AFH Photo // Jessica Pan
When people contract a sexually transmitted disease, society tends to look at them differently. I do not believe this is fair. Let’s talk about the stigma that leads people to treat someone with an STD differently. There are many ways people with STDs get mistreated, including being talked about by their peers or excluded from groups. 
First, I want to tell you what inspired me to write about this topic in the first place. A couple of months ago, I came across an article regarding Beauty and the Beast, the 1991 animated movie. You may be thinking, “What in the world does this have to do with anything?”   
The article, “The original Beauty and the Beast cartoon was a metaphor for AIDS,” talked about Howard Ashman, a lyricist for the movie who found out he had AIDS. The article argues that the Beast signifies a “curse” -- similar to Ashman finding out he had AIDS -- and so he locks himself away in shame. Belle signifies a cure, a chance that maybe, just maybe, the “curse” will be lifted.  
I hope I didn’t completely ruin your childhood, but this perspective is vital because it shows how being misjudged and mistreated can really hurt someone. In this case, the Beast closes himself off from society because he feels ashamed of who he has become. The people in his town are no better. They make it seem like he’s not someone worthy of their understanding, and so they set out to make his life miserable.  
Despite being a cartoon, this is a remarkably accurate portrayal of what happens to people when they disclose their STD status to those around them. Being treated poorly can make many people afraid to seek help. To get more insight, I interviewed Suzanne Spressert, a Health Education Instructional Coach for Boston Public Schools.  
 
Q. Why do people get misjudged for having an STD? 
  1. Spressert: I think this happens because of the way society talks about STDs. People say you "catch" one and use terms like "dirty" when that is not the case at all, and not how we should be talking about it. Since most STDs have no symptoms, it is difficult to know who has one unless they disclose that information. More than 50 percent of all sexually active people will contract Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) at some point during their lives – most won’t know it. One in two Americans will have contracted a sexually transmitted infection by the time they reach the age of 25. Given these statistics, I believe there's a lot of misunderstanding about how common STDs are and how they are passed on from an infected partner. I also see this talked about in classrooms as typically being assigned to females, when males can be the ones passing on the infection. That needs to be acknowledged as shared responsibility and not one sided.  
 
Q. What is the most common STD among young adults? 
  1. Spressert: Chlamydia is still the number one most common STD impacting Boston Public School students. I would call your attention to this fact: In 2014, there were 3,628 chlamydia cases in Boston and 60% of these cases were in 15-24 year olds. With more awareness and more testing, we can help to drive down those numbers in Boston, ultimately making a healthier, safer community for all.  
 
Q. What can be done to help people feel comfortable when speaking to others about their personal experiences?  
  1. Spressert: This sometimes takes role play or practicing what to say with a trusted adult. I recommend that each student has at least one to two trusted adults in his or her community that they can confide in. These adults can also help students get connected to testing and care.  
 
Q. What are the medical options for people who have contracted an STD? 
  1. Spressert: Treatment can include antibiotics given either orally or by injection or antiviral drugs, depending on which STD they are being treated for. Post-exposure prophylaxis (or PEP) is a way to prevent HIV infection after a possible recent exposure. PrEP stands for Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis and is a way for people who don't have HIV, but who are at very high risk of getting it, to prevent HIV infection by taking a pill every day. The pill contains two medicines that are also used to treat HIV. 
 
Q. Are any STDs curable? If so, which ones and why?   
  1. Spressert: My first response to this question is please, please, please advocate for comprehensive sexual health education in your and every BPS school. This is a simple question that gets covered in depth in both the middle school and high school sexual health education curriculum. There are two types of STDs - bacterial and viral. Bacterial STDs can be cured with antibiotics. Viral ones can be managed but not cured. From a behavior change perspective, students should know the risks associated with unprotected sexual activity (vaginal, oral and anal) and be able to access testing if they have engaged in any unprotected sexual act and believe they might have an STI/STD. Students should feel empowered to be able to get tested and also communicate their status with a partner. Accessing community resources and having solid interpersonal skills are key to becoming an adult!  
 
I think that people who have a negative view on people with an STD are just uninformed and there are many ways you can educate yourself. Most schools offer health classes that teach students about these topics. It can also be as easy as using trusted online sources like Scarleteen.com or the Planned Parenthood website. Whatever you decide, I hope it helps keep you educated on STDs. This is not something to be ashamed of because it can happen to anyone and there are many ways and options to seek help and to prevent it from happening again, or even at all.  
Read more…
APH Photo // Leidiniece Pereira
This is a piece of creative fiction.  
The sun rose in the morning as I awoke, realizing I had to face another day of torture about the shape of my body. What will I do? I want to go unnoticed. These thoughts ran through my head as I wished I could look like the model on the cover of Vogue magazine. 
 While in high school, my classmates would laugh at me and say mean things about the way I looked. Although I partly agreed that I was overweight with stretch marks on the back of my legs and stomach, I always wondered if I would ever get their approval. I wasn’t always this way, I used to be skinny just like them.  
 Every time I went to school, the first person I saw was the same bully who laughed at my body. “What happened to you?” Diana asked. “You look so fat. I guess all the boys don't run after you like before. Hmm, such a shame,” she said. “Just so you know, you can’t sit with us at lunch.” She didn’t hang out with girls that didn’t look like her.  
My heart broke. Diana used be my friend in middle school. We did everything together. I felt so ashamed of my body. 
 I used to be so insecure of my body that even when I was invited to pool parties, I didn't go because my stomach would look so big in a bathing suit and people would stare. As each day passed, I felt the judgement from everyone around me in the school hallways, during lunch, and even at home from my family.  
Before I knew it, I began to sink into a depression. I began to starve myself. Food felt like the devil’s bait. I believed not eating would make me skinnier. I would eat and throw up in the bathroom. I didn't want anyone to know of my struggle because I wanted that size zero dress to fit, because I wanted to look like an Instagram model.  
Most of the time, I would go to a private place and cry. When I was done, I would put on a happy face. Gradually, my grades began to drop because I didn’t pay attention in class. I was a stranger to myself. 
Looking back, I would have told my old self not to listen to Diana, the girl who judged me based on looks. I would have told myself to love my body the way it was, it was perfect and still is. I did not need to change myself, the world needs to change. I should have been confident, happy and stood up to those who made me hate myself. We are all beautiful and no one should make us feel different. Our flaws are what make us unique. 
 
Q&A on Body Shaming with Brianna Moody
Body shaming has become a normal part of American culture. While we all have become used to it, it still highly affects the victims. They say when you judge a girl by her appearance, it doesn’t define her, it defines you. As a society, we should stop labeling girls bodies. 
Brianna Moody works as the Girls’ Health Coordinator at the YWCA in Boston. Here is what she has to say about this rising issue.   
Q: What is body shaming? 
A. Body shaming can mean a lot. It can mean causing harm to others or yourself. It is the discrimination [on the basis of] body weight, texture of hair, and also physical abilities. 
 
Q. What are the effects on those who are body shamed? 
A. People who are body shamed are oppressed. They go into depression. They could have eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia. They sometimes harm themselves and most of the time feel discouraged. They sometimes go through job discrimination where a certain job criteria for a girl or a boy is to not be too fat or too skinny. 
 
Q. What are examples of body shaming? 
A.There are so many examples of body shaming such as one commenting on the food someone is eating because of the way they look. This could hurt the person. Another example is stores changing the size of their clothes or restricting the sizes which they sell. 
 
Q. What ways can we change society’s views on body shaming? 
A. I would say, people should stop judging people on the way they look. Policies in the workplace restricting the way people look like should be stopped. The media should sample people of all sizes and not just one variety of models with the same standards of beauty.  It should be more diverse, all sizes should be accepted. The telling of stories and experience should be shared. 
Read more…
AFH Photo // Tristin Heap
Choosing to become a vegetarian is not as easy as choosing which outfit to wear. The journey is not simple, nor is it the living hell many think it is. 
According to the Vegetarian Times Magazine, about 7.3 million Americans are vegetarians and approximately one million are vegan. Among vegetarians, there are lacto vegetarians who eat dairy but not eggs. Lacto-Ovo vegetarians eat dairy and eggs. Pescatarians add seafood to their diet, while vegans eat plant-based foods only. 
I became a pescatarian more than two years ago. My motivation was wanting to lead a healthier lifestyle and wanting to discipline myself. Like many people, I doubted I would last as a pescatarian. I thought I would end up disappointing myself by beginning this new lifestyle but quitting shortly after. However, that was not the case. There is a common misconception that becoming a vegetarian is hard. People are either afraid of trying something new and challenging, or simply convince themselves they can not live without meat.  
Kiara Batista, 16, from the John D. O’Bryant High School, who has been a lacto vegetarian for three years, says it is easy. “After the first couple of months, you get used to it,” she said.  Her motives for becoming vegetarian were that she wanted to “live a healthier life, and stop eating animals that get treated badly.” 

Because of consumers’ high demand for meat, animals are often raised in cramped spaces and barely get to breathe fresh air or spend time with their newborns. From the time they are born to the time they are inhumanely slaughtered, they often do not step foot outside their cages. 
While some people choose vegetarianism for moral reasons, there are also environmental benefits to a vegetarian diet. “Rainforests are being cut down to raise cattle for beef and cattle themselves produce methane, which contributes to global warming,” says Kimberly Fitzgerald, a member of Share Our Strength, a non-profit organization focused on teaching families and young children how to cook and shop healthy on a budget.  
Living as a vegetarian also brings health benefits. Livestrong, an online health and fitness source, reported that compared to non-vegetarians, vegetarians tend to have lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels, reduced rates of death from heart disease, decreased incidences of hypertension, stroke, Type-2 diabetes, and certain cancers. This corrects the frequently repeated myth that vegetarians do not intake enough nutrients and proteins. 
After 18 years of being a vegetarian, Fitzgerald cannot remember what her body felt like after eating meat. “I have been told that people feel heavy and weighed down,” she says. “I find that it is much harder as a vegetarian to feel weighed down by your food. I usually feel pretty light after a meal and full of energy.” 
Despite how a vegetarian lifestyle brings optimal results for humans and animals, not many Americans live this way. Unfortunately, our government’s decision to support big factory farms has made it hard for small farmers to compete in the marketplace.  
According to the Washington Post, between 1995 and 2010, roughly $200 billion was spent to subsidize U.S. commodity crops, including animal-feed crops, while farmers who grew fruits and vegetables received no regular direct subsidies.  
Perhaps part of the reason only a limited number of people are vegetarian or vegan is that local farmers markets are not supported in the way factory farms are. After all, one of the misconceptions many people have is that a plant-based diet is expensive -- especially when compared to processed meats and foods. 
Being a vegetarian goes beyond living a healthy lifestyle. It is an approach that teaches you discipline and gives you authority over your health choices. I misjudged myself in thinking that a vegetarian lifestyle was too difficult and not worth my time. After years of being a dedicated vegetarian, I am certain I will continue my lifestyle for as long as I choose.  
Tips for healthy eating on a budget:  
  1. 1. Know what you are eating. Read the nutrition facts panel and the ingredients. 

  2. 2. Avoid soda and sugary drinks.
  3.   
  4. 3. Buy foods with low sodium, low saturated fat, and avoid trans fat altogether.  

  5. 4. Purchase foods made with whole grains to keep you fuller longer. 

  6. 5. Avoid foods that are overly processed.  

  7. 6. Before going shopping, make a list of all the ingredients you will need. Try to stick to the list when you go to the store; this will prevent impulse buys and help you stay on budget.  

  8. 7. Look at the unit price while shopping at your grocery store to see what the best value is. 
Read more…
AFH Photo // Yvonne YangYing Chen
Due to advancements in technology, the way people spread and receive information has changed. Before modern times, it was through word of mouth, newspapers, or radios. Today, people post pictures, captions or hashtags of their new product or business and it can go viral in minutes. This may seem effective and appealing, but there is a catch. The problem with the efficiency of technology is that false information can spread quickly. 
Advertisements are an eye-catching and effective way of spreading information in seconds. Today, ads have moved beyond television and into our tablets, laptops and phones. Because social media is powerful and addictive, most people see hundreds of ads and banners on web pages every day. Companies and businesses know the majority of young people go on social media constantly and they use this intel to spread product awareness.  
Bright, colorful slogans and images are used to lure our attention for a few seconds. We’re exposed to so many advertisements and brands every day that we can’t always tell apart the ones that are sending false or accurate information.  
On the Federal Trade Commission website, a government agency that protects consumers, it states that they “look especially closely at advertising claims that can affect consumers’ health or their pocketbooks – claims about food, over-the-counter drugs, dietary supplements, alcohol, and tobacco and on conduct related to high-tech products and the Internet.”  
But how well is the FTC able to protect us from false advertising? There are millions of commercials and advertisements surrounding beauty. We see beautiful, young models trying makeup and hair products, and this persuades us to buy the product to look as beautiful as the models. There is pressure all over the world by society, for both men and women, to look beautiful all the time. It can lead people to believe makeup will solve their problems.  
Jo Swinson, a British member of parliament, wrote an article featured on CNN titled “False beauty in advertising and the pressure to look 'good.’” In it, she discussed her decision to bring Lancome ads for foundation makeup featuring Julia Roberts to the attention of the Advertising Standards Authority, which banned them for being misleading. Brands that falsely advertise should reflect on how they present their products, food, or business and how it impacts consumers.  
However, not all companies falsely advertise. To be truthful to their customers, both business owners and ad agencies properly test the product before putting together commercials. Matt Duerr, an account supervisor at MullenLowe, works with upcoming businesses and meets with clients every day who need assistance in promoting their business or brand. Duerr says that when he works with businesses, he and his co-workers make sure their client is able to substantiate the claim they will make in the commercial. “We have always made sure that a product is properly tested before we move into production,” he says. MullenLowe and businesses collaborate together throughout the entire process to assure customers will be happy with the finished product.  
A way to know whether an advertisement is false or false is to educate ourselves on how businesses and companies attract consumers. In a time where avoiding advertisements is impossible, honesty by brands is more important now than ever. 
Read more…
AFH Photo // Vanessa Vo
 
We all have friends who sometimes annoy us. Every friendship can be annoying - it's natural. But sometimes, it’s more than that. Here are the signs you may be in a friendship that has run its course. 
First of all, it feels one sided. You feel uncomfortable having conversations with the other person and only do it out of necessity or politeness. The conversation isn't genuine and you feel out of place, wishing they would leave you alone, or that you can disappear into the wall. Everything feels fake and you end up trying too hard to make the conversation last or not be awkward.  
I have found that these “friends” seem totally lost as to my discomfort. The hints pass by them like the oxygen they're inhaling. In my case, I tried to be a genuine friend and make it work. I tried to take interest in their hobbies, likes, and concerns as any good friend would. Or at least tolerate them.  
But as others have said before me: “we fell out of touch with each other,” “our interests didn't align anymore,” “we grew apart,” “it wasn't them it was me,” or “we simply didn't fit into each other's lives anymore.” It's life. True friends don't feel uncomfortable in front of each other. And life is too short for shallow or one sided friendships. So I cut these friendship short with the best interest of everyone in mind. 
 The following are the steps I took to end unnecessary friendships. These aren't proven theories, just one girl's successful attempt at cutting off a friendship that had run its course. Read on if you're at at a place in your life where a certain individual has no space in it and you are in need of direction. 
 
Approach 1: The Painful Truth 
 Just tell them the truth. If you disclose to “the friend” how you truly feel, most of the time, it will end your struggle and bring you swift results. However, this can come with significant downfalls. The potential for drama, and other people getting involved and escalating the issue, is real. This approach can also make you look like a heartless and cold-blooded person.  
 
Approach 2: Have-a-Heart  
Let's be honest, the painful truth is only plausible for certain people. Those of us who possess an actual heart take the high road. That was my approach. Like most changes, it took time, and there are two things you can do.   
Social Media Cut Off: Social media is where we do most of our socializing nowadays, so losing your Snapchat streaks or not viewing their story is a great way to create distance. Do not like their Instagram pictures or tweets. Maybe even delete some of your mutual friends. Eventually, you will not know what has been happening in the other person’s life, creating less of chance for full blown conversations on things you have in common or can each relate to.  
Distance Thyself In Reality: Although you might try to avoid the “friend” as much as possible, if you go to school together you cannot avoid them fully. This means you need to change the way you interact with them -- how you speak to them and your body language, words and tone. When in a conversation, make sure to be as brief and vague as possible with your responses. Look bored, busy, or tired. This will keep them at arm’s length.  
Sometimes though, they might put be resistant and push back on your methods. They might hold on to the friendship tightly and wonder why you're not hanging out as much. In this case, you have to be able to address their concerns to their face about not hanging out as much. 
I used all these approaches in my journey and managed to slowly end the friendship without too much drama or hurt feelings. It did not happen overnight, so patience is key. You can't rush it if you want optimum results with no hint of drama or feud.  
I wish you good luck! 
Read more…