Aid From Afar

Local docs travel to Kenya to help children and mothers

by Christie Chisholm, Weekly Alibi, November 26, 2009

In the village of Kisesini, which sits southeast of Nairobi in Kenya’s Yatta District, water is scarce and brackish and food mostly comes in the form of nutrient-empty porridge. Breast milk can be the difference between life and death for the population’s youngest members. Nearly half the children in the region under the age of 5 are malnourished.

Breast milk is one of the few reliable sources of sustenance women in Kisesini have for their children. And so when a woman approached Dr. Angelo Tomedi in the village’s health dispensary and asked him for medicine that would dry up her breast milk, he knew something was wrong.

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Sweet Relief

Chocolatier aims to make medical marijuana go down easy

by Christie Chisholm, Weekly Alibi, November 12, 2009

Scott Van Rixel's career in food started the day following his 12th birthday, with a dishwashing job at a Serbian fish fryery. "My mom and my dad would pick me up Friday night and make me strip down to my underwear outside because I stunk so bad of fish," he recalls. "It was miserable, but I loved it." 

Since that first title of dishwasher, Van Rixel has collected a few more for his résumé, including European certified chef de cuisine and master chocolatier. His primary business, Chocolate Cartel, started as an outdoor confection stand on Taos Plaza. Eight years and a move to Albuquerque later, his chocolates are shipped all over the world, to places as far as Japan and the Middle East.

Van Rixel, who seems to have a knack for entrepreneurship, began pursuing another ambition this March in light of recent legislative shifts. He's developing medical marijuana chocolates that he hopes to distribute in California and,eventually, New Mexico.

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Give It Up

by Christie Chisholm, Weekly Alibi, July 10, 2008

Government-funded abstinence-only education may finally be on its way out. Twelve years after the national program started, only slightly more than half the states are still on board, according to a June 24 Associated Press article. The rest decided in recent years to wash their hands clean of the poorly performing initiative, with New Mexico jumping on the common-sense bandwagon at the end of 2007.

Dr. Alfredo Vigil, our Department of Health secretary, said he wouldn’t again apply for federal abstinence-only funding in December. He explained his position in an Albuquerque Journal op-ed, writing that he values the tenets of abstinence education, but the federal program doesn't allow schools to give kids other necessary information as well: "We need to give scientific and complete information about how to protect against unintended pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases."

Amen. The problem with abstinence-only funding is buried right in its name: abstinence-only education. States who accept the funding aren’t allowed to teach what many consider rudimentary sex ed. It means our kids are told if they have sex before marriage, they’re likely to suffer psychological and physical trauma (that’s actually part of the curriculum). It’s a recipe for an all-American cocktail of fear and confusion, and research shows it's far from effective.

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Sex and (Bad) Politics

Our overreaction to the HPV vaccine, and Richardson's mistake

by Christie Chisholm, Weekly Alibi, April 12, 2007

It almost isn't surprising. Almost.

At this moment in the history of our country, we should no longer be shocked by puritanical ideals sneaking into our politics, by our culture's simultaneous loathing and worship of sex, by some of our leaders'—and some of our citizens'—heartbreaking disdain for science. Yet, somehow, the jaws of disbelief still manage to unhinge and swallow us whole. Or maybe it's just me.

This year's State Legislative Session ushered in a series of momentous accomplishments: Our representatives banned cockfighting, legalized medical marijuana, increased our minimum wage and put restrictions on payday lenders. All initiatives will work to increase the quality of life of those in New Mexico. But there was another bill passed by our House and Senate that would have likely saved lives. Sadly, last week Gov. Bill Richardson vetoed that bill, in one of the more myopic and cowardly gestures he's made in recent memory.

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Still Searching for a Cure

AIDS in New Mexico

by Christie Chisholm, Weekly Alibi, June 8, 2006

Tim was diagnosed with HIV when he was 44. He’s still not sure how he got it—it could have been the couple years of injection drug use back in the late ’80s, or he might have picked it up from his girlfriend, who has an ex with an affinity for prostitutes.

But, considering the circumstances, Tim can consider himself lucky. Although his girlfriend has a full-blown case of AIDS (she was tested as soon as Tim discovered he has HIV in 2002), the virus pervading Tim’s body hasn’t yet developed to that stage. And due to the cessation of all drug and alcohol use upon his diagnosis, Tim is even feeling a little healthier than he has in years past. Of course, all things are relative. In addition to HIV, Tim has hepatitis C, liver problems, anemia, hypersensitivity, arthritis and muscle fatigue, among other things, many of which are due to his infection. He takes a lot of naps. He isn’t able to work. Because of his past addictions, he’s not allowed to take painkillers.

Fortunately, Tim has the support of his family, his two teenage boys, his girlfriend and her two kids. He’s not alone.

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