Barbershops and beauty salons are special places in America, where people go to socialize and catch up. Sometimes they even get their hair done. At a growing number of African-American hair shops in North Carolina, you can also get condoms and advice about preventing and living with HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases.
"Most of the time you become like a counselor," says Reginald Kennedy, owner of Heads Up in Charlotte, N.C. "People get deep into their feelings and personal problems, and they come for a whole lot of advice."
Kennedy says his profession puts him in a good position to be a peer educator in a program designed to combat the disproportionately high number of STD infections among blacks in his state.
In the past decade, more than 7,000 African-Americans have accounted for 75% of all reported HIV cases in North Carolina. That's why officials with the Durham County Health Department nine years ago began collaborating with barbers and beauticians. The result was an outreach program called Project StraighTalk's Barber and Beautician STD/HIV Peer Educators, which has since been copied by other counties.
Annual evaluations of shop employees and their clients have shown participants to be highly satisfied, says Kat Turner, program director of Project StraighTalk.
Like Kennedy, Tom Jacobs, owner of LaPorsha's Beauty and Barber Salon in Charlotte, is helping launch the program in his community. Workers at his shop now run an HIV prevention video several times a day and plan to give away 300 condoms and educational pamphlets each month.
"Everybody gets their hair done, and everybody needs to know (about the HIV crisis)," says Jonathan Hicklin, a stylist at LaPorsha's. "Lots of young men and women who don't get to hear from their parents about what's going on can talk to us."
What you can do with numbers. The birth-control pill turned 40 on May 9. But that could be the only number you can be sure of when it comes to the pill.
Just ask drugmaker Ortho-McNeil Pharmaceutical, which recently had to eat crow about an inflated number it published in a recent press release in honor of the big anniversary. (The FDA approved the pill for use on May 9, 1960.)
In that May 4 release, Ortho-McNeil--which didn't produce the original pill (G.D. Searle did) but does market nine of 30 brands now available--proclaimed that "an estimated 468 million American women have taken the pill since its introduction." Turns out the original calculation involved a double-count: Women who in annual surveys said they had begun taking the pill before the year in question were counted as first-time pill takers for the year of the survey. The company retracted that figure in a letter to medical publishers and removed it from its Web site without replacing it.
"It's difficult to determine how many mutually exclusive women there are each year, especially considering the number of women who go in and out of pill use," says Ortho-McNeil spokeswoman Theresa Tamboer.
Ortho-McNeil isn't alone is trying to nail down how many women use the pill. In a May 5 press release, Johns Hopkins University tried to quantify that elusive figure four different ways, using different subgroups and different countries; in the resulting cacophony of figures, not much was clear.
It would be much simpler--and more accurate--to say, "Lots of women use the pill."
You're as old as you feel. Howard Gottschalk, M.D., defies the stereotype of the Internet wunderkind who made his first billion before he could drive. That's because he could be most wunderkinds' grandfather. Maybe even great-grandfather.
Gottschalk, who is the founder and chairman of IndexMedical.com, a Sherman Oaks, Calif.-based Internet startup intended to link medical products to prospective purchasers, turned 85 earlier this month.
"I find it imperative and extremely important to work with young people," Gottschalk says, "because it gives me fresh ideas and outlooks on my perceptions and makes me feel much younger than my actual age."
The startup of IndexMedical.com isn't the first time Gottschalk has spanned the generation gap. During his long career as an ear, nose and throat specialist, he's gained renown for the treatments he's developed for middle-ear infections in children, as well as his invention of a product called 21Again--a device that helps men overcome erectile dysfunction.
Mad as hell. A New Jersey man has admitted he vandalized a dozen doctors' offices because they wouldn't perform an invasive diagnostic procedure on him.
John Murphy, 64, of Toms River, N.J., has been arrested and charged with criminal mischief for his May 10 rampage.
"This is pretty heavy retaliation," says police Detective Greg Hopper.
Murphy, a retired telephone company employee, admitted doing the damage. "He said he was trying to put them out of business," says police detective Karl Ulbrich.
Murphy apparently went from office to office, breaking windows and using spray paint to black out the names of the urologists on exterior signs, according to police.
Among the victims was Shah Chaudhry, M.D., of Somers Point, N.J. Chaudhry says Murphy stormed out of his office after the doctor refused to perform a prostate biopsy on him, asking him instead to provide the results of one he'd already had. "The procedure is pretty invasive," Chaudhry says. "You go through the rectum."
Gives a whole new twist to the old saying, "Be careful what you wish for."