Peace, Love, Joy, and Imagination…

Should teachers be told if a child has HIV?


Everyone has their own prejudices, and all too often other people suffer because of them. This week marked World Aids Day, and, realising that I was ill-informed on this subject, I thought it would be a good time to post on one mother’s experience of having a child with HIV. There is a lot of ignorance around this issue, and education (understanding that children aren’t at risk from cuts or grazes for example) can make a real difference.

*Laura’s daughter has HIV. She is currently at a school where staff, pupils and other parents have no idea of her condition. This is largely because of the way she had previously been treated. Laura explains more:

“Let me tell you about Anna. She has never been on any anti-retroviral medication, and she is not on any other treatment for HIV. She has never been seriously ill, yet.  For all intents and purposes she is a very healthy child who swims, runs around, get sweaty, goes to the beach, does ballet and gym, rides her bicycle, rollerskates, loves going to ‘big’ school, adores her friends and is an extremely popular little girl. She has been taught not to touch blood, cuts, sores or body fluids.  She has been taught about germs in very basic terms. We are careful, ensuring that we do not negligently expose her to conditions that could cause her to become ill. For example: when she goes swimming we make sure she gets dried quickly and we don’t let her sit in a draught wearing a wet costume. Aside from the commonsense approach to her care, she receives no treatment different to that which other children get.

When I was looking for primary schools for Anna, I found one I liked. I wanted to meet the head and ask if the school had an action plan to alert parents if there was a child who had chicken pox or other infectious disease. The head asked why I wanted to know, and I told her that it was because my daughter had a problem with her immune system. When she then asked me exactly what the problem was I felt pressurised into saying that she had HIV. She immediately sat back and physically pulled away from me.  Her body language shouted at me and gave her thoughts away, with utter disbelief on her face. She said: ‘We haven’t had one of those before’ and I was horrified.

I explained there was no risk to the other students nor teachers, the only real risk was to Anna if she picked up an infection from one of the other children. The head said she didn’t know anything about HIV and that she would need to discuss it with her staff before getting back to me. But she didn’t get back to me, so I contacted her again. This time she said that one of the teachers had raised a concern about teaching a child living with HIV. I asked which teacher – one in Reception? But the head would not name him or her. Instead she said she would go back to the staff again. She then told me that that this teacher was actually speaking on behalf of all of the teachers – they all had concerns. The head said that she had spoken to the school’s legal department as well as a doctor attached to the school about the issue. She said she personally didn’t have a problem but that if my daughter came to the school the dinner ladies would have to be told in case she had an accident. I said that nobody was at risk, but she wasn’t happy. Instead she suggested that I apply to other schools, but that I should not tell them about Anna’s HIV status. We teach our children not to lie, and then I am encouraged to live the lie…? I was then advised by our healthcase worker not to tell anyone else about her status because of the bigoted attitude people have to the disease. I never wanted to live a lie.

I am angry and disappointed about this whole experience. Anna’s HIV status was not of her doing. Who has the right to judge my little girl by that which runs through her blood? I expected teachers to be educated and professional – they were not. Anna is now at another school and they know nothing about her status. The teachers think Anna is fantastic, and she is very popular with her peers. We have not told many people, since we feel it will be Anna’s right to inform people when and if she feels ready to. But I do wish I could be honest with her teachers and particularly her headteacher. I cannot bear to even look at her headteacher, because I feel so guilty about keeping the truth from her.

Why don’t we speak out about HIV/AIDS? We speak out about so many other issues, some of less relevance. Education and Empathy would be positive steps in making people realise that this disease can be managed. It would make the public aware that people who are HIV+, can still contribute positively to the economy. They can still lead healthy, happy and ‘normal’ lives: go to school, have relationships, study, qualify, get married and become parents of children who are not HIV+, and make a positive contribution to society.”

*Names have been changed.

Read School Gate on:

Ending HIV discrimination in schools.

December 4, 2008 Posted by | Dealing with... | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

How the Turtle got It’s Shell…


What Rudyard Kipling couldn’t tell us: how the turtle got its shell


Fossilised remains of the most ancient turtle yet discovered are helping scientists to unravel the Kiplingesque puzzle of how the animal grew its shell. Only the underside of the turtle is covered by a fully formed protective shell, giving researchers an invaluable glimpse into how it evolved.

The discovery of Odontochelys semi-testacea – “half-shelled turtle with teeth” – is being hailed as the long-sought missing link between turtles that have full shells and their shell-less ancestors. Three fossilised specimens dug up near Guanling in the southern Chinese province of Guizhou have been dated at 220 million years old and the species has been identified as the ancestor of all other known turtles.

Fossils from the dig have now enabled researchers to discount the theory that the shell originally formed from bony plates, like those on a crocodile, which expanded and fused together. An international team has concluded that the rival theory that the shell was created when backbones and ribs spread out and joined up to form a hard bony cover is likely to be correct.

Xiao-chun Wu, a palaeontologist at the Canadian Museum of Nature in Ottawa and a member of the research team, said: “Since the 1800s, there have been many hypotheses about the origin of the turtle shell. Now we have these fossils of the earliest known turtle. They support the theory that the shell would have formed from below as extensions of the backbone and ribs, rather than as bony plates from the skin as others have theorised.” Olivier Rieppel, of the Field Museum, in Chicago, added: “This is the first turtle with an incomplete shell. It’s difficult to explain how it evolved without an intermediate example.” Because the shell was incomplete the researchers were able to conclude that the shell on the underside of turtles, the plastron, developed before the upper section, the carapace. All three specimens were found last year and were described as “remarkably intact”.

Among the features never before seen in turtles were the rows of stumpy teeth on both jaws. The turtle would have had a pointed snout and the researchers, who reported their findings in the journal Nature, are confident that it could swim. They said that the development of armour on the underside suggested an aquatic lifestyle because it would have offered protection from being attacked from below. The discovery of fossilised marine reptiles and invertebrates close to the three turtles also indicated that the species lived by the sea or in river deltas. Odontochelys is ten million years older than Proganochelys, which was found in Germany and had a complete shell. It is 55 million years older than another primitive turtle, Eileanchelys waldmani, which was discovered on the Isle of Skye and was announced only a week ago in a scientific journal as likely to have been the earliest aquatic turtle.

December 4, 2008 Posted by | Discoveries | , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Body Swapping–Walk a Mile in Another Man’s Shoes

December 3, 2008

Human brain is taken in by scientists’ body swap illusion


 Andrew Ketterer, left, faces a mannequin in ‘body-swap’ illusion test

A “body-swap” effect that convinces people they inhabit a different body from their own has been induced by scientists for the first time. The experiment, in which volunteers were tricked into perceiving the bodies of other people or mannequins as their own, offers powerful new insights into how the brain constructs the sense of self. It also promises practical implications for treating body image disorders such as anorexia, for designing robotic technology and remote surgery tools, and even for developing better virtual reality games.

The illusion was created with a combination of special goggles and tactile stimulation, which fooled participants into sensing that they had moved into another body. The effect was so powerful that when a tailor’s dummy perceived as a volunteer’s body was threatened with a knife, he or she would exhibit physiological signs of stress, such as increased sweating. Even when the other body was a real person of a different sex or race, subjects said they felt a strong sense of ownership over it. “This shows how easy it is to change the brain’s perception of the physical self,” said Henrik Ehrsson, of the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, who led the research. “By manipulating sensory impressions, it’s possible to fool the self. This effect was so strong that people could experience being in another person’s body when facing their own body and shaking hands with it. Our results are of fundamental importance because they identify the perceptual processes that produce the feeling of ownership of one’s body.”

The findings could have therapeutic applications for patients with anorexia, bulimia or mental illnesses in which the sense of self and body image is abnormal, or for confronting ingrained sexual or racial prejudice. “You can see the possibilities, putting a male in a female body, young in old, white in black and vice versa,” Dr Ehrsson said.

Other uses could include improving robotics, so that operators could control artificial arms or surgical instruments more precisely, or in recreation. “It could lead to the next generation of virtual reality applications in games, where people have the full-blown experience of being the avatar,” he said. It could also have military applications, such as robotic soldiers.

In the study, published in the journal Public Library of Science One, the scientists used special goggles to change the perspective from which volunteers see the world. A stereo camera was mounted on a mannequin where the eyes would be and its images were projected on screens inside the goggles worn by the volunteers.

When the volunteers looked down at their bodies, the camera pointed down too and they saw the mannequin’s torso. When each body was stroked simultaneously in the stomach area, they felt that the mannequin’s body was their own.

The scientists then induced a “full-blown body swap”, in which people experienced another body as their own. The camera was put on an experimenter’s head instead of a mannequin’s, and experimenter and volunteer shook hands. Again, the subjects perceived the experimenter’s hand, not their own, as part of their body.

The effect suggests that the brain builds its sense of which body belongs to it less from signals from the muscles, joints and skin, and more from to what it sees. Split-second body awareness is important to co-ordination and to physical survival, and so the brain uses a short-cut that is almost always correct. The body we see as ours through our eyes is usually ours, and so changing the visual input can easily trick our perception.

December 4, 2008 Posted by | New Horizons | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Woman Killed by Fold-Away Bed

Woman, 73, dies after becoming trapped inside new foldaway bed
By Daily Mail Reporter

A Spanish woman has died after her new temporary bed folded up and trapped her against the wall. The 73-year-old from Bobadilla Estacion in Malaga, southern Spain, had only bought the bed a few days earlier ahead of relatives visiting her at Christmas. It is thought she was trying out the new piece of furniture when it flipped up back into the wall space, trapping her inside.


An example of a folding bed which is designed to lift upwards to sit inside a cavity.

The alarm was raised when she failed to make her usual trip to the bakery last Wednesday. After telephoning her several times, her family called around to her house on Thursday morning but could not find her. However they were mystified when they saw all her personal effects still in her home. One of her sons told local newspaper La Opinion de Malaga: ‘Her glasses, her rings and her personal alarm were in their usual place and we didn’t think to open up the bed to look for her.’ It was not until Thursday evening that her daughter-in-law pulled the bed down and found the pensioner trapped between the mattress and the wall. The family has said it will sue the furniture company that sold the bed on the grounds it was faulty or not installed properly. ‘That thing was a death trap and we demand accountability,’ said her son.

December 4, 2008 Posted by | News of the Weird | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Pickles comic strip

 Pickles - December 3, 2008

 Pickles - December 2, 2008

 Pickles - December 1, 2008

 Pickles - November 29, 2008
 Pickles - November 29, 2008
 Pickles - November 28, 2008
 Pickles - November 27, 2008
 Pickles - November 25, 2008

 Pickles - November 22, 2008
 Pickles - November 21, 2008
 Pickles - November 20, 2008
 Pickles - November 19, 2008
 Pickles - November 16, 2008
 Pickles - November 15, 2008
 Pickles - November 14, 2008
 Pickles - November 13, 2008
 Pickles - November 12, 2008
 Pickles - November 9, 2008
 Pickles - November 4, 2008
 Pickles - November 2, 2008
 Pickles - October 29, 2008
 Pickles - October 28, 2008
 Pickles - October 26, 2008
 Pickles - October 25, 2008
 Pickles - October 21, 2008
 Pickles - October 18, 2008
 Pickles - October 16, 2008
 Pickles - October 15, 2008
 Pickles - October 14, 2008
 Pickles - October 13, 2008
 Pickles - October 11, 2008
 Pickles - October 9, 2008
 Pickles - October 8, 2008
 Pickles - October 5, 2008
 Pickles - October 4, 2008

December 4, 2008 Posted by | Comics | , , , , | Leave a comment