Michael Walker and Dr. Katherine Fordham
Now that both us have survived our relocation to the West Coast of the United States -- San Francisco, that is -- we have "gotten down to business" and have been working on several health-related research projects. One of these, we believe, is of special interest to our readers because in a way it is about you guys. You see, we're writing a paper for a medical journal about the use of the Internet in providing sex education information to gay youth. We realize that there are far too few resources for young gay people to turn to for this sort of information -- particularly if you live outside of a major city -- and that the Internet can help in changing that. Why we are writing a journal article is because these medical journals are the formal scientific magazines which doctors and other health experts read to learn about important new topics in their field and this paper will help make such people more aware of the need to provide better information to gay youth on sexually-related health matters. We will mention our own Oasis column in this journal article and hope that we might inspire other medical professionals to do more to help gay youth, however they can. Not everyone can sit down and write a column like this every month, but every physician and nurse can make certain that they are people with whom their young gay patients may share their concerns. As health care providers, this is our job, after all.
Our first question this month comes from a young man in rural Ohio while our second question is from a young woman in France. Now if that is not living proof of how the Internet can allow us to reach out to gay youth everywhere, then we don't know what is!
Dear Mike and Dr. Kate,
I have these bumps, like zits, right above my dick. Really, I'm not joking, and I have never had sex, so can they still be a disease or something? How did I get it? Or are they normal? I never heard of anything like this but I can't ask my doctor because my mom would have to take me to see him and she would freak and think I was having sex, even though she's clueless that I'm gay, she'd still freak. We live way out here in Ohio and I can't ask anyone else, either.
What you most likely have -- based on your own description -- are pimples, very similar to those which you find on your face and call "zits". It is not uncommon for teenage boys going through puberty to encounter such pimples on and around their genitals, especially right above the base of the penis. There are several reasons why these pimples occur. For one thing, the chemical changes going on in your body -- which are a normal part of puberty -- encourage such pimples to form. This is the same reason for facial pimples. Another factor is the possibility that you are not getting this area as clean as it ought to be when you shower. If you are -- like most teenage boys -- quite athletic and active, your body will sweat in this area and produce oil which may clog pores and thus cause pimples. It is important to wash this area well, particularly after athletic activity. This does not mean scrub the area like you're about to do surgery on it; but to wash it well with soap and water. You do not want to scrub so much that you abrade (wear away) the top layer of skin and irritate it in this manner.
You can rest assured that if you have never had sexual contact then you have not been exposed to sexually-transmitted disease and that this "bumps" are not a manifestation of such a disease. It is possible -- although very unlikely -- that these bumps are not pimples but something else, perhaps warts of some sort. They do certainly sound like pimples, but since I (Kate) have not examined you myself I cannot say for sure. If they continue to bother you or you notice any other unusual symptoms of ill health, you might want to discuss the matter with your family physician. Like I said, if you are a virgin, then you do not have a sexually-transmitted disease -- simple as that. If you mother does not understand that fact, I am sure your doctor can explain it to her satisfaction.
Dear Mike and Kate,
I am writing a paper for my health class on AIDS and health, because I am a lesbian and want people to know about this. Where can I find more information on this? My instructor says we must have references for our papers so I need places where I can get these.
Gillian, age 17, Paris, France
Thanks for writing; and from one of our favorite cities, too! We admire your dedication and courage in writing about this topic for your class assignment. As we mentioned in the introductory paragraph, we too write papers and when we do this we also must provide references which document where we found our information. There are a multitude of good resources for such information on the Internet. Before the advent of the Internet, such information was harder to come by --even for doctors and other health professionals. In fact, much of the scientific and medical information found on the Internet would have been accessible only in a major university's health sciences library only a decade ago. When I (Kate) attended medical school, I had access to only a fraction of the information which Mike had available during his college education. So the Internet is the best place to start.
A service known as Medline© is the industry-standard for searching for articles published in scientific and medical journals. This service will not provide the article itself, but it will provide the crucial information which is needed to locate the article. Unfortunately, you will still need to go to a university library to obtain a copy of the article itself. But Medline will allow you to search for these articles by key-words, which is very helpful. As a hint, don't start with too broad a search. If you ask the computer to call up every article on the keyword "AIDS" you will get so many listings that you could not possible even read all these articles! Nor would they all be useful to your own paper. Instead, try a narrower combination of terms, such as "AIDS-homosexual-youth", to get the type of articles which will be helpful to your work. Medline is an international service, so it will allow you to search for articles written in French (or any other language), too. To access Medline free of charge (some web-servers make you pay for it), go to: http://www.Avicenna.com/ and follow the site's instructions to register so you may use its services, including Medline. This registration is free. As well as Medline, there is also AIDSline which concerns only material dealing with AIDS and HIV. Both services are available free from Avicenna.
Aside from scientific articles, there is a wealth of AIDS-related information on the web targeted towards the lay-person (that's you guys who were smart enough not to make medicine a way of life like we have). I (Kate) have links to several good sites on my own homepage which is: http://www.geocities.com/CapeCanaveral/6128
The search engine called HotBot is also a great place to start your research. It is located at: http://www.hotbot.com
Mike does not have as many useful links on his page, but he does have pretty pictures which Kate (so far) is lacking.
(We realize that everyone and their brother has their own opinions on what the best search engine is so don't anyone get upset because we didn't mention your own favorite! We happen to like Hotbot, but there are many others which are quite good, as well.)