Monday, September 27, 2010

Finding Credible Information on STD Prevention

One of the most difficult things today is trying to filter through all the information on the internet and find a credible and unbiased source. The internet has given a platform to every person with an opinion, no matter how unfounded or misinformed that opinion may be. These opinions are floating out in cyberspace disguised as fact and waiting for the next novice searcher to click on them. Fortunately there are ways to weed out the useless information and get to the facts.
One of the first ways to find sites that are more credible, especially in the field of STD prevention, is to look for sites that end in .gov, .edu, or .org. If you are unfamiliar, .gov stands for a site produced by some part of the government, .edu indicates the site is maintained by an institution of education, and .org stands for organization. You have to be a little more cautious of sites at a .org address because technically anyone can use a .org site, they are just typically used by non-profits whose work is essential to STD prevention. It is possible to find credible information at a .net or .com site but you need to look in to the site owners and their motives. For example, the following site:, could at first seem biased but if you look at their section listing their partners you can see that they are supported by the California Department of Education and the Red Cross.
Another source of credible information on the internet are the scholarly, peer reviewed articles and studies. Peer reviewed articles are those that have been reviewed by peers of the author or experts in the subject of the article. There are a handful of ways to find these types of articles on the internet. One method is to do a google scholar search which google describes as a "simple way to broadly search for scholarly literature." Another method, the one that I prefer, is to use the research port provided by my university's library. Most schools offer this type of search engine that allows you to search different databases like "public health" or "medicine."  You still need to be careful with peer reviewed articles and look into the study to make sure it is unbiased. Some studies are funded by a company that has an invested interest in the study having a certain outcome. For instance, if you found an article on the benefits of getting vaccinated in order to prevent HPV, you would want to see who funded the study. If a company like Gardasil, a manufacturer of an HPV vaccine, was the main contributor you would want to use caution and discretion when citing it. 
Ultimately the best way to find the most credible information is to research your topic thoroughly and to find both sides. If you are informed of the different perspectives on a topic you can educate yourself more effectively. Sometimes finding the most accurate information is not as black and white as we would  like it to be. For example, when it comes to determining the best way to educate children on safe sex and STD prevention, you will come across different perspectives based on the differing views on what is right. As a researcher faced with the decision of what you believe to be fact, you must use some discretion and judgement of your own. 

Here are some sites to get you started on educating yourself on the topic of STD prevention:

Monday, September 20, 2010

Internet Restrictions

In my technology class we are working in groups and my group was assigned the topic of web use outside the U.S.  We read an article on internet cafes in China and on the internet restrictions imposed by the government on the chinese. I found an article, link included below, entitled Dumbing down democracy: Trends in internet regulation, surveillance and control in Asia by James Gomez from the Monash Asia Institute of Monash University. The article was written in 2002 for the Pacific Journalism Review and although things change very quickly in the world of technology, the information to be gained from it is still relevant in  2010. The article argues that internet censorship and regulation will lead to a reduction in political expression. There are examples of censorship in several countries in Asia including Vietnam, Singapore, and Pakistan. The governments of these countries feel the need to regulate and limit the internet because of efforts to eradicate terrorism and to protect national security. The article claims that Vietnam is one of worlds most repressive countries. Vietnam blocks all sites that are considered politically dangerous and has made it illegal to use the internet to oppose the government. Citizens of Vietnam that are found guilty of improper internet use are sentenced to several years in prison. Like China's policy regarding internet cafes, Vietnam will be requiring internet cafe owners to be responsible for how its  customers use the internet. The article also comments on Singapore's policy towards email spam. While spam is partly being countered because of the commercial use of spam, it is also of interest to the government because of spam's political implications. Spam is being used by political organizations and NGOs to reach people with restricted internet access. Spammers found guilty can receive a fine or a prison sentence. In an attempt to counter terrorism, Pakistan has taken reduced the privacy of internet users and required internet cafe owners to keep records of the names, connection times, numbers called and computer identities of their customers. The Pakistani government claims that it this is making it easier to track terrorists. 

Aside from denying basic human rights like self expression, internet censorship can also prevent people from accessing essential information. I can see how preventing access to sites like google and twitter could cut people off from STD prevention information that could improve their lives. In the global community that is our world today, we can all benefit from the free exchange of information that the internet provides. For example, if a non profit in the United States develops a prevention strategy for AIDS, another non profit that has access to the internet can easily benefit from the discovery of the first non profit. Internet censorship for the purpose of protecting a paranoid  government from public opinion, does not justify the risk of losing out on valuable global collaboration that could improve the lives of milions in our world.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Article Review

I recently read an article titled Battle for the Soul of the Internet. It explains the issues surrounding the internet. There seems to be a conflict of interest between the different types of internet users. The article explains the origin of the internet and the purpose that the original users had for it. And then goes on to explain how the newcomers to the internet are handling it and their conflict with the "internet regulars".

The internet was originally designed as a way for members of the Defense Department to communicate with each other in the event of a nuclear attack. The internet eventually expanded to other government agencies, universities and corporations.  Hackers and graduate students were the main users of the internet at this time and used it to develop new ways to connect with each other and pass time. The internet of their day had very little semblance to the one we know now. It was not very user friendly and required a knowledge of unix and specific hardware. The "founders" of the internet followed something of an unwritten code and shared the burden of funding the internet and policing its use. Conflict arose when companies started cashing in on the commercial value of the internet by selling access to the it to the average joe. These new users, or "newbies", didn't understand the rules of the internet and flooded it with useless posts, questions, and essentially spam. 

This article also describes some of the current issues facing the internet including pornography, privacy, and misinformation. Although this article was written in 2005, these issues are still very relevant today. The issue with pornography is that the internet is designed to not censor people. When you try to delete something or block it the internet self repairs. Some people are attempting to counter that by posting messages expressing their distaste.  Privacy, another hot topic, has been fueled by the use of the Clipper chip. This chip was designed by the government to encrypt data and make it so that only the government could "snoop". Founders of the internet feel that this goes against the anarchist philosophy of the internet. And finally, the internet is faced with a plethora of misinformation because of the ease of publishing information. Essentially anyone can post something on the internet and claim that it is accurate. 

To read the article go to

Monday, September 6, 2010


Welcome to the STD Prevention Globally blog! This is the first post of what I hope to be many. The author of this blog is me, Grace Holderbaum. I am currently a senior at the University of Maryland majoring in Family Science.  I am using this blog to explore how technology has and does affect STD prevention. I chose this topic because I am interested in public health, specifically sexual health. I feel that this is one of the most important social issues facing the world today. If sexually transmitted diseases can be prevented, there is no reason why a disease as devastating as HIV/AIDS should be so rampant. I believe new technology in communication is helping in this cause. 

New technology is helping making our world a lot smaller which in turn makes it easier to spread new information about preventing disease to other countries. While HIV/AIDS is a disease that is more prevalent in developing countries in Africa than the United States, the effects of this disease are still felt by all because of the obligation to humanity that we all have. Even a technology as common to us as the internet has been a great asset in STD prevention. Non-profit organizations are able to reach out with their websites to other non-profits and to the people they are helping. In the United States, there are a number of websites developed to meet the needs of specific demographics and audiences. Instead of just having one type of brochure in a doctors office, people can now access a stunning amount of information on the internet catered to their needs. 

In this blog I also hope to cover how technology can also have a negative impact on STD prevention. As I mentioned earlier, people have all of the internet at their fingertips which is great except that some of the information on the internet is not accurate. It is now up to the information seeker to filter through countless websites to find reputable ones that are not promoting misleading of false information. I think we will see throughout this blog how leaders in the fight against STD transmission are combatting this issue of finding accurate information. 

Check back soon for a new post and thanks for reading!