Transgender surgery linked with better long term mental health, study shows

stock-eye/iStock(NEW YORK) —  Surgery can be scary for anyone, but gender-affirming surgery for transgender people may provide better long-term mental health benefits, according to new research from the Yale School of Public Health.

Researchers looked at mood and anxiety disorder health care visits, antidepressant and anti-anxiety prescriptions and hospitalizations after a suicide attempt. These measures were assessed for 10 years before and after receiving gender-specific hormone and surgical treatment.

The study found that the likelihood of being treated for a mood or anxiety disorder was reduced by 8% for each year since the last gender-specific surgery.

“This study extends earlier evidence of associations between gender-affirming treatment and improved mental health,” Dr. Richard Bränström, senior author of the study and associate professor at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden, told ABC News.

Compared with the general population, regardless of surgery or hormone treatment, transgender individuals are about six times as likely to have had a mood and anxiety disorder health care visit, more than three times as likely to have received prescriptions for antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications and more than six times as likely to have been hospitalized after a suicide attempt, according to the study.

The study showed hormone treatment was not significantly related to any reductions in mental health treatment compared to surgery.

“The exact reason for this we don’t know, but the group diagnosed with a gender incongruence diagnosis receiving hormone treatment, but not surgery, is a very mixed group,” Bränström said. “The process of being diagnosed with a gender incongruence diagnosis and receiving gender-affirming treatment is a long process and it is likely that this process can be stressful.”

That finding puzzled Dr. Dana Rofey, associate professor of psychiatry and pediatrics at UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh, who added, “I am surprised by this and wonder if the right time points [with regards to the transition] were investigated.”

Rofey was not involved in the study.

Doctors say it may be important to first independently assess mental health problems affecting transgender individuals.

“We do not use gender-affirming treatments, either hormones or surgeries, to treat psychiatric disorders like clinical depression or anxiety,” said Dr. Hansel Arroyo, director of psychiatry and behavioral medicine at Mount Sinai’s Center for Transgender Medicine and Surgery. “These mental health issues should be directly addressed by a mental health provider and can be independent of the presence of gender dysphoria.”

“We know that people who are clinically depressed will often have a bad surgical outcome including poor wound healing, longer hospital stays,” said Arroyo, who was not involved in the study. He suggested that physical healing may become impacted: “People will often have difficulty taking care of themselves post-surgery.”

He continued, “Transgender individuals may also experience worsening of depression and anxiety due to gender dysphoria, social stigma, discrimination and trauma. Providing gender affirming treatments like hormone therapy and surgical interventions then becomes crucial as we know that they do improve the mental health, psychological functioning and quality of life in transgender people with gender dysphoria.”

A potential problem with the study is that it looked at gender-affirming surgeries in a high-income population.

Dr. Anthony Tobia, professor of psychiatry at Rutgers’ Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, said only focusing on people who can afford treatments may impact the study results.

“Individuals of higher socioeconomic status may have improved long term outcomes and the effect may not be due to the surgery itself,” Tobia, who was not involved in the study, told ABC News.

Bränström said the research shows that transgender treatments transcend the physical appearance and providing access to treatments could lower rates of mental health problems.

“The main message is that, even though transgender individuals are at increased risk of mental health problems, such problems can be reduced with the right support and access to high-quality, evidence-informed treatments,” Bränström said.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

HIV prevention drugs to be available without a prescription in California

92/1 Moo3 Huai Yang Kham Chun Phayao, Thailand 56150/iStock(LOS ANGELES) — Californians, starting next year, will be able to access HIV prevention medications without a prescription.

Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a bill into law on Monday, making California the first state in the country to allow post-exposure and pre-exposure prophylaxis to be sold over the counter.

Pre-exposure prophylaxis, known as PrEP, is a once-daily pill that prevents an HIV infection before it occurs. Post-exposure prophylaxis, or PEP, is taken after possible exposure to HIV to avoid contracting the disease. Because PEP is most effective when taken within 72 hours of exposure, requiring a prescription limits access to the time-sensitive medication.

Other barriers to PrEP access include too few doctors prescribing it, PrEP’s high cost and a persistent stigma against people at high risk for HIV, which can make it harder for them to approach providers or discuss with them their sexual health and drug use.

“If we are going to end the epidemic — a goal of the current administration — we need increased access to PrEP,” said Dr. Alysse Wurcel, an infectious disease physician at Tufts Medical Center.

Wurcel said she supported PrEP being available without a prescription and compared the medication to another harm-reduction tool: seat belts.

“When the seat belt first came out, people thought it should not be available, because then people would drive faster and get into more accidents. Could you imagine if someone needed a prescription for a seatbelt?” she asked. “Everyone should have access to harm-reduction tools, whether it be a seat belt, a condom or a pill that prevents HIV.”

A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention analysis last year found that only a small percentage of Americans who could benefit from PrEP are prescribed the medication. Of the people who could potentially benefit from PrEP and don’t have prescriptions, two-thirds are African American or Latino, according to the CDC.

“One of our most powerful tools for HIV prevention remains largely on pharmacy shelves,” Dr. Jonathan Mermin, director of the CDC’s National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention, said in a statement at the time of the report.

Two other important tools, according to Wurcel, are sexual health counseling and testing for sexually transmitted infections, both of which should be part of a health care regimen that includes PrEP.

“Sexual health does not stop at access to PrEP. That may be where it starts — where someone feels empowered and takes a pill to protect themselves against HIV — but that should not be where it stops,” Wurcel said.

In 2017, nearly 39,000 people received a new HIV diagnosis, according to the CDC. Of those new diagnoses, men who have sex with men face the highest risk.

In California, pharmacists can already dispense emergency contraception and birth control without a prescription, thanks to laws that went into effect over the last decade.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

China hits NBA with broadcast blackout after Adam Silver discusses Hong Kong controversy

mphillips007/iStock(BEIJING) — China’s state-run broadcasting network ordered a blackout Tuesday of all NBA preseason games set to be played in the country in response to league commissioner Adam Silver voicing support for Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey’s right to exercise his freedom of expression on the Hong Kong protests.

The apparent retaliatory move by China came in the aftermath of a controversy that erupted over a tweet by Morey last week supporting pro-democracy demonstrations in Hong Kong.

“The long-held values of the NBA are to support freedom of expression, and in this case, Daryl Morey as general manager of the Houston Rockets enjoys that right,” Silver said during a news conference in Japan, where the Rockets are scheduled to play two preseason games against the Los Angeles Lakers this week. “I understand there are consequences. We will protect our employees’ freedom of speech.”

Silver said that while he regrets that Morey’s tweet upset the Chinese government and millions of NBA fans in that country, “we are not apologizing for Daryl exercising his freedom of expression.”

In an earlier statement, Silver said, “It is inevitable that people around the world — including from America and China — will have different viewpoints over different issues. It is not the role of the NBA to adjudicate those differences.”

Shortly after Silver’s comments, China’s state-owned broadcasting network CCTV announced it is immediately suspending plans to broadcast a series of NBA preseason games scheduled to be played in China later this week as part of an effort to use basketball to bridge cultural differences between the United States and China.

“We have noticed that Adam Silver, the NBA president who is participating in the event in Japan, responded to the Houston Rockets general manager Morey’s announcement of inappropriate Hong Kong-related remarks,” CCTV officials said in a statement. “We [are] strongly dissatisfied and opposed [to] Adam’s claim to support Morey’s free expression of rights. We believe that any speech that challenges national sovereignty and social stability is not within the scope of freedom of speech.

“To this end, CCTV Sports Channel of the Central Radio and Television General Administration decided to immediately suspend the current broadcast arrangements of the NBA preseason [China Games] and immediately investigate all cooperation and exchanges involving the NBA,” the statement said.

The Brooklyn Nets and the Los Angeles Lakers are scheduled to play games this week in Shanghai and Shenzhen, China.

Morey took down a tweet with an image reading, “Fight for Freedom. Stand with Hong Kong,” within hours of posting it as caused an outcry from China.

“I did not intend my tweet to cause any offense to Rockets fans and friends of mine in China,” Morey said in a subsequent Twitter post. “I was merely voicing one thought, based on one interpretation, of one complicated event. I have had a lot of opportunity since that tweet to hear and consider other perspectives.”

On Sunday, China’s consulate general in Houston urged the Rockets to “clarify and immediately correct the mistakes” made by Morey.

Morey’s tweet prompted an angry response from several Chinese companies that sponsor the Rockets, including sporting goods manufacturer Li-Ning and Shanghai Pudong Development Bank, which both announced they are suspending their relationships with the Rockets.

CCTV and internet giant Tencent — who inked a five-year, $1.5 billion deal in August to stream NBA games in China — both said they will not show Rockets games.

Former Rockets’ star Yao Ming, the catalyst behind the team’s enormous popularity in China and the current president of the Chinese Basketball Association (CBA), announced the CBA would be suspending its relationship with the Rockets.

“For those who question our motivation, this is about far more than growing our business,” Silver said in his statement Tuesday.

American basketball has a long history in China, dating back to the 1800s when the game was introduced to the country through the YMCA. The NBA is the No. 1 sports league in China and big business for the league with at least 25 marketing partnerships and 200 NBA stores.

The Nets majority owner, Joe Tsai, the co-founder of Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba, posted an open letter to NBA fans on Facebook on Sunday expressing his views on the controversy. Tsai wrote that Morey should have understood he was broaching a “third-rail issue” in China with his tweet, but conceded that the NBA executive has a right to “freely express” his opinion.

“The one thing that is terribly misunderstood, and often ignored, by the western press and those critical of China is that 1.4 billion Chinese citizens stand united when it comes to the territorial integrity of China and the country’s sovereignty over her homeland. This issue is non-negotiable,” Tsai wrote.

During his news conference, Silver expressed support for Tsai’s “right to respond” to Morey’s “right to freedom of expression.”

“I can tell you, at least speaking for the United States, I think there’s far more understanding of the complexity of the issues in Hong Kong than there was heretofore,” Silver said. “Sports often serves that purpose that takes people who might not otherwise pay attention to issues in society and … shines a light on them.”

Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Posted On 08 Oct 2019

Flight attendant may have exposed passengers on several flights to Hepatitis A: CDC

400tmax/iStock(ATLANTA) — An American Airlines flight attendant may have exposed passengers on several flights to Hepatitis A, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

One of those exposures took place on a flight between San Francisco and Charlotte on Sept. 21, North Carolina-based Mecklenburg County Public Health Department confirmed to ABC News. The health department contacted 18 local passengers, all of whom received Hepatitis A vaccinations.

Hepatitis A is usually transmitted from person-to-person by ingesting fecal matter or contaminated food or water. The disease, which affects the liver, causes flu-like symptoms, including fatigue, stomach pain, nausea and jaundice in adults, according to the CDC. Children younger than six months old do not typically have recognizable symptoms.

Vaccination is the best way to protect against Hepatitis A.

American Airlines would not confirm to ABC News that one of its flight attendants had contracted Hepatitis A or another disease. The airline said in a statement that it’s in close contact with the CDC and “will coordinate with them on any required health and safety related measures.”

The CDC said in a statement that because the flight attendant had diarrhea on several flights during the period in which he was considered infectious, the agency is investigating and notifying passengers who may have been affected.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

After backlash, Trump defends Syria moves as he both praises and threatens Turkey

Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead(WASHINGTON) — President Donald Trump on Tuesday defended himself against the accusation he has abandoned Kurdish fighters in Syria as Turkey prepares for an invasion — using a series of tweets to lavish praise both on the Kurds and Turkey.

Trump tweeted that, while the United States “may be in the process of leaving Syria … in no way have we Abandoned the Kurds, who are special people and wonderful fighters.”

The president has faced harsh criticism from across the political spectrum — including from usually staunch Republican allies in the Senate — for the White House’s announcing Sunday night that the United States would stand aside while Turkey proceeded with an operation in northern Syria.

Trump and the Pentagon on Monday tried to clean up that statement — which made no mention of the Kurds, who have been fighting ISIS alongside the United States — by praising the Kurds and clarifying the United States did not endorse a Turkish operation. Trump threatened to “totally destroy and obliterate” Turkey’s economy if the country “does anything that I, in my great and unmatched wisdom, consider to be off limits.”

On Tuesday, Trump attempted to keep that delicate balance between supporting Turkey, a NATO ally of the United States, and the Syrian Kurdish fighters, whom Turkey considers terrorists.

While he reissued a threat to Turkey — saying that “any unforced or unnecessary fighting by Turkey will be devastating to their economy and to their very fragile currency” — he also noted the United States has had a “very good” relationship with Turkey and that he had invited its president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, to the White House next month.

Trump also noted Turkey had been a “big trading partner of the United States” and had freed an American pastor imprisoned there. While he noted Turkey participates in the F-35 fighter jet program, the United States actually announced this year it would be kicking Turkey out of that program for purchasing a Russian missile defense system.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Posted On 08 Oct 2019

‘It wasn’t planned’: Twin brothers welcome baby boys hours apart

_jure/iStock(WOODBURY, Minn.) — In an exciting coincidence, a set of twin brothers from Minnesota recently became dads on the same day.

Ashley and Pat Young’s son Jack arrived at Woodwinds Hospital on Sept. 19 at 6:01 p.m.

Hours later, Jack’s cousin Cooper Young, son of Felicia and Paul Young, was born at 11:49 p.m. The infants’ fathers, Paul and Pat, are twins.

The happy coincidence surprised the babies’ parents, especially since their fathers were born 2 minutes apart — Pat Young is the older twin.

“When Pat texted and said, ‘We’re headed to the hospital,’ Paul said, ‘We’re already here,'” Felicia Young told “Good Morning America.”

“My doctor was [saying] a c-section was likely going to be needed. I was really hoping to avoid that,” Felicia Young added. “We started pushing around 9. As we were getting to the end of it, everybody was looking up at the clock.”

The Young families said despite what people think, they never planned for the boys to be born on the same day.

“Ashley and I had been trying to have kids for a year and it wasn’t happening. We didn’t even know they were trying,” Pat Young told “GMA.”

Ashley Young hopes Jack and Cooper grow up to be friends, she said.

“Now they’ll get to share birthday parties,” she said. “I think the kids will find it cool growing up, probably at least until they’re teenagers.”

Paul Young said he’s thrilled about Jack and Cooper sharing birthdays, especially since he and his brother are so close.

“It’s funny how fitting it is, especially since it wasn’t planned,” he said.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

NBA commissioner weighs in on China, Hong Kong controversy

Scott Evans / ESPN Images(NEW YORK) — NBA commissioner Adam Silver has voiced his support for Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey, whose pro-Hong Kong tweet set off a firestorm of debate.

At a press conference in Japan Tuesday, Silver said the NBA will protect its employees’ freedom of speech.

“The long-held values of the NBA are to support freedom of expression and certainly freedom of expression by members of the NBA community,” the commissioner said.

Overnight, Silver also released a statement:

I recognize our initial statement left people angered, confused or unclear on who we are or what the NBA stands for. Let me be more clear.

Over the last three decades, the NBA has developed a great affinity for the people of China.  We have seen how basketball can be an important form of people-to-people exchange that deepens ties between the United States and China.

At the same time, we recognize that our two countries have different political systems and beliefs.  And like many global brands, we bring our business to places with different political systems around the world.

But for those who question our motivation, this is about far more than growing our business.

Values of equality, respect and freedom of expression have long defined the NBA — and will continue to do so.  As an American-based basketball league operating globally, among our greatest contributions are these values of the game.

In fact, one of the enduring strengths of the NBA is our diversity — of views, backgrounds, ethnicities, genders and religions.  Twenty-five percent of NBA players were born outside of the United States and our colleagues work in league offices around the world, including in Beijing, Hong Kong, Shanghai and Taipei.

With that diversity comes the belief that whatever our differences, we respect and value each other; and, what we have in common, including a belief in the power of sports to make a difference, remains our bedrock principle.

It is inevitable that people around the world — including from America and China — will have different viewpoints over different issues.  It is not the role of the NBA to adjudicate those differences.

However, the NBA will not put itself in a position of regulating what players, employees and team owners say or will not say on these issues.  We simply could not operate that way.

Basketball runs deep in the hearts and minds of our two peoples.  At a time when divides between nations grow deeper and wider, we believe sports can be a unifying force that focuses on what we have in common as human beings rather than our differences.

The backlash began when Morey tweeted an image that read “Fight for Freedom. Stand with Hong Kong” last week, supporting pro-democracy demonstrators in Hong Kong. Morey deleted the tweet but it prompted Chinese state television and internet giant Tencent — who inked a five-year, $1.5 billion deal in August to stream NBA games in China — to announce they will not show Rockets games.

Furthermore, former Rockets star Yao Ming announced that the Chinese Basketball Association, which he is president of, is suspending its relationship with the Rockets.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Posted On 08 Oct 2019