I was appalled that these ‘learned men’ felt that women’s symptoms could be attributed to guilt or sexual repression. It was at that moment I decided a woman’s voice was needed to shed light on these common conditions in women.
—  Sharon Hillier, vaginal ecologist, on a 1983 conference. She’s spent close to three decades examining vaginal microflora, and is currently looking at microbicides as a way to prevent HIV infection.
A Vaginal Ecologist's Crusade Against HIV in Women
Sharon Hillier is using her expertise in women's nether regions to bring an HIV-prevention drug—targeting females—to market.

“The vagina is cleaner than your mouth,” declared Sharon Hillier, addressing a group of journalists at the HIV Research for Prevention conference in Cape Town last fall. The audience squirmed, gasped, and giggled.

The professor of obstetrics-gynecology and reproductive services at the University of Pittsburgh is known for her unabashed statements: She introduces herself as a vaginal ecologist and calls the vagina a “beautiful ecosystem.”

Hillier, 61, has spent close to three decades examining the curious lives of microbes that inhabit the vagina, and is one of the most prominent scientists in the burgeoning field of research into microbicides. The compounds, loaded into gels or rings, are designed primarily for vaginal application in order to prevent HIV infection.

A lead lined cup - were vessels like this the downfall of Rome?

Lead Poisoning in Ancient Rome

Francois Retief and Louise P. Cilliers

Acta Theologica:  Supplementum 7 (2005) 


Lead was known to the ancients from at least the 4th millennium BC, but its use increased markedly during Roman times, to the extent that it became a health hazard. Mines and foundry furnaces caused air pollution; lead was extensively used in plumbing; domestic utensils were made of lead and pewter, and lead salts were used in cosmetics, medicines and paints. As a microbicide, lead was also used to preserve food. A grape juice concentrate (sapa) commonly used as a sweetener was prepared by preference in lead containers. Although Roman writers commented on the toxicity of lead, classic chronic lead poisoning was first described only in the 7th century AD. Skeletal lead content increased significantly in the Roman era, but peaked at a level only 41-47% of that of modern Europeans. The authors thus suggest that chronic lead poisoning did not contribute significantly to the fall of the Roman Empire in the West.

Tenofovir Microbicide Gel Falters in Major HIV Prevention Study

HIV prevention efforts have suffered a major setback following a Microbicide Trials Network (MTN) announcement that a vaginal gel containing the antiretroviral tenofovir has been dropped from a large ongoing clinical trial because of lackluster effectiveness. The decision to discontinue the microbicide in the Vaginal and Oral Interventions to Control the Epidemic (VOICE) study was unexpected and contradicts the optimistic results of an earlier study of the same tenofovir-based gel. Click here for more.