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The International Menopause Society (IMS), based in the United Kingdom and headed for the past two years by an Israeli, has voiced its opposition to all academic boycotts of Israel, saying research on women's health is threatened by such "political issues."
At a meeting of the society, menopause specialist and Tel Aviv University (TAU) Prof. Amos Pines also announced that the much-villified and controversial hormone replacement therapy (HRT) in fact decreased the chances of heart disease among its users during the early post-menopausal period. A large prospective study five years ago claimed HRT provides no cardiological benefits and can even be harmful.
Research like this and continuing education on women's health issues are the missions of the IMS, said Pines.
"It is this research and education that is in danger of being smothered in political issues" such as the proposed academic boycott of Israel by the British University and College Union (UCU). An active member of the IMS for the past 12 years, Pines was voted in by 12 international board members as IMS president for a three-year term.
One of the most meaningful and recent projects the IMS has undertaken is to reverse public opinion on the risks of HRT. After a 2002 Women's Health Initiative (WHI) study was published, more than half of menopausal women everywhere stopped using this effective anti-hot-flash and mood-balancing therapy prescribed by their doctors.
"Some people called it a tsunami," recalled Pines. "It was a catastrophic event in the history of menopause. We believed that the interpretation of the study was not right and led to the wrong conclusions and misleading media coverage. Too many women stopped taking hormones and they suffered for no valid scientific reason."
As for efforts in Britain to isolate Israel, Pines said: "In science, there is no room for politics. Here at the IMS, we are all scientists and we are all physicians dedicated to one cause and that is to help people. Whoever involves politics in scientific affairs is damaging the whole ethical principle of scientific research. The fact that I am from Israel is irrelevant among our members."
Although the society's headquarters is in Britain, its meetings can take place anywhere. Most recently, the IMS met in Budapest and among the delegates were people from countries that do not have peace treaties with Israel.
Concluded Pines, "No one is thinking that the president of our organization is an Israeli. And if it were to happen, I think that a boycott simply would not hold any water with our society. Our members agree that this proposed UK boycott is completely out of context in the scientific world."