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Archive for April, 2009

Swine Flu and HIV Alert

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If anyone with HIV is worried about swine flu, please read this article below. It’s taken from Poz magazine and was sent to me by Fiona from ICW.

April 27, 2009

Swine Flu and You by Tim Horn

The threat of a swine flu epidemic in the United States has many people living with HIV concerned about their health and safety. POZ and AIDSmeds check in with WHO and the CDC for the latest. In short: While there are reasons to be cautious, there’s no reason to panic.

What is swine flu?

Swine flu is a respiratory disease common among pigs. Though people are not usually susceptible to swine flu, animal-to-human transmission has been documented, notably among farmers working closely with pigs. What’s unique about the particular strain now under surveillance-dubbed swine influenza type A/H1N1-is its ability to spread from person to person.

Is swine flu deadly?

All types of influenza that cause disease in humans can be deadly-approximately 200,000 people are hospitalized and 36,000 people die from flu-related complications every year in the United States.

There is no reason to believe that the swine flu being reported is any more deadly than the regular seasonal flu. Of the 40 confirmed cases of swine flu in humans in the United States as of April 27, none have resulted in death. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), all cases reported in the United States thus far were associated with mild symptoms of illness, with only one patient requiring brief hospital care.

What is of concern to public health experts is the fact that the disease is caused by an animal influenza virus that doesn’t normally infect humans, and the fact that the virus has been documented in a number of North American communities. Plus, many of those who died of influenza-like illness in Mexico appeared to be otherwise healthy young adults; in contrast, seasonal influenza tends to be most serious among the very young, the very old and people with other chronic health conditions.

Is swine flu a threat to people living with HIV?

People living with HIV-as well as those with other chronic conditions, such as heart disease, asthma and diabetes-are believed to face an increased risk of serious influenza-related symptoms. According to the CDC, there is often a spike in the number of heart- and lung-related hospitalizations among people living with HIV during the winter influenza season as opposed to other times of the year. Studies also indicate that influenza symptoms might be prolonged and the risks of influenza-related complications-including death-are higher for certain HIV-positive people.

It is not clear that this strain of swine flu poses any more or less of a risk to people living with HIV. One theory: Given that, at least in Mexico, swine flu mimics what was seen during the 1918 influenza pandemic-it appears most serious among people between 18 and 35 years of age; those with healthy immune systems that become hyperactive in response to the virus and causes serious respiratory inflammation and disease-and may be less of a threat to those with compromised immune systems, such as people living with HIV. Unfortunately, it is not clear if this theory will hold up, given that many HIV-positive people are responding well to antiretroviral treatment, compounded by the possibility that a hyperactive immune response to HIV, not the virus itself, is responsible for HIV disease progression and a heightened risk of non-AIDS related health problems.

To help prevent seasonal flu, an annual vaccine is recommended for people with HIV to lower the risk of infection or serious disease if infection does occur. Unfortunately, a vaccine has not yet been developed against swine influenza A/H1N1. But people living with HIV can take steps to prevent infection.

How can I protect myself?

The CDC and other public health experts list fairly simple ways to prevent the spread of swine influenza A/H1N1. These include:

* Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.
* Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after you cough or sneeze. Alcohol-based hand cleaners are also effective.
* Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs spread this way.
* Try to avoid close contact with sick people.
* Very little is known about the benefits of wearing face masks to help control the spread of flu. Whenever possible, instead of relying on face masks, try avoiding close contact and crowded conditions-particularly if swine flu reaches pandemic status.
* No evidence shows that swine flu can be transmitted through food. Eating properly handled pork-cooked to an internal temperature of 160 degrees-is safe.
* If you come down with influenza-like symptoms, contact your doctor’s office immediately and stay home from work or school.

What about medications against swine flu?

Good news. Initial tests suggest that swine influenza A/H1N1 is sensitive to two widely available antiviral medications: Relenza (zanamivir) and Tamiflu (oseltamivir). The flu medications Symmetrel (amantadine) and Flumadine (rimantadine) are not effective against this particular strain of influenza.

These medications work much like antiretrovirals do against HIV-they prevent the influenza virus from reproducing in the body. If someone becomes ill with influenza, including swine flu, Relenza or Tamiflu can minimize symptoms and speed up recovery. They may also prevent serious flu complications. For treatment, these medications work best if started soon after getting sick-within two days of symptoms-so call your doctor immediately if you experience flu-related signs.

According to the CDC, people at high risk of serious influenza-related complications-including people living with HIV/AIDS-can take Relenza or Tamiflu if they are likely to be exposed to other people with influenza. For example, if a family or household member is diagnosed with influenza, the exposed person with HIV/AIDS should take either drug for seven days. Relenza or Tamiflu prescriptions might also be a good idea for HIV-positive people who live in institutions experiencing an influenza outbreak.

POZ and AIDSmeds will continue to report on swine flu as it relates to people living with HIV-stay tuned for more information as it becomes available.

Pull the Other One

 

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Woke up this morning and as it’s that time of year when one is automatically programmed to start thinking about summer holidays and travelling to foreign climes I decided to do something about my expanding trunk. Not talking luggage here – but baggage i.e. the kind that is permanently strapped around my waist thanks to the meds in the form of body fat, as opposed to a body bag, which would come in much more useful as I could keep my money in it – or is a body bag something you keep a corpse in? Maybe I mean a bum bag, which would come in even more useful as it could double up for my lack of bottom, which the meds have redistributed for some reason best known to themselves around my trunk.

 

I got out of bed and decided I would try some light exercise in an attempt to get my waistline back in shape, like touching my toes for example, and guess what?  I could actually touch them. Admittedly, I fell over because of the vertigo – but hey, I’m used to that. At first I was ecstatic, then the thought suddenly struck me – oh no, it’s because my legs have got shorter. This didn’t happen overnight I hasten to add, I knew it was happening because recently I’ve had to keep shortening my jeans or turning them up. But now there was no further doubt about it, I was definitely shrinking at a rate of knots, so I immediately got on the internet and checked for sites with information about shrinking leg syndrome and also for diets or exercises to reduce the waistline- preferably sitting down ones so I wouldn’t keep keeling over.

 

“Think you have too much junk in your trunk,” proclaimed one site advertising swimwear for a store in Wyckoff. Yes, Wykcoff as opposed to Fykcoff.

 

Well, I did as it happened, my trunk was definitely packed to its limits and the junk was probably in the form of the odd MacDonald’s I have indulged in from time to time (too many times probably) with my son.

 

As for the legs – one yoga website advised that the best time to stretch your back and your bones and your legs presumably without doing any damage was when you wake up first thing in the morning whilst you were still lying in bed. So I got back in bed (any excuse) and lay there doing the equivalent of the hokey cokey trying to stretch my legs and make them a bit longer by pulling on imaginary strings tied to my toes.

 

Is this what is meant by the expression having your leg pulled, or toeing the line, or pull the other one it’s got bells on – no, don’t be silly, that was just my alarm clock going off.

 

You put your left leg in

Your left leg out

In out in out and shake it all about

Knees bent arms stretched

Raa raa raa

 

The Italians apparently call it the hoky poky – say no more. At least I was doing it alone in my bed and not in a conga! 

 

Feeling depressed about ‘shorty’ legs all day, but then wore them down even more by walking round  ‘Camelot’ a local theme park, accompanying son for a job induction as a go cart attendant.

 

Camelot – sounds like that posh women’s joke about Max Factor.

 

Max Factor? Did he?

Camelot? Did she?

 

As they perform regular medieval enactments throughout the summer at Camelot, I thought I could possibly get in on the act so to speak and apply for job as a serving wench, or even a court jester. According to wikipedia, a jester, joker, fool, buffoon or bollocks (now steady on wikipedia, jester minute, I know you must get fed up of people asking you questions, but there is no need to be rude) is a type of entertainer who wore brightly coloured clothing in a motley way. Well, I certainly fitted that criteria and I could soon weave my thinning locks into hundreds of tiny old ladies plaits and attach bells to the end. But it seemed all the jester posts were already taken.

 

Maybe I could be a knight in drag I suggested? The Moody Blues were always droning on about knights in white satin, weren’t they, although I always thought knights wore chain mail. It would have been fun to be a knight, although I couldn’t really see myself in chain mail, but in my role as an HIV activist I could have done some sexual health awareness raising and HIV prevention whilst I was at it for the visiting groups of schoolchildren by incorporating the old playground rhyme.

 

In days of old when knights were bold

And condoms weren’t invented

They stuck a sock upon their ****

And HIV was prevented

 

Oh, in days of old indeed, before HIV reared its ugly head and women wore chastity belts, men were more courteous and knights were expected to follow the code of chivalry and courtly love – or is that a film star?

 

The first rule of chivalry and courtly love is as follows –

 

“Thou shalt keep thyself chaste for the sake of her who thou lovest”

 

Forsooth, if only the men folk of today could be persuaded to abideth by those same strict values of fidelity as they held back in the middle ages. Although if I’d of had my choice, I would have opted for a younger knight myself, rather than a middle aged one.

 

Cowboys it seems also had trouble with unfaithful wenches, or cowgirls, at least according to Roy Rogers the singing cowboy and most famous cowboy of them all. In his song, ‘A four legged friend’, he advises his fellow cowboys to forget all about women and get a dog instead, or maybe he was singing about his horse Trigger.

 

A woman’s like cactus and cactus can hurt

Cause she’s just a tight waisted winky eyed flirt

But a four legged friend a four legged friend

He’ll never let you down

He’s honest and faithful right up to the end

That wonderful one two three four legged friend

 

Tight waisted? Huh, that particular cowgirl obviously wasn’t on the meds, although the winky eye sounds a bit suspicious and can also be a side effect of the medication – as can a shot of red eye.

 

At least I hadn’t grown any extra legs; I think four would be overdoing it, even for Roy Rogers. The touchy subject of legs came up yet again as my son and I meandered round the Easter Fair and when we passed the stall where the folk all had their heads down playing Bingo, the caller suddenly yelled out  – ‘Legs Eleven.’

Was he talking about me?

 

Apparently, you can play something called ‘Posh Bingo’ now, which they keep advertising on the telly. But I think it’s aimed at those upper class women who ‘Camelot’ and past conquests of that rampant Max fellow. You can also play ‘Virgin Bingo’ for girls who obviously didn’t have it ‘orf’ with Max, as well as Elvis Bingo, Kiss my Bingo and Sharon’s as in Osbourne’s Bingo. But you have to be careful not to develop Bingo wings, which is a known syndrome of the game – as is legs eleven.

 

I heard recently on the news that daffodils contain a compound that helps with the alleviation of memory loss symptoms for patients with Alzheimer’s. I remember visiting a friend in hospital who had recently come round after being in coma for many months and when I presented him with a bunch of daffodils, he ate them. He must have known.

 

Did you know that human’s share 35 per cent of their DNA with daffodils? At least according to one particular website where they proclaim –

 

“You’re one-third daffodil” this and other REALLY useless facts from Britain’s most upmarket intellectuals.

 

Pull the other one – it’s got blue bells on.

 

Well, I’m just off to have a number 3 – that’s a cup of tea in Bingo terms and maybe I’ll grab a bunch of juicy daffodils out of the garden to put in my salad so I will be able to keep my wits about me the next time I’m playing Bingo, either posh or otherwise and not become a number twenty eight, overweight, or a number 8 – one fat lady, or worse still, an 87 – a fat lady with a crutch.

Two to Tango

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picture:hotswirl©willowilliams

 

Did anyone watch “Britain’s Got Talent” over the Easter weekend? If you did you will have been amazed, like I was, by that incredible group of male dancers, “Flawless”.  I’ve never seen anything quite like it – at times it was almost like watching an old black and white movie the way they flickered from movement to movement, from frame to frame of their brilliantly choreographed dance routine.

A bit like when we were kids drawings cartoons in a book and then flipping the pages to make them appear to move. Some people, such as the younger generation for example, probably won’t have a clue what I’m on about with the wondrous graphics we have now in the days of wii – as opposed to yore. The royal wii – I wonder if Charles and Camilla have one. I can just imagine Charles playing ‘Rock Star’ and giving his Royal Variety performance of the Deep Purple classic, “Smoke on the water.”

 

bam bam bam, bam bam ba bam, ba ba bam, bam bam.

 

Wham bam thank you maam.

 

Talking of performances and dance routines, I fear my days as a choreographer and dare I say it as an erstwhile flamenco dancer, are finally over. This is not an age thing as some robust older people carry on dancing until they drop, Bruce Forthsyth for example. But sadly, dancing is yet another of life’s pleasures that HIV has cruelly deprived me of – that and not being able to sit in the sun, so I can’t get tangoed in either sense of the word.

 

Recently, I’ve been accompanying my best friend Willo to salsa dancing lessons. This is more for her benefit than mine, because as I can’t twirl around anymore, thanks to vertigo caused by the meds, I can only take part in the initial part of the session, which is more for old crocks and no hopers like me and where there is very little twirling involved. I suppose I should really try a gentler form of exercise with no twirling whatsoever, swimming for example, which is all up and own in straight lines, but I’m not keen on getting wet.

 

There are other reasons why dancing is no longer an option for me; my wonky hip, my lack of bottom thanks to the dreaded lippo also caused by the meds, which means unless I wear trousers my knickers have a tendency to fall down, like my pinny – not that I would ever wear a pinny to salsa. Although some of those longer pinnies that the more trendy Italian and Spanish waiters wear look quite cool, so maybe I should start a new trend – pinny dipping as opposed to skinny dipping.

 

Oh, those happy days when I used to whirl around the stage doing my Carmen circle. The only association I have to Carmen these days is my reluctance to give up fags and if financial matters don’t improve, a very strong likelihood that I will end up working in a factory or hanging around in a bar like she did – although it would have to be Yates Wine Lodge on the once notorious Barbary Coast in Blackburn, rather than in Sevilla.

 

Our salsa dancing teacher is a really cool African guy who was once a World Champion. He has evolved his own style and unique way of teaching where he talks us through the various salsa moves – “You take de girl to the door, you twirl de girl around then you trow de girl out, then you bring her back again.”

Well, the poor guys who have to partner me, when it comes to the part where they have to throw me out the door – it’s a bit like a bouncer chucking out a drunk at closing time as I will more than likely, after an attempt at a double twirl, end up on the floor in a heap.

Willo gets twirled around like a veritable spinning top, but me; I can just about accomplish one pitiful twirl if I’m lucky without losing my balance.

“Sorry, I’m strictly a one twirl girl,” I have to constantly apologize as we swap partners.

Salsa can be quite a vicious dance and some of the terms to describe the various movements say it all; Whiplash, the Hammerlock, the Arm Fan and the Broken Arm, the Challenge Position and the death defying Head Loop. You can end up getting tangled up in knots and strangling each other if you’re not careful.

 

Willo and I went to an Argentine Tango lesson the other night. Now that was more like it, hardly any twirling, especially if you were forced to take on the male role as I was due to the lack of unattached men. There was one step where you have to put your leg between the woman’s knees and force her legs open like a pair of scissors. Well, I must say I quite enjoyed that. I would push Willo around the floor for a bit, then when she was least expecting it, perform the scissor move on her. She recently confessed that she is still harbouring a burning desire to do the splits, which for a woman of her age is an unusual and not I would have thought a particularly wise ambition. But if we carry on tangoing together, the chances are she will do just that whether she wants to or not, at least if I have anything to do with it.

 

Remember that film, ‘Last Tango in Paris’ with Marlon Brando, which caused such a furore at the time because he used butter. Well I don’t know what all the fuss was about really, because now, it is a known fact that butter is actually good for you, much healthier than margarine. I don’t know about last tango in Paris, the only tangoing I’ll be doing these days is sliding up and down the aisles around Aldi with my trolley. Last tango in Aldi!

 

The weather up here in the north has been glorious this Easter, but tragically for me, the other feel good factor I can no longer indulge in and this is once again thanks to the meds which have given me hypersensitivity to the sun, is wallow in it. I can wallow in mud if I so desire to my hearts content and I can wallow in misery, which I quite frequently do, but not the sun.  So I have to remain an unhealthy pasty white colour, without even a chance of getting slightly sunburnt or tangoed like David cheap as chips Dickenson, although at least I can still eat them thanks to my wondrous Tefyl Actifry which continues to whiz around on a nightly basis like a whirling dervish. But even watching that spin round makes me dizzy.  

 

Did you know that when a woman performs one of those sexy backwards kicks when she is doing the tango, she is really feeling for the size of the man’s wallet – good job for the Argentinean gaucho that she isn’t checking the size of his other credentials.

 

Another dance that we have started to learn is the Merengue – “Would you like a cake or a merengue – no you’re right, I’ll have a cake.”

 

Don’t worry if you don’t get it. It took me years to work it out. The trick is to say it with a Scottish accent.

 

“Would ye like a cake or a meringue? No ye’re right, I’ll have a cake.”

 

This one’s a bit easier – “Would you like a rock cake – well take your pick.”

 

Oh well, I might not be able to dance anymore, or get a suntan, but at least I’ve still got my sense of humour. HIV will never deprive me of that, no matter how hard it tries. I will simply have to refrain from twirling, or like Johnny Cash, make sure I walk the line. Although staying in line, or towing it for that matter, has never been one of my strongest points. Speaking of which, I received £100 fine yesterday (£50 if I pay within 28 days) for contravening the law by parking outside of the lines on the Staples and Matalan car park. Can you believe it? The car huge park was virtually empty at the time so I reversed into the nearest slot without noticing my back tyre was slightly over the painted line. When I came back out, I found a fine poked under my windscreen wiper. Absolutely furious and outraged, I stormed back into Staples clutching the fine to my heaving bosom to complain.

“This is happening all the time,” the shop manager told me, shaking her head sorrowfully, “We’ve even put an article in the local paper about it, but there’s nothing you can do. You can contest, but it’s written here in black and white,” she pointed to section seven, “That you have contravened the law.”

 

The ‘line police’ apparently hide in a grey metal box (for fear of reprisals) somewhere on the vast car park, waiting to pounce on the unsuspecting car parkers who have no idea they run the risk of a fine as it isn’t a pay and display and there is no sign up to say it is owned by NCP.

 

I drove around the car park in slow menacing circles looking for the box where they hide, but they had obviously moved it to a more inconspicuous place to avoid being beaten up by the angry, as opposed to nosy parkers.

 

The wonderful graphics for this blog on this occasion have been provided by Salsa Queen and I’ll do the splits one day if it kills me Willo Williams herself – artist, sculptor and graphic designer of considerable renown. You can find more of her amazing art work by clicking the link Willo Williams on the blog roll.

Cornish Respite

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Shhhh – cannot make a sound. Have to be as quiet as mouse as others are already asleep and is only eleven o’clock – am used to tapping away on lap top till early hours but instead am banished to bed at ten thirty, therefore forced to write by torchlight under unfamiliar duvet. Have escaped to Land’s End on very toe nail of Cornwall, as far as is possible to go without ending up in sea with two positive friends for week of respite, which think in HIV terms means holiday, though not really sure what respite entails, or if indeed am getting it. But apparently people with HIV need it at regular intervals (talking about respite here) and some institutions such as GHT even provide it free of charge, but unfortunately in order to qualify you have to be a gay man.

 

We do have gay man in midst as it happens, of quiet and gentile nature who from ordered behavioural habits displayed up to now, not to mention retiring early to bed habits, would probably prefer to remain anonymous, so for purpose of rest of blog will call him Jack Nicholson, like in film, ‘As good as it gets’, which if you have seen it you will know exactly what I mean.

 

The three of us are residing in upper part of tiny grey stone cottage split into two and now nicknamed ‘the barracks’ as has SS 679 scrawled in big letters over door and can only be entered by surmounting permanently damp salty wooden staircase, which according to brochure is supposed to be festooned with fishing buoys, but disappointingly since we arrived, not a fishing boy in sight, although plenty to be seen festooned in bright orange waders at local pub.

 

Sleeping arrangements in barracks in order of rank are Cath and boxer (as in dog opposed to Henry Cooper) in only bedroom, Jack Nicholson on bed settee which when unfurled takes up whole of tiny lounge and me on mattress on floor under exposed rafters in roof, which have christened the ‘toblerzone’ as feels like and is same shape as a toblerone packet. Rafters are so low have to get down on knees at side of mattress like fervent religious person to get undressed then slide myself into bed. Can see tip of Jack Nicholson’s balding and recently sunburnt head through slatted staircase. So unnaturally peaceful can hear a pin drop and every intake and outtake of breath or other bodily emissions. First night wind howled so much (wind as in gale) feared roof would blow off and swirl mattress away like magic carpet. Luckily Jack Nicholson doesn’t snore but Boxer does. 

 

Smoking prohibited in barracks of course so have to loiter around on staircase in pyjamas and raincoat, so good job really aren’t any fishing boys hanging around to witness me. At dawn’s early light crawl out of bed and across floor like army manoeuvres then stagger down rickety stairs with bent back looking like Julie Walters in her part as Mrs Overall in Acorn Antiques – no pinny but sporting two pairs of thick woollen socks as very cold in cottage without luxury of central heating.

 

Respite then in this instance means lots of healthy fresh air, apart from smoking breaks of course and the intake of many wholesome not to mention fattening Cornish pasties. Respite also includes the taking of afternoon naps, too much napping for my liking as barracks have to undergo strict rule of silence. Unaccustomed to silence during the day, however through course of week have caught up on lots of sleep.

 

Highlight of trip was visiting the lovely Veritee who has recently started an HIV support group for Cornwall, but seems to be fighting losing battle because people down here are refusing to come out. Mind you can’t really blame them in this weather. Veritee and hubby reside in glorious higgledy piggeldy house in heart of Cornish countryside crammed full of colour, art and hospitality and the best roast beef and Yorkshire pudding have ever tasted – although think cow had a name, but best not to go there, which is what Cath and Jack Nicholson said when I offered in my role as Mrs Overall to cook boiled eggs again for breakfast as overcooked last lot.  

 

When we got back to barracks found note pushed under barrack door from Nazi cleaning woman in number 14 about dog poo and fag ends. Paranoid now about taking boxer out for last starlight fag in pyjamas as can’t see through creeping sea mist where poo is landing.

 

On final respite night Cath disappeared into creeping sea mist in car with boxer to visit interesting sounding friends, leaving me with Jack Nicholson who refused point blank to accompany me to local pub for last pasty, preferring beans on toast in barracks and a programme about euthanasia on postage stamp sized telly and lights out for ten o’clock. Did briefly consider going to pub by self, but wary of appearing to be likely looking catch to fishermen. Decided instead to stay in barracks and pretend was at health spa, but night was long and stomach accustomed now to regular ingestion of pasties not fulfilled, so crept down to kitchen to make some toast.  Stabbed around with finger in semi darkness to light ring on hob for kettle which has stupid electric cooker with no knobs and have to press barely visible signs with finger to put kettle on. Meanwhile toast starts to burn and sets off smoke alarm, never heard such a racket in life – must have woken entire hamlet if not whole of Cornwall. Tried to waft smoke out of door with tee towel over Jumping Jack Nicholson’s head. Ear splitting racket finally stopped, but every time ventured back down corridor, set off again. Nothing for it but to put coat over pyjamas and stand out in creeping sea mist for a calming camel, but in low visibility kicked over ash bucket. Light immediately flicked on in Nazi cleaning woman’s house and net curtains twitched. Another curt note to follow probably.

 

All in all, aside from staggering beauty of Cornwall and its magnificent coastline and rugged pasties was quite glad to get home, but when walked through door found brown envelope lurking on table from hospital – results of mammogram no doubt. Heart sank, stomach turned over, was not in mood for being recipient of bad news. Would not open till next day decided, but could not get it out of mind. Spent restless night dreaming of Kylie Minogue and wigs. Was convinced would have to have bosoms lopped off at earliest opportunity.

 

Next day arose and clutching envelope to palpitating bosom tore it open with trembling hands. But for once good news, “You’ll be pleased to hear,” the letter read – hurray.

 

Feeling unaccustomedly fond of bosoms now – have been very loyal it seems and stood by me, unlike other parts of my body and have not let me down apart from gravity wise. Will be kind to them from now on – might even buy them a new bra, perhaps take them out for a cream tea, although will have to be in M&S in Blackburn town centre as is a bit far to go back to Cornwall, but convenient nevertheless for purchasing of new bra.