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South Africa’s Durex Lovers

July 22, 2013 in Health

Durex South Africa is pleased to announce that the local couple representing South Africa in the Durex Experiment was selected and sent to Venice to begin in the experiment.

Cape Town based Kirsty Carpenter and fiancé Michael Honeyman, were jetted off to Venice this past week to participate in the Durex Lovers’ Academy along with 25 other couples from around the world.

While in the City of Love the Durex Lovers enjoyed an exclusive romantic experience on a private island dedicated to ‘sex that moves’ them. Here they had the advice and expertise of psychologist Susan Quilliam, author of The Joy of Sex, and scientist Brendan Walker who worked to help lovers discover how each of the experiments would affect them.

Ahead of the rest of the globe, the Durex Lovers discovered the impact of foreplay, the pleasure of increased sensation, and where fun gameplay could take them.

To follow in their footsteps and be part of Durex’s first global experiment, download the Durexperiment APP now available for IOS and Android.

Before they left for Venice, we asked Kirsty and Michael a bit about their involvement in the Durex Experiment:

1. What made you want to enter to become the local Durex Lovers?

Kirsty: I received the press release at work (Kirsty is a journalist at Women’s Health) I thought it sounded cool and different – I wanted to know more! As a sex writer – I always want to find out new things as it enables me to help other people through my own work.

Mike: Kirsty told me about it that night and I thought it would be a great way to find out more about us as a couple. I liked the element of the psychologist’s involvement as it adds a layer of depth to the experience.

2. What makes you the ultimate Durex Lovers?

We don’t see sex as just sex. It’s both emotional and physical and this fits the Durex brand philosophy well. We are open and communicative about how we feel, which sets us apart and although we’ve been together for long, we still feel that we can learn new things about each other.

3. Do you consider yourselves among the 54% of people who are not satisfied with their sex lives or with the 46% who are?

Definitely the 46% who are satisfied! There is always room for improvement though – we are satisfied but of course we could improve the experience even more.

4. What are you most excited about being a part of this campaign?

We are really interested to see the results. We’ve never been part of an experiment before and we are excited to be a part of something so different and that could end up helping so many other people. We are really looking forward to meeting both Susan and Brendan too, and also other people from other countries! It will be fascinating to see how they feel about this experience and how we differ country to country. This is important – it’s not just a sexual experiment – it’s a scientific thing, just because its not cancer research it doesn’t mean it’s not important, because sexual satisfaction is important to a stress free life, which is important for overall health and well-being.

5. How do you think South Africa is going to compare with the other participating countries?

It’s obviously way too early to tell but we are expecting the more ‘western’ countries to be more similar… We might see a whole bunch of myths and generalisations about the sexual habits of different couples bust! It’s very exciting!

6. Do you use Durex products ordinarily?

We have as well as other brands…

7. If so, what is/are your favourite Durex product/s?

The feather-light condoms and the ribbed ones – definitely!

8. What do you think makes for a satisfying sex life?

An emotional connection and open communication! It’s not just about the orgasm… it’s about being able to connect and have fun. Being open to new things and experimenting, and talking about what you like or would like to try so that you can really know what works for you.

Disabled people in need of proper support after sexual assault

July 18, 2013 in Health

Emerging research has found that disabled people are at risk of sexual abuse for a number of reasons, writes Dr Sumaya Mall in this guest blog post.

South Africa is facing an epidemic of sexual violence. In 2013, the gang rape and murder of Bredasdorp teenager Anene Booysen made headlines. Despite identifying Jonathan Davids as one of her killers, the National Prosecuting Authority has dropped all charges against Davids. Booysen was thought not to be cognitive due to being administered morphine after the brutal gang rape. Her communication abilities were understandably impaired after her attack and thus her claim of Davids’ role in her rape and murder was not taken seriously.

The gang rape of a teenage girl with intellectual disability in Soweto made headlines in 2012. Her perpetrators videoed the incident on a cell phone and taunted her while she cried for help. They even tossed 25 cents at her, a final act of humiliation. Later it emerged that she had been a victim of sexual harassment previously. When her mother approached the police, they had dismissed the case saying as she could not talk she could not give coherent, credible testimony.

In 2011, a Cape Town school bus driver allegedly raped a 6-year-old girl with intellectual disability after dropping her off at school. The child was unable to report what had happened to her due to communication difficulties. Her mother noticed signs that she had undergone sexual assault while bathing her that evening. A few weeks ago in Khayelitsha a teenage girl with epilepsy and intellectual disability was raped by two men known to her family. She was later found with blood all over her pants, crying and unable to communicate what had happened to her. A medical examination verified signs of sexual assault. A community impatient about the country’s general lack of justice beat the two men accused of the crime senseless before handing them over to the police. The crime incited further violence. This is unsurprising considering the already violent context and the continual risk of violence for community members.

Emerging research conducted all over the world has found that disabled people are at risk of sexual abuse for a number of reasons. Firstly perpetrators believe that disabled people cannot always report what has happened to them (if their disability has resulted in communication difficulties) nor can they always identify the perpetrator. A teenage girl with visual impairment in India was raped and murdered a few weeks ago. Her home did not have a flushing toilet. It is thought she was attacked while visiting the outside toilet at night when she was probably an easy target for perpetrators she could not see.

My recent PhD research explored some of these issues for deaf and hard of hearing adolescents in South Africa who struggle to communicate without a sign language interpreter. In my research I found that educators and parents often feel the desire to protect their deaf children from sexual abuse. This sometimes results in social isolation and limited sexuality education. Young deaf people themselves fear sexual abuse. They are at heightened risk of sexual abuse as they cannot hear an attacker who may follow them and they cannot cry out for help. My PhD further showed that assistance in communication for young deaf people has positive results, particularly in the areas of drug rehabilitation or HIV prevention.

One of the most important findings in this regard is the training of deaf people to deliver Voluntary Counselling and testing services for HIV/AIDS. These counsellors are well trained to deal with social issues such as financial or domestic violence. They are also fluent in sign language and understand the importance of delivering counselling sessions in this medium of instruction. There are other means of assisting disabled people to report sexual assault. For example, Cape Mental Health, a Non-Profit Organisation based in Observatory, Cape Town developed the Sexual Abuse Victim Empowerment (SAVE) Programme. SAVE provides a number of services including assessment of intellectually disabled survivors’ of sexual assault and their ability to testify in court. SAVE also trains public prosecutors and defence attorneys in their interviewing skills when they are questioning an intellectually disabled complainant. Presently, the Justice Department refers more than 100 cases per annum to SAVE  for psychometric assessment, court preparation, case planning and support through the court process.

The police and justice system are short sighted if they believe that a complainant who cannot testify due to a pre-existing communication disability or as a result of the attack, as was the case with Anene Booysens. There are in fact resources available to help complainants testify in court so that justice can be served.

3 ways to better back health

July 1, 2013 in Health

Back problems are a major issue all over the world. Research on ailments in the workplace suggests that 60% of people suffer from lower back pain at some point in their lives.

The most common causes of back pain include: spinal problems, emotional stress and daily habits.

We tested out three products to improve your back health.

Here’s our verdict.

Herman Miller embody thrive chair and monitor arm

If you’re sitting at your desk for over six hours a day like me you’re increasing your chances of a shorter life. Studies found that sitting for an extended period of time raises your risk for diabetes, arteriosclerosis and heart disease.

I don’t know if this happens to you too, but as the day progresses I start hunching my back and neck into a tortoise position and start moving closer to my monitors.

Herman Miller sent over three products for us to test: a chair, monitor arm and task light.

I have to admit that it was hard for me to get used to sitting correctly – I reverted back to old habits very quickly. By the end of the first week I could feel a change in my posture and when I hunched I was more aware of my tortoise position. My favourite product in the line was the monitor arms – having my monitors closer to eye level helped with my posture. I’m a bit on the short side so they brought along an extra foot stool which helped too with sitting properly. By the time the products had to be returned I had grown very accustomed to them. My sitting posture improved and I no longer had aches and cramps from sitting in an incorrect position.

My desk before..

Desk after with monitor arms

Thrive chair

Nifty monitor trick my screen can swivel

Sitting up straight

Putting my feet up

More about Herman Miller

BackJoy Posture+

This back orthotic fits onto your seat and allows you to sit with better posture. It makes sitting more comfortable and is portable. It tilts the hips upright and cups the buttocks to relieve pressure and strain on the tail bone and muscles in the lower back.

Our sales person Nicola Darkin reviewed it for us.

I’ve had a long history of lower back problems since university days. This was mostly owing to whiplash after a car crash. I also experienced leakage of spinal fluid in my lower vertebrae in my early twenties which lead to an array of back problems. On top of that, due to my poor posture in general, long hours in front of the computer has resulted in constant neck and shoulder stiffness and pains.

My dearest colleagues at Health24 offered to let me use the BackJoy Posture+ and although initially sceptical (how could something so small possibly make a difference?), within a week I already felt a considerable amount less tension in my shoulders, less knots and headaches – overall less pain!

It’s super comfortable, as you sit neatly in it and what it does is really auto-adjusts your posture, making it quiet hard not to sit correctly.

I’ll definitely recommend this to anyone who is desk bound, whether you have back problems or not, as posture is key!

BackJoy at the office

More about BackJoy

Backswing for health

I have to admit I had no idea what to expect when I went to review this product. From looking at the pictures of the product I had a suspicious feeling that I would be hanging upside down.

Inversion dates back to 400 BC. Hippocrates combined it with traction to enhance the effects. Some of the benefits include: relieving back pain, improving posture and alignment, increasing flexibility and strengthening ligaments and joints.

Here are 10 good reasons to invert, according to Backswing for health:

  • Relieve back pain and  promote regeneration of discs
  • Improve posture and alignment
  • Stimulate circulation and lymphatic flow
  • Relieve tension and stress
  • Enhance mental function and senses
  • Speed recovery after workout
  • Strengthen ligaments and joints
  • Improve body shape and function
  • Strengthen autonomic nervous system
  • Anti-aging and appearance
  • Exercises

How did it feel?

It’s a bit weird lying upside down. While lying there I could feel my spine being elongated. After 20 minutes I could definitively feel an improvement in my posture.


Getting ready…


Here we go…



Tilting backward


Coming back up


My colleague Graig also had a go, ‘I’ve never struggled with back pain before. But I’ve experienced lower back pain in the past. Within 7 minutes you feel the difference.’


More about Backswing for Health

(Leandra Engelbrecht)

Suicide by lifestyle

June 25, 2013 in Health

Read this interesting guest post by chiropractor and wellness crusader Dr Greg Venning as he asks: With health being a priority in your life, are you practising suicide by lifestyle by chasing the latest fad diet?

Did you know that cancer is a preventable lifestyle disease and that less than 10% of all cancers are genetic in origin? Did you know that the same can be said for almost any chronic disease like heart disease, diabetes, depression, obesity and the like?

Most people I tell this to have not heard anything like it before. They look at me, even stare at me, as if I’d just kicked a puppy! Cancer, like any other chronic disease is about your lifestyle, how you:

  • Eat
  • Move
  • Think

That’s right, you have the choice to commit suicide by lifestyle by choosing habits that will rob you of your innate potential for health or to choose vitality by changing those habits.

Point 1 – We Are Individual Ecosystems

It sounds odd, but as you are reading this, you are not one individual. You are an ecosystem of 75 trillion cells. Just like a forest is an ecosystem of trees, you are an ecosystem of cells.

Your cells are organised into groups of tissue, tissue is organised into organs and organs are organised into systems. You are the sum total of those self-organised, integrated parts but the whole (you) is greater that the sum of the parts (cells, tissues, organs and systems).

Think of a beautiful river valley at sunset, the fading light reflecting off the water, the call of a bird echoing through the trees and the fish and plants below the surface. That river valley is an ecosystem made up of living animals, plants, bacteria and so much more. Each of those parts makes up the whole valley but the whole valley is so much more than just the sum of all the plants and animals. When they are all combined they produce something special, a whole.

Point 2 – We Are Animals

We humans are a type of mammal, like elephants and dolphins and share some common characteristics with them, we breath with lungs and give birth to live babies instead of laying eggs. We are also primates and share characteristics with chimpanzees, gorillas and monkeys.

We are animals and share the same basic principles of physiology and biology as each other living thing on this planet.

Point 3 – We Have Domesticated Ourselves

If I looked at a giraffe in the wild, what would it eat? Leaves, right? And a lion would eat meat, wouldn’t it?

Whenever we look at nature we find certain species of animals eating the same way. There is little variation in how and what they eat. Take these giraffes and lions and remove them from their wild, natural habitat and put them in a zoo and feed them artificial food.

Would they get healthier or sicker? Sicker, right?

Now, we might be able make them a little less sick by giving them some medication or specially formulated food, but is that ever going to be as giving them the food that they naturally need in the form they adapted to eat it? Of course not!

It’s no point trying to tell the lion that he should be noble and not kill anything and make him eat leaves. He’s designed to eat meat. It’s in his genes. It’s also no good telling the giraffe that he should have more protein in his diet and have more meat, he adapted to eat leaves. It’s in his genes too.

We as human animals have constructed our own zoo arounds us and have domesticated ourselves. We live in completely artificial ways and we eat a lot of very artificial, processed things.

Now look at all the dietary advice you will see on TV, in magazines and from your friend. Diets abound, some telling you to eat this, some telling you to eat that. Some even claim to be scientifically proven in some or other way. Franken-foods adorn the supermarket shelves, completely artificial products that did not exist until very recently and that our body has no way of dealing with and we eat it up. Literally.

We have somehow separated ourselves from nature. Somehow we have got the idea in our head that we are different from all the rest of the animals on the planet and that we don’t need to obey the laws of nature.

Point 4 – Diet is Species Wide and Species Specific

So let’s start here: you are a human being, genetically similar to other human beings but different to apes, dolphins and worms. That might seem a little trite but bear with me.

Going back to our giraffe and lion, lets ask a few more questions. If we took a giraffe in South Africa and compared it to a giraffe in Kenya, would one eat leaves while the other ate meat? Sounds silly doesn’t it?

What about a Lion in South Africa vs a lion in Kenya, would one eat meat while the other grazed on grass? Absurd, isn’t it.

Each of these animals eats a diet that is specific to their species and animals of the same species all eat the same things.

Their diet is ‘species wide’ and ‘species specific’ and so is ours.

When we look at things this way we can begin to see how ridiculous all the different ways of eating are. We are all humans, the same species and so we all need to follow the same basic principles with regards to what we eat.

When we study ‘humans as animals’, that is humans living within our natural environment we see a pattern emerging. Although we they lived in different conditions, some at the equator and some up in the arctic circle, some at sea level and some at 16 000 feet above sea level there are common characteristics that they all followed.

Point 5 – Food Quality and Nutritional Density

Food Quality: The first principle of human nutrition is food quality. We want to eat food in the form that most closely resembles it’s natural state.

How do you apply that to your weekly grocery shop? Anything in a packet and a list of ingredients is very low quality food. The more preservatives, flavourings, colourings and other chemicals are added to your food, the more likely it is to kill you slowly and make you stupid, fat and ugly while it does that.

Loving it?

Low quality foods are likely to last a long time without spoiling. This applies to your veg as much as it does to fast food.

Anything that has been grown as naturally as possible, harvested normally or slaughtered humanely and transported efficiently is likely going to be a high quality food. If you leave it on your shelf, it won’t last as well as lower quality foods.

Nutrient Density: This is so fantastically important that I can’t stress it enough. We live in a culture where we are obese but nutritionally starved because we get so many calories with so little nutrition.

Foods that are energy dense but nutrient poor would be In this graph is a range of foods. We compare how many calories they have vs how much nutritional value they have.

So if we apply these principles to our nutrition what do we get? How does this compare to your diet? Let us know in the comment box below.

Visit Dr Greg Venning’s site The Vitality Concept here.

Bringing relief to cervical cancer patients

June 13, 2013 in Health

Inhibiting the ability of cancer cells to recycle their damaged parts could reduce the amount of chemotherapy and also spare patients the debilitating side-effects of this treatment, writes Dr Gina Leisching in this guest blog post. 
Each year around 7 million people die of cancer globally, and according to the World Health Organisation, this number may increase by 80% by 2030 if immediate action is not taken. Annually, most cancer-related deaths are due to lung, breast, liver, colorectal, stomach, prostate, and cervical cancer.
Cervical cancer is the second most frequently diagnosed cancer in women worldwide despite effective screening programmes. It is still a burden in developing countries such as South Africa, where 16.48 million women are at risk of developing the disease. Globally, more than 270 000 women die each year from cervical cancer, with more than 85% of these deaths occurring in low and middle-income countries. This number is expected to increase to over 474 000 women per year in 2030.

Dr Gina Leisching

Cervical cancer is caused by an infection with the human papilloma virus (HPV) which is sexually transmitted. The chemotherapy drug, cisplatin, is widely used to treat cervical cancer. Unfortunately, cisplatin-based chemotherapeutic treatments, particularly at high doses, cause severe side-effects, such as kidney and nerve damage. Cancer cells have also become resistant to this drug. As a result, cisplatin has limited efficacy and use.
In a recent study, I tried to find new ways of administering lower concentrations of cisplatin, while still maintaining its ability to destroy cancer cells. It was important to break down the resistance of these cells and to reduce damage to non-cancerous cells.
I used a special chemical to inhibit the ability of cancer cells to “eat” and “recycle” parts of themselves that have been damaged by chemotherapy. This survival mechanism is called autophagy (literally ‘’to eat oneself’’), which is regarded as one of the main reasons why chemotherapy is “not working” or “the cancer comes back”. Once important parts of the cancer cell are destroyed, the cell develops balloon-like structures that store all these damaged components. With the help of certain enzymes, these components are broken down and recycled for more energy.
After inhibiting autophagy, I treated the cancer cells with a low-dose of cisplatin. Results have shown that even by administering a lower dose of the drug, large amounts of cervical cancer cells were destroyed. Normal, non-cancerous cells were not damaged. The inhibition of autophagy prior to a low-concentration of cisplatin treatment significantly improves the drug’s ability to destroy cervical cancer cells, and enhances its clinical efficacy.
The value of this treatment method, if moved into clinics, is that it allows for a prolonged exposure to cisplatin treatment with a minimal amount of side-effects. My study has provided a possible new avenue for research on cervical cancer treatment that is more patient friendly. New and improved therapeutic strategies could help relief the burden of cervical cancer.
• Dr Gina Leisching is a post-doctoral fellow in the Division of Molecular and Human Genetics in the Department of Biomedical Sciences at Stellenbosch University (SU). This article is based on her recent doctorate in Physiological Sciences at SU.

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