatment.

“I am so grateful,” Sheen told Strahan, “for eight months now, I’ve been enrolled in an FDA study … for a medication for a drug called PRO-140,” adding that the drug is in the “late stages” of its trial run and “very close to being approved.”

“It’s not this hideous cocktail that, that, that leads to so many side effects and, and just, just so much disdain, you know, emotionally and physically. It’s one shot a week, and there’s no side effects,” Sheen said.

Sheen’s upcoming film Mad Families will be released on Jan. 12, 2017.

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Women Reveal How They Lost More Than 100 Pounds, Transformed Their Lives

Photodisc/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — For Diana Anguh, it was her high school prom that set her on a weight-loss journey to losing 140 pounds and becoming a chef.

For Christina Jordan, it was not being able to enjoy a ride at Disneyland because she could not buckle the seat belt that pushed her to lose more than 130 pounds and keep the weight off for nine years.

“I decided to try a more natural approach to eating. I focused on just being healthy, and seeing where my body takes me,” Jordan told People magazine, in which she is featured, along with Anguh, in the magazine’s latest issue, which has Oprah Winfrey on its cover.

Jordan, 34, of Phoenix said eating six meals per day with a mix of protein, good carbohydrates and healthy fats helped her drop 35 pounds in one month. From there, she continued to lose weight and is now finishing her doctorate in nutritional science.

“I realized that I would be the best mom and the best wife by being the best me,” Jordan told People.

Anguh, 24, of Silver Spring, Maryland, has kept her 140-pound weight loss off for over six years. She credits her weight loss to setting a goal and sticking to it by eating smaller portions of her favorite foods and exercising.

Anguh is now an executive chef who owns her own catering company and finds healthier ways to make her favorite foods.

“It’s tough being around food all day, but I get through it by planning my meals,” she told People. “That way I know exactly what to eat and when, without snacking.”

Anguh and Jordan both appeared Wednesday on Good Morning America and shared more of their healthy living tips. Read below to find out their keys to success.

Diana Anguh’s Healthy Living Tips:

Courtesy Diana Anguh1) Kill cravings by chewing gum.

2) Look at old pictures to remind yourself of what you’ve accomplished.

3) Experiment with recipes to create healthier versions of your favorite foods. Anguh’s favorite is her recipe for broccoli pizza which features broccoli as the crust. Click HERE for the recipe.

4) Remember that losing weight is “not easy but doable.”

Christina Jordan’s Healthy Living Tips:

Courtesy Christina Jordan1) Eat all day in order to fire up your metabolism and avoid getting “hangry.”

2) Sneak exercise into your daily life.

3) Find and focus on your reason for losing weight.

4) Give away your old clothes as you lose weight.

Jordan’s Sample Daily Food Plan:

Breakfast: Veggie omelet and a handful of berries or a wheatgrass shake made with wheatgrass, kale, spinach and green apple.

Snack: 1 hard-boiled egg and 1 apple.

Lunch: Large grilled chicken salad, with all the fresh vegetables you want, topped with oil and vinegar or a little salad dressing, plus a side of strawberries.

Sliced cucumber or broccoli and hummus.

Dinner: Grilled or baked fish with a fresh salad or zucchini noodles or mashed cauliflower.

Dessert: Baked apples with cinnamon, almond milk and Stevia.

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Chicago School Shutters After 800 Kids, 50 Staff Ill with Suspected Norovirus

iStock/Thinkstock(ST. CHARLES, Ill.) — A Chicago high school shut down for a second day Wednesday after a suspected outbreak of norovirus sickened some 800 students and 50 staff, school officials said.

“While a clinical determination has yet to be made about the stomach virus that is going around, the symptoms are similar to norovirus, so, we are following the procedures regarding norovirus,” St. Charles District 303 said in a statement. “We are now working to assist the Illinois Department of Public Health in their efforts to more clearly identify this virus.”

The St. Charles East High School is home to about 2,500 students and 100 staff, many of whom reported telltale signs of the virus, which include diarrhea, throwing up, nausea and stomach pain, according to officials.

Norovirus is the leading cause of illness and outbreaks from contaminated food in the United States, accounting for about half of all all outbreaks of food-related illness, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

The virus sickens some 19 to 21 million Americans annually and contributes to as many as 800 deaths.

The high school decided to shut its doors for a second day in accordance with recommendations from the CDC that people with a suspected norovirus infection be symptom free for 48 hours before returning to normal activities.

Classes at the school are set to resume on Thursday.

Symptoms of a widespread illness started appearing on Saturday night, ABC affiliate WLS-TV reported, when a boys’ basketball game was postponed because 10 of the team’s 14 players were ill.

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