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November 2009 Archives

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The faculty of the Program in Human Sexuality invite you to explore the latest in sexual health research. PHS faculty, postdoctoral fellows, and research collaborators present their work at our monthly Faculty Research Presentations. Join us at 12 noon - 1 PM at PHS, 1300 South 2nd Street, Room 142, Minneapolis, MN 55454. To reserve your seat or to request notice of future presentations please email

Berg-BP.jpgDecember 9, 2009, Dianne Berg, PhD
"Child and Adolescent Services at PHS"

The PHS clinic, the Center for Sexual Health, has recently developed a program for children and adolescents with a range of sexual issues including sexual behavior problems, gender issues and, in conjunction with the Disorders of Sexual Development Clinic at the KDWB University Pediatrics Family Center, children and adolescents with a disorder of sexual development who need more psychological support and psychosexual education.  While a few clinicians have traditionally worked with young clients, now the clinic has more fully developed guidelines and treatment models and thus has the capacity to see many more youth within a comprehensive framework. The expansion not only increases our clinical services but broadens our training for postdoctoral fellows.  As the developer and coordinator of the new program, Dr. Dianne Berg will be discussing some of the theoretical and research-related underpinnings of the current assessment and treatment protocols as well as the protocols themselves so one can get a sense of what is now offered for youth at the Center for Sexual Health.

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Welcome new PHS staff

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PHS welcomes the newest additions to our team: Sheena Hoffman, Angela Lewis-Dmello, Eric Sprankle, and Yoonhee Sung.

Sheena-Hoffmann-BP.jpgSheena Hoffmann, PsyD, received her MA and PsyD in clinical psychology from Illinois School of Professional Psychology.  Her primary clinical interests include feminist and interpersonal theory; PTSD and dually diagnosed substance use; persistent and severe mental illness; individual, group, and couples therapy; sexual assault; domestic violence; and LGBT concerns.  Hoffman's research interests include transgenderism, gender expression, sexual identity development, sexual education, and HIV/AIDS.  In addition to her work at the Cook County Department of Corrections, Hoffman has worked in community mental health settings and college counseling centers.

Angie-Lewis-Dmello-BP.jpgAngela Lewis-Dmello is a research assistant for the Roots of Sexual Abuse study, funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). She received a BA in Global Studies from the University of Minnesota and is currently pursuing a Master of Social Work degree. She works with the Domestic Abuse Project as a Men's and Youth Therapist and facilitates group therapy for adult male offenders as well as individual therapy with adolescent offenders and children who have witnessed domestic violence. Lewis-Dmello has experience with immigrant women's advocacy, human rights research, transitional justice, and teaching English Language Learners through her work with SEWA - Asian Indian Family Wellness, The Advocates for Human Rights, and CLUES.

Eric-Sprankle-BP.jpgEric Sprankle, PsyD, received his MA and PsyD in clinical psychology from Xavier University in Cincinnati, Ohio. His primary clinical interests include male and female sexual dysfunction, relationship therapy, sexuality and illness, and compulsive sexual behavior. His research activities have included examining the effects of sexually explicit content in the media and he recently had an article published in the Journal of Media Psychology. Sprankle is an active member in the American Association of Sex Educators, Counselors, and Therapists (AASECT) and the Society for Sex Therapy and Research (SSTAR).

Yoonhee-Sung-BP.jpgYoonhee Sung, MA, is a research assistant for at the Roots of Sexual Abuse study. She earned her bachelor degree in consumer studies and a MA in educational counseling at Seoul National University, South Korea. She is currently a doctoral candidate in the Counseling and Student Personnel Psychology Program at the University of Minnesota.  Her research interests includes psychotherapy outcome and process, group psychotherapy, clinical supervision, and master therapists.

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Bean Robinson, PhD, is named as SSSS Fellow

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Bean-Robinson-lecture-BP.jpgOn November 7, 2009, Bean Robinson, PhD, was named as a Fellow of the Society for the Scientific Study of Sexuality (SSSS) for her outstanding contributions to sexual science.  Robinson was awarded the honor at the SSSS Annual Congress "Sexual Literacy: Health and Rights in Cultural Context" in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico held November 5 - 8, 2009.  

SSSS Fellows are selected because their research and outstanding contribution to the scientific study of sex has impacted the work of others by formal investigation designed to develop or contribute to the general knowledge for the field.  In her introduction, Naomi McCormick, PhD, SSSS Awards and Fellows Chair, noted Robinson's work in women's health, HIV prevention - particularly among minority and vulnerable groups, transgenderism, and body image.  She said, "Dr. Robinson played a major role in developing an important and widely adapted model of HIV prevention.  Her excellent research is complemented by her teaching and clinical work.  Her teaching and supervision are highly acclaimed by medical students, residents, psychologists, and family therapists.  Dr. Robinson is a warm and compassionate clinical psychologist who uses evidence-based approaches to deliver the best available sexual health care to individuals with sexual difficulties."

In her acceptance speech Robinson said, "These are exciting times for sexuality.  The WAS Declaration of Sexual Rights, Surgeon General's Call to Action to Promote Sexual Health and Responsible Behavior, WHO treatise on sexual health, unparalleled growth in LGBT civil rights, new medical discoveries, (Viagra, Levitra, Cialis, EROS-CTD, hormone-supplementation and menopause), all point to our increased interest in finding solutions to sexual problems for both women and men.  This is the perfect time for me to work with SSSS on one of their major missions - to motivate our younger colleagues to seek out a research and clinical career in sexuality - more possible today than ever before.  I grew up (thankfully) during the 1970's during what Eli Coleman has called the second sexual revolution.  I would never have predicted that the long and frizzy haired hippie girl who reveled in her newfound freedom to express her sexuality before marriage would be receiving such an honor today."

Robinson is joining a distinguished list of colleagues who have been awarded the SSSS Fellow distinction, including current PHS faculty Eli Coleman, PhD, and Walter Bockting, PhD, and former PHS faculty Sandra Cole, PhD, and Simon Rosser, PhD.

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Katie-Spencer-BP.jpgKatherine Spencer, PhD, has always had a natural inclination toward talking about sex, and she hopes to do so throughout her career.  In June we celebrated her graduation, and on December, 31, 2009, she will complete her postdoctoral study at PHS.

Spencer knew as a young graduate student that she wanted to study at PHS.  And now after two years of hard work, her enthusiasm still shines through.  Spencer believes, "Sexuality is core to who we are as individuals and it is this vulnerable center that we share with others.  Sex and gender are fascinating, wonderful parts of ourselves and can be powerful entry points for growth and change.  I am honored that people trust me with this vulnerable aspect of self and allow me to be part of their lives through the therapeutic relationship."

Starting in college, Spencer has been an activist for GLBT communities, women, and social justice.  Throughout her postdoctoral fellowship she has worked to maintain congruency between her community perspective and her therapy.  Her training at PHS has helped her to strengthen her voice and have confidence in her perspective.  She has also gained skills through the breadth of her training, stating, "I am a better therapist from my experience here working with a range of families, individuals, couples, and youth."  

Spencer advises future postdoctoral fellows to apply early, to remember that change is always possible, and to be open to personal growth.  She also suggests to be prepared to work hard and try to find balance: "The hours are long and the work is emotionally intense, but if you are passionate about human sexuality the hard work is worth it."    

After her training is complete, Spencer will remain in the Twin Cities and continue her therapy work in gender and sexuality issues.  Spencer received her MA and PhD in counseling psychology from the University of Missouri-Columbia and her BA in women's studies and psychology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.  Her internship was completed at the University of Illinois-Chicago Counseling Center. 

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June-LaValleur-retirement-BP.jpgChampion of women's sexual health, physician, and educator June LaValleur, MD, has retired from the University of Minnesota.  LaValleur was an unconventional medical student, admitted to medical school at age 41 and the oldest student to be accepted to the University of Minnesota Medical School at that time.  She was an unconventional ob/gyn physician as well, focusing on sexual function and mature women's health while most of her colleagues in the field focused on assisted reproduction and delivering babies.  There is no reason for us to expect that LaValleur will be a conventional retiree.

After 18 years on faculty, LaValleur retired in June 2009, as an associate professor in the Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology, and Women's Health, and the director of the Mature Women's Center.  Although LaValleur no longer has to get up early for 6:30 a.m. meetings, her days are filled with ambitious projects.  She and her new husband, Duane Rost, have been traveling and setting up their home, and this week they attended the "Purpose Project" workshop at the University's Center for Spirituality and Healing.  Her future plans include creating an advice column and radio show on the topic of midlife women's health, national speaking engagements, and possibly writing a book about rural Minnesota.  Two committees at the University have asked LaValleur to continue her work with them, including the Medical School on the grant "Taking It to the Next Level: Advancing Awareness and Equity of Medical Trainees with Invisible Disabilities" and at the Humphrey Institute on the Status of Women and Girls in the Health and Reproductive Rights working group.  She does plan to indulge in some of the more traditional acts of retirement like visiting her five grandchildren, traveling to Alaska, adding to her family's genealogy, and revisiting her golf game.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            

In the midst of her busy retirement, LaValleur has found time to miss her patients and her students.  She said, "One of my joys was to partner with my patients in their health care decisions.  There was not a day that I worked that I was not rewarded by seeing patients.  I am a relationship person and there are many patients that I will remember forever."  LaValleur tried to impress upon the medical students and residents that she taught the importance of building relationships and clear communication with patients.  She would tell them, "In this rotation you will learn about osteoporosis, menopause, and hormone therapy, but I also want you to pay particular attention to how to be with patients." 

In her years of practice LaValleur has seen many patients with issues of sexual function.  She said the first thing to understand is that, "so many people have this issue, regardless of age.  The issue is almost always a fixable problem.  Often the solution involves education of the person and their partner, and about half the time the issue is one of communication."  As people age new issues can arise including loss of libido and issues related to menopausal symptoms.  LaValluer sees improved sexual health education as a primary solution to sexual functioning problems.  "We have greatly improved our knowledge about sex, sexuality, and sexual function; however, the methods of disseminating the information have gone largely unchanged since the 50s, 60, and 70s."  She continued, "Sexual functioning issues are difficult to talk about because we lack education on how to talk about sex.  Issues are embarrassing and often you don't have anyone to talk to, and it is something you may not even share with your best friend.  We must continue to educate individuals and their doctors about sexual health and sexual communication."               

As a medical student, LaValleur completed a rotation at PHS, and she has been a strong ally ever since.  She is an active supporter of PHS, a co-instructor for the Human Sexuality course for medical students, and serves as a member of the PHS Leadership Council.  PHS professor and director Eli Coleman, PhD, describes LaValleur as "an outstanding role model and effective teacher making sure that future physicians approach the sexual health care needs of their patients seriously, compassionately, and without judgment.  In addition, she was an amazing resource for patients with sexual problems providing the highest quality sexual health care, and we will miss the specialty care she has provided for women struggling with sexual functioning issues.  We are fortunate that her avid support of PHS will continue through her personal work and engagement with the Leadership Council.  June has truly changed the lives of many people, and we are eternally grateful."  

Throughout her career LaValleur authored numerous publications and participated in many investigational studies including the Heart and Estrogen/Progestin Replacement Study (HERS) and the Women's Health Initiative (WHI).  In 2006 she was awarded a Bush Medical Fellowship to develop computer and interactive teaching skills, learn how to write a medical advice column, and through the University's Center of Excellence for Women develop a website on the topic of midlife women's health issues.  In 1998 the Minnesota Medical Foundation chose Dr. LaValleur to be the recipient of the first annual Distinguished Alumni Award

Learn more about June LaValleur through the video of her talk Women's Health: What Have We Learned, Where Are We Going? presented on Friday, June 12, 2009, at the Year End Celebration of the University's Women's Leadership Institute.

HERS and WHI study publications:
Hulley, S., Grady, D., Bush, T., Furberg, C., Herrington, D., Riggs, B., et al. (1998). Randomized trial of estrogen plus progestin for secondary prevention of coronary heart disease in postmenopausal women. JAMA: The Journal of the American Medical Association, 280(7), 605-613. doi: 10.1001/jama.280.7.605 

Hulley, S. B., & Grady, D. (2004). The WHI estrogen-alone trial--do things look any better? JAMA: The Journal of the American Medical Association, 291(14), 1769-1771. doi: 10.1001/jama.291.14.1769

Rossouw, J. E., Anderson, G. L., Prentice, R. L., LaCroix, A. Z., Kooperberg, C., Stefanick, M. L., et al. (2002). Risks and benefits of estrogen plus progestin in healthy postmenopausal women: Principal results from the women's health initiative randomized controlled trial. JAMA: The Journal of the American Medical Association, 288(3), 321-333. doi: 10.1001/jama.288.3.321

PHOTO:  left to right (back) Duane Rost, Walter Bockting, Eli Coleman, Rose Munns, Anne McBean, Bean Robinson, (front) June LaValleur, Nancy Raymond

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Michelle-van-Ryn-BP.jpgMichelle van Ryn, PhD, MPH, Program in Human Sexuality intern and Department of Family Medicine and Community Health associate professor, will be the principal investigator on a $2,734,770 grant from the National Institutes of Health to conduct an innovative multi-measure longitudinal study of a national sample of medical students on unconscious stereotyping by medical providers.
The goal of the study is to examine the impact of individual and medical school factors on implicit (unconscious, automatic) and explicit racial and other biases in medical students' judgments and decisions.  A large national probability sample of medical students will be enrolled during their first year and followed through the conclusion of their fourth year. Individual medical schools will not be disclosed or discussed.  Findings from the project will inform effective interventions to reduce the impact of implicit biases and other unconscious processes on the quality of new physicians' clinical decision-making.

van Ryn said, "We have high hopes that findings from the project will benefit medical schools and students, and ultimately reduce disparities and improve quality of care for patients regardless of race, ethnicity, social class, or sexual orientation."

The grant was awarded in September 2009.  The research team includes Jack Dovidio, PhD (Yale), Diana Burgess, PhD, David Nelson, PhD, and Mark Yeazel, MD, doctoral student Sean Phelan, MPH, and coordinators Melissa Eastman, MPH, and Deborah Finstad, BA. 

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AGHO-AB-group-BP.jpgIn September 2009, the PHS research project All Gender Health Online (AGHO) received a funding supplement as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.  This was one of 128 Recovery Act grants, totaling more than $34 million, received by the University of Minnesota's Academic Health Center (AHC).  

The funding will accelerate AHC research to advance science and improve health.  The funding will also create jobs. According to the National Institutes of Health, for every dollar of research funding more than two dollars return to the economy through the purchase of supplies, hiring of staff, and other research expenses.  Stimulus grants distributed by the National Institutes of Health target projects promising results within two years as well as provide support for ongoing research.

The AGHO study consists of two parts. The first part investigates the characteristics and sexual behavior of male partners of transgender women and men. The second part will incorporate those findings in the development and rigorous evaluation of an online intervention to prevent the spread of HIV and promote the sexual health of transgender people as well as the population at large.  The funding supplement in the amount of $238,730 over a period of two years will help the group to develop a virtual coach to personalize prevention messages for participants during the online intervention.  Virtual pedagogical agents will help to create a sense of personal connection, enhance motivation, and reduce the complexity of interacting in a virtual environment, thus improving retention and learning.

Walter Bockting, PhD, is the principal investigator.  The project researchers include Bean Robinson, PhD, Jamie Feldman, MD, PhD, Michael Miner, PhD, Eli Coleman, PhD, Alex Iantaffi, PhD, Cesar Gonzalez, PhD, Hale Thompson, MA, Rebecca Swinburne Romine, MA, Laura Gurak, PhD (Writing Studies), Joe Konstan, PhD (Computer Science), Keith Horvath, PhD (Epidemiology), and David Valentine, PhD (Anthropology).  These funds will support the addition of Aaron Doering, PhD, and Charles Miller, PhD (Curriculum & Instruction).

PHOTO:  AGHO Advisory Board and research team

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Opening-Pandora's-Box-BP.jpgA new research project at PHS has been awarded a 2009 Planning Grant in the amount of $15,000 from the Program in Health Disparities Research also at the University of Minnesota Medical School. The study, titled "Opening Pandora's Box: Somali Women, Sexuality, and HIV/STD Prevention," will be the first to examine HIV-related knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors of Somali women of all sexual orientations with the ultimate goal of meeting the critical need to reduce HIV and STD transmission among African-born Americans in Minnesota (and the US) as African-born Americans have the highest HIV/AIDS rates of any ethnic group.

Bean Robinson, PhD, is the principal investigator on the project.  Through an NIH-funded project Partners in Research she was matched with community scholar* Fatima Jama.  Robinson and Jama met for breakfast to get to know each other and a research project was born.  On both personal and professional levels, the two women really hit it off.  Robinson said, "We just mesh.  Our lives have many points of intersection including religion, advocacy, and social interests and we really like working together."  As ideas for the research project developed Amira Ahmed was added to the research team as the community agency partner**.   After the match was complete, representatives from the Partners in Research project helped the group prepare to work together and apply for the planning grant from the Program in Health Disparities Research.  Robinson said, "The three of us are a dynamic team.  We complement each other and represent a range of cultural experiences that have given us a breadth of expertise.  It seemed like a natural step to collaborate on research that will help to meet the critical need for sexual health education and prevention for the large communities of Somali women in Minnesota."

Interviews will be conducted in either English or Somali by the project's bilingual Somali-raised community partners who will recruit participants from Somali gathering places, mosques, and gay/lesbian clubs, and bars. These Somali community partners represent heterosexual and gay/ lesbian/bisexual identities and have wide contacts including ones within the straight and hidden gay Somali communities.
The information gathered from this study will be used to secure additional funding to further study the knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors related to HIV/STD transmission and prevention within the Somali community. Ultimately the group will translate this knowledge to develop the first HIV counseling and testing intervention for Somali women.

In addition to research that Robinson, Jama, and Ahmed will be conducting on HIV and STDs, information about how they conducted their research will be communicated back to the larger Partners in Research study.  The NIH-funded project is a collaboration between West Side Community Health Services, Program in Health Disparities Research, and the School of Public Health.  The goal of this project is to create a model for community-based participatory action research (CBPAR), and by evaluating the current Health Disparities partnerships the group hopes to improve the facilitation of community research projects and the education for both faculty and community researchers.  The NIH CBPAR project will be completed in June 2010.

Both Ahmed and Jama work for Midwest Community Development Inc.  Ahmed is the founder and executive director and Jama is a program manager.

*Community scholars are individuals who have applied to work on research in their community and were hired by the "Partners in Research" grant.

**Community agency partners are individuals in leadership positions in community organizations acting within the subject community.  These individuals must have the support of the organization for research efforts.

PHOTO:  Fatima Jama, Bean Robinson, Amira Ahmed

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You can support sexual health

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Rose-therapy-BP.jpgWe need a society where every child can get basic sexuality information and every health care provider is trained to address sexuality as part of their practice.  This is where you can help.  As you consider your year-end giving, please give generously to PHS. 

We recognize that giving at this time is not easy and many institutions need help.  It is imperative we recognize that sexual health is fundamental to overall health and well-being.  Your new donations to PHS will help us maintain our excellent services and prepare the next generation of sexual health professionals.  Your generous gift can

● Help ensure that patients in need of services get treatment.

● Provide essential funding to defray the costs of our programs - relationship and sex therapy, compulsive sexual behavior, sexual offender treatment, transgender health services, medical school education, fellowship training, and seed funding for new research.  

● Help provide new services for children and adolescents.

● Help build our faculty support and appreciation fund so that we can reward overworked and underpaid faculty and staff.

Your past gifts have been essential to our work.  With your sustaining support, PHS will continue to lead the way in promoting a sexually healthier society.  Give today.  You might consider one of our existing funds listed below, designate your gift to a particular cause, or leave it up to us to utilize your gift where it is most needed.  A donation to PHS is a great holiday gift to honor your friends and family.

Ashley Rukes Transgender Health Fund
Supports transgender health services for the uninsured

Chair in Sexual Health
Allows PHS to attract, retain, and support top faculty in the field of sexual health.

Doug Braun-Harvey Human Sexuality Program Support Fund
Doug Braun-Harvey, on the occasion of his birthday, set up a fund that would help the mission of the Program in Human Sexuality. The intent is to grow this fund over the years and in collaboration with the Chair in Sexual Health designate these funds for specific mission-based needs.

Program in Human Sexuality Faculty Appreciation and Research Fund
Provides support for PHS faculty and their projects in research, education, and clinical service.

Program in Human Sexuality General Fund
The general fund provides unrestricted support where is it most needed.

PHOTO:  Rose Munns  

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APA-Task-Force-Report-cover-BP.jpgAt the American Psychological Association Convention on August 28, 2009, the Council of Representatives accepted several reports that address issues with a bearing on the practice of psychology, including the Report of the Task Force on Gender Identity and Gender Variance.

Walter Bockting, PhD, was a member of the Task Force on Gender Identity and Gender Variance that was formed in 2005 and charged with making recommendations for APA policies, education and training, and appropriate collaborations.  Additionally, the group was asked to propose means for the APA to best meet the needs of psychologists and students who identify as transgender or gender variant.

The report will help to inform clinicians, who are often a primary resource for information, regarding transgender and gender variant issues for transgender individuals, gender variant individuals, their families and friends, as well as employers, schools, and government agencies.

According to the Task Force, "This report highlights opportunities for APA to advance social justice as well as to support competent and ethical practice by promoting research, education, and professional development concerning transgender issues among psychologists, by creating a welcoming environment for transgender psychologists and students of psychology, and by supporting the human rights of all transgender citizens."

View the complete text of the Report of the Task Force on Gender Identity and Gender Variance

You can also view the Resolution on Transgender, Gender Identity, and Gender Expression

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U-of-M-students-BP.jpgOn July 8, 2009, the University of Minnesota officially revised its equal opportunity statement to include "gender identity and gender expression."

Recent changes to the equal opportunity statement are the result of hard work and collaboration by numerous transgender activists and allies on campus, including the Transgender Commission and the GLBT Programs Office.

The new equal opportunity statement reads, "The University of Minnesota shall provide equal access to and opportunity in its programs, facilities, and employment without regard to race, color, creed, religion, national origin, gender, age, marital status, disability, public assistance status, veteran status, sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression."

Learn more about the efforts for change on the University campus by reading the Transgender Commission's Report and Recommendations for Institutional Change

Photo credit:  Patrick O'Leary

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Sexuality films return to PHS

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John-Armour-BP.jpgOn October 8, 2009, 160 films were delivered to the University of Minnesota Libraries for the new Sexual Health Library.  Former PHS media coordinator, John Armour, has lovingly cared for these films for years and has now returned them to the University.

The films are mostly 16 mm and had been used for educational purposes, most notably in the Sexual Attitude Reassessment (SAR) workshops facilitated by PHS.  Armour started working with PHS in 1973 as a SAR small group facilitator on the topic of disabilities.  He went on to work in the general SAR, as well as specialized SAR trainings on both GLBT sexuality and sexual offenses.  Armour also contributed to the Week of Enrichment, a SAR inspired training for pastors and church personnel.  In six years he went from a small group facilitator to a large group co-leader, and then to technician in the media booth.  From 1978 - 1988 Armour worked at PHS as the media coordinator.  At the height of SAR trainings, PHS was offering approximately 150 one-day to one-week workshops per year throughout Minnesota and around the country.

SAR workshops rely heavily on film, audio recordings, and photos to elicit personal attitudes and values about sex from participants.  The media enables participants to hear, to see, and to reflect on real-life experiences in a technique designed to inspire discussion on various issues.  Armour describes the process by saying, "Dr. Theodore Cole, physiatrist and main founder of the Disability and Sexuality section of PHS said many times in speaking to colleagues that 'you can describe a hamburger in many ways but you really don't know what it is until you taste one.'"  Armour continued, "The films were all made by people in 'real' relationships.  People with disabilities, older folks, GLBT folks; all of whom wanted to share their intimate stories in image and spoken word to encourage and educate others.  Many were made at the University or with advice from faculty and staff and were not made for the commercial market, but rather to be used by patients and health professionals. These films and the live panels of people giving testimonials and honestly answering questions about sex and sexuality were the true power of SAR and the workshops, as their authenticity and honesty could not be disputed."

It is Armour's hope that returning the films to the University Libraries will help to preserve the films and possibly help to get some of the titles converted to a digital format.  He said, "I am encouraged that the films will be archived and made accessible to students and professionals, perhaps providing encouragement, inspiration, and incentive to find new ways to help people look at themselves in light of other's experience."  

Armour captions and subtitles media for hearing-impaired individuals as well as other language work.  He is also a musician and has written a series of songs with a northern, sled dog theme.  He lives in St Paul, MN, with Barb, his wife of 40 years, and their Siberian Huskies, Laci, Sweetie Pea, and Penny.  Armour said, "I will always be extremely thankful for my days at PHS.  I was able to get deeply in touch with myself and was privileged to watch as many others did also."

In March 2009 the Tawani Foundation awarded PHS a grant in the amount of $50,000 to help fund the early development of a Sexual Health Library at the University, with the opportunity of additional support up to $250,000 through a five-year matching grant challenge.  The library will be a vital tool for sexual health education and research. Sexuality research is expanding in scope and is increasingly interdisciplinary in nature.  The Sexual Health Library project complements the advancement of the sexual health field by increasing collaboration among researchers and promoting the sharing of materials that were previously inaccessible beyond local audiences.  PHS will work in collaboration with the Academic Health Center and University Libraries to create a new information infrastructure around the sexuality materials currently held at the University and to create an online research portal connecting sexuality institutes, libraries, and researchers across the United States and the world.  PHS will also formally archive materials from the organization's 40-year history, including some donation of private collections.

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Alex-Iantaffi-BP.jpgThe US Office of National AIDS Policy (ONAP) has set three primary goals for the US National HIV/AIDS Strategy 1) reduce HIV incidence 2) increase access to care and optimize health outcomes and 3) reduce HIV-related health disparities.  To reach these goals, the Administration has sought input from a broad range of perspectives and stakeholders through the Presidential Advisory Council, national HIV/AIDS community discussions, and an online call to action for community input.  

On October 2, 2009, one of the 14 national HIV/AIDS community discussions was hosted in Minneapolis at the Zurah Shrine Center.  The event started with a brief introduction by Jeffrey Crowley, Director of the Office of National AIDS Policy and Senior Advisor on Disability Policy at the White House followed by a statement from Senator Al Franken.  The discussion was then turned over to community participants including local experts, advocates, care providers, and individuals affected by HIV/AIDS.  Speakers affiliated with PHS included Hale Thompson, research assistant; Andrea Jenkins, AGHO Advisory Board member; Alex Iantaffi, postdoctoral fellow; Sharon Lund, former research assistant; and Fatima Jama, research partner.  Many people spoke of the diverse needs regarding prevention and care throughout Minnesota and the nation.

There are three more community events scheduled this year including Ft. Lauderdale, FL on November 20; New York, NY on December 4; and Caguas, Puerto Rico on December 14.  After that the ONAP will synthesize the input from community discussions, the online Call to Action, and expert meetings to create a more focused HIV/AIDS policy draft.  There will again be an opportunity for community input once the draft is available.

Two related efforts by the White House include reauthorization of the Ryan White Act on October 30, 2009, and new guidelines were released for the global work of the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, on September 14, 2009.  These guidelines open the door to linking AIDS efforts to family planning.

View the video of the Minnesota community event and learn more about the work of the ONAP.

PHOTO:  Alex Iantaffi

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Hate crime protections have been expanded

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Shepard-Byrd-Act-BP.jpgOn October 28, 2009, President Obama signed the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act into law.  This act expands federal hate crime protection to include gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, and disability.

FBI data suggests that since 1991 there have been more than 118,000 hate crimes reported.  In 2007 more than 7,600 were reported, and in the last ten years there have been more than 12,000 reported hate crimes that were based on sexual orientation.

Obama affirmed the importance of this legislation in his remarks at a reception to celebrate the new act, "You understood that we must stand against crimes that are meant not only to break bones, but to break spirits -- not only to inflict harm, but to instill fear.  You understand that the rights afforded every citizen under our Constitution mean nothing if we do not protect those rights -- both from unjust laws and violent acts."  

View a video of the president's remarks

Read the full text of president's remarks.

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Letter from the Chair in Sexual Health

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Coleman-Oaxtepec-BP.jpgI recently attended the National Congress of Sexual Education and Sexology sponsored by the Mexican Federation of Sexual Education and Sexology (FEMESS) in Oaxtepec, Mexico.

I talked about the barriers, necessities, and opportunities that are confronting sexuality education now and in the future.  I called for a strategic plan for the next generation of sexuality education programs. 

Education is the basic tool by which we can confront the sexual health problems we face around the world.  We see the HIV pandemic stabilizing overall but growing rapidly among disadvantages groups.  Sexual violence is still at unacceptable levels.  Gender equity remains ideal rather than a reality.  Individuals and couples are struggling to find sexual satisfaction and pleasure.  We have a syndemic - a constellation of epidemics that feed one another.  We are going to need a systematic approach to promote sexual health to address the syndemic.  This is not just a sexual health problem but a public health problem.  Sexual health is essential to overall health and human development.

There are enormous barriers to overcome.  We need to face some fundamental facts. 

● There is the ubiquitous taboo of talking about sex in our cultures and this is not going to go away. 

● Parents, by the nature of parent-child dynamics, are never going to be the most effective sexuality educators. 

● We can not seem to get over the notion that to talk about sex with children means that they are more likely to engage in sexual activity (and irresponsibly).

● Sexual education is a threat to the social order which preserves patriarchy and heteronormativity.

● Science-based sexual education is a threat to certain religious views and beliefs.

● The belief that the state should not interfere in something so private as one's sexuality

● Sexual education by professionals in structured environments is the only way to deal with these barriers.

Despite the barriers, we have tremendous opportunities to overcome them.  The United Nations has declared 8 human development goals for 2015.  Embedded in these goals are a few of them that specifically address sexual and reproductive health.  However, in all of these 8 goals, promotion of sexual health is obviously a means of addressing them.  (See the World Association for Sexual Health's (WAS) Declaration and Technical Document - Sexual Health for the Millennium).  The fundamental premise of this declaration is that it is essential to promote sexual health to enhance overall human development.  Sexual health is on par with the necessity to promote physical and mental health.  The three are like a three-legged stool and without one - the chair will fall.

The fourth point of the WAS Declaration specifically addresses the importance of providing universal access to comprehensive sexuality education.  To achieve sexual health, all individuals, including youth, must have access to comprehensive sexuality education and sexual health information and services throughout the life cycle.  This has been recognized more and more in health promotion strategies as illustrated by the Inter Ministerial Declaration of Health and Education Ministers of Latin America and the Caribbean and the Maputo Plan of Action that was endorsed by the Ministers of Health from 48 African countries and their governments.  So there is openness and opportunity to build upon when public policy officials are recognizing the importance of sexual health education as a general public health policy.

Sexual health has been legitimized in public health policy and science will be needed to guide it.  It is a unique opportunity in history that we must seize.

In order to overcome these barriers and seize these opportunities, we have the following necessary actions.

● Provide mandatory comprehensive sexuality education - that is rights-based, gender sensitive, and culturally appropriate - as an essential component of school curricula at all levels and provide the necessary resources.

● Work with community organizations to reach young people who are not in school or other high-risk populations with comprehensive sexuality education.

● Issue guidelines to ensure that sexuality education programs and services are grounded in the principle of fully informed, autonomous decision-making.

● Ensure that sexuality education programs are evidence-based and include the characteristics that have been shown to contribute to effectiveness. This should be done in a way that allows for creativity and community specific needs in the development and evaluation of innovative programs.

● Promote further research in human sexuality education designed to promote sexual health and responsible sexual behavior.

We only have a few years to show that comprehensive sexuality education can work before the tides can turn and we return to abstinence-only approaches.

We must create a better climate for discussion of sexuality.

We need to ensure access to information and access about sexuality.

We need a society where every child (no matter what their sexual or gender identity) can get basic sexuality information.

We need to ensure that every health care provider is trained to address sexuality as part of their practices. 

And that is the only way that we will achieve sexual health and foster human development. 

African Union Commission.  (2006). Plan of Action on Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (Maputo Plan of Action).  Addis Adaba, Ethiopia:  African Union Commission.

Coleman, E. (2002). 'Promoting sexual health and responsible sexual behavior: An introduction'. Journal of Sex Research, 39(1), 3-6.

Coleman, E. (2010).  From sexology to sexual health.  In P. Aggleton, and R. Parker (Eds.), Routledge International Handbook of Sexuality, Health and Rights:.  London:  Routledge.

Ministers of Health and Education in Latin America and the Caribbean (2008).  Ministerial Declaration: 1st Meeting of Ministers of Health and Education to Stop HIV and STIs in Latin America and the Caribbean to Stop HIV and STIs:  Preventing Through Education.   

World Association for Sexual Health (2008).  Sexual Health for the Millennium Declaration.

PHOTO:  Ligia Peralta, Eli Coleman, Luis Perelman

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