About Anna C.

Anna first volunteered for Planned Parenthood as a high school student in the 1990s. Since then, she has received her bachelor’s degree from the University of California and is now back in school studying science. As an ode to her fascination with microbes, she writes the monthly STD Awareness series, as well as other pieces focusing on health and medicine.

STD Awareness: Three Sexually Transmitted Bacteria That Will Shock and Amaze You

It’s hard to appreciate a pubic louse as an intriguing creature in its own right. Not when an infestation with pubic lice is such a vexing experience. The same can be said for the germs that cause any number of human diseases. But, just as you might have marveled at the microorganisms you spied under the microscope in your high school biology class, the bacteria and other microbes that cause sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) can be fascinating, strictly as scientific subjects.

Let’s look at a few of these fascinating bacteria!

Treponema pallidum, the causative agent of syphilis, is seen in this electron micrograph adhering to a surface with the tapered end of its structure. Image obtained from the CDC’s Public Health Image Library.

Image: Public Health Image Library, CDC

Treponema pallidum: the bacteria that cause syphilis

Before the age of antibiotics, syphilis was the most feared STD out there. Untreated, it can cause serious, sometimes fatal, damage to the body, and can also spread to a fetus during pregnancy. But did you know that earlier versions of syphilis might have been even worse?

Written records of syphilis date back to 1495 when it seemed to appear in Europe for the first time. According to a 1519 description, it caused

Boils that stood out like Acorns, from whence issued such filthy stinking Matter, that whosoever came within the Scent, believed himself infected. The Colour of these was of a dark Green and the very Aspect as shocking as the pain itself, which yet was as if the Sick had laid upon a fire.

Interestingly, such descriptions don’t match modern forms of syphilis, which suggests that it might have evolved into a less virulent form, possibly in response to selective pressure against symptoms that render the host sexually unappealing. Basically, that means that someone with boils emitting “filthy stinking Matter” might have trouble find sexual partners; the pustules of yore don’t seem to decorate the epidermis of contemporary sufferers, making them more likely to perpetuate milder forms of syphilis through sexual transmission.

We can’t hop into a time machine and take samples from European syphilitics in 1495, but some biologists believe that it took about 50 years for evolution to work its mojo on the disease, giving rise to the milder Syphilis 2.0 in the mid-1500s. Continue reading

STD Awareness: Which STDs Are Reportable?

doc-clipboardYou might have heard the phrase “reportable disease” before, but what does it mean? A reportable disease is considered to be important enough for health professionals to track on a societal level. When a health care provider diagnoses a patient with a reportable disease, he or she must notify certain agencies of the occurrence of a new case of this disease.


The reporting process is confidential and allows health workers to reduce the spread of STDs.


Every state has its own list of reportable diseases. For example, in Arizona, a health care provider must report new cases of chlamydia and gonorrhea within five days, and must report new cases of chancroid, HIV, and syphilis within 30 days. Additionally, in the case of syphilis, they must investigate the possibility of a syphilis outbreak. State health departments will report their stats to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which tracks disease on a national scale. STDs that the CDC keeps track of are:

Does the fact that all these diseases are tracked and reported mean the government keeps a list of everyone with a reportable disease? No!  Continue reading

Meet Our Candidates: Allison Ewers for Kyrene School Board

The Arizona general election will be held on November 4, 2014, and early voting is already underway! Reproductive health care access has been under attack, both nationally and statewide, but Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona has endorsed candidates who have shown strong commitment to reproductive justice. To acquaint you with our endorsed candidates, we are running a series called “Meet Our Candidates.” Make your voice heard in 2014!

A._Ewers_headshotKyrene School District encompasses Ahwatukee as well as parts of Chandler, Guadalupe, Tempe, and the Gila River Indian Reservation. It is home to approximately 18,000 students in 19 elementary schools and six middle schools.

In a state that doesn’t mandate sex education of any kind for its students, abstinence-only education — or the complete absence of any sexuality education programs whatsoever — is the norm in Arizona. Kyrene School District currently uses abstinence-only-until marriage curricula, but supplements the information with outside sources, for instance by inviting representatives from the health department to talk to students about sexually transmitted diseases and condom use. While this kind of supplemental information is good, the school district has the opportunity to deliver much better sexuality education to its students.

Allison Ewers is uniquely positioned to bring her background in sensitive and inclusive educational curricula to help Kyrene improve its sex education programs to be truly comprehensive. On October 19, she shared with us her vision for public education in Kyrene, and how her unique background will inform her participation on the school board.


“Education is power, and … our children can use that power to keep themselves safe.”


Tell us a little about yourself.

I am a proud resident of the Kyrene School District and graduate of the public school and university system in Arizona. I will work hard to ensure that our children have the same opportunities for success that I have had.

I am currently a producer for HP2, Inc., a local Arizona small business. My involvement in the Intel International Science & Engineering Fair, the Arizona Science Fair, Arizona Local First, One Community, and the Arizona Small Business Association has allowed me to see firsthand the crippling effect that discrimination has had on our state. This makes it much more difficult to attract high-wage, technically advanced business to the Valley.

When I travel worldwide, I am often asked, “What is wrong with Arizona? There seems to be so much hate.” I am working to change this reputation. It is time for strong leaders in our schools and our state Legislature. I can no longer stand by and watch this happen to the reputation of a state that I am so proud of, so I have chosen to step up. Continue reading

Meet Our Candidates: Sheila Ogea for State Representative, LD 25

The Arizona general election will be held on November 4, 2014, and early voting is already underway! Reproductive health care access has been under attack, both nationally and statewide, but Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona has endorsed candidates who have shown strong commitment to reproductive justice. To acquaint you with our endorsed candidates, we are running a series called “Meet Our Candidates.” Make your voice heard in 2014!

Sheila Ogea scaledLegislative District 25 is located in Maricopa County, covering much of Mesa. Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona has endorsed two candidates in the House race: Sheila Ogea and David Butler.

In stark contrast to their Republican opponents, our endorsed House candidates in LD 25 are strong supporters of reproductive health and justice. As Ms. Ogea told AZCentral.com, “We need to make sure abortion is safe and accessible and work together to decrease unwanted pregnancies by making birth control and sex education available.” We asked her to talk to us in more depth about her views on reproductive-rights issues in Arizona.

Ms. Ogea was kind enough to share her thoughts with us on October 17, 2014.


“I strongly trust in a woman’s right to make her own decision about her body.”


Tell us a little about your background.

I am one of six children raised by a single mother. We lived in Arizona and California when I was growing up.

I have been married to my husband, Robert, for 47 years. We have two daughters. We lived in Michigan for about 30 years. I was a housewife, working part time occasionally as a waitress and volunteering at the school. When my daughters were old enough, I started going back to school, taking word-processing and accounting classes. I starting working through temp agencies to try and get some experience, and eventually I got a job with Wayne County Health Department.

I joined the National Organization for Women (Downriver Chapter in Michigan) in 1989 right after attending a huge rally for abortion rights in Washington, D.C. Our chapter used to volunteer to escort patients at a local abortion clinic. Continue reading

Legislative District 9 Candidates Clash on Reproductive Rights

On October 6, the three House candidates for the 9th legislative district met at a church in the Foothills of Tucson to discuss economic development, education, gun control, and reproductive rights. Given that the Democratic candidates, incumbent Victoria Steele and first-time candidate Randall Friese, are such strong advocates for reproductive justice — in stark contrast to the Republican candidate, incumbent Ethan Orr — Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona was there to take notes.

Steele debateRep. Victoria Steele, having just completed her first term in the Arizona House of Representatives, used part of her opening statement to reflect on her time at the Capitol: “Outside of raising my son to be an adult, this is the most meaningful thing I have done in my life.” She drew a connection between her professional background and her desire to serve her community as a legislator. “As a behavioral health counselor, I had to empower people one on one,” she explained. “As a state legislator, I get to do that on a much wider, much broader basis.”

Reproductive rights emerged as one of the major themes of the night. During her opening statement, Rep. Steele put her desire to “defend a woman’s right to make her own health care decisions” up front and center.

Later in the debate, Rep. Steele spoke in more detail about women’s rights. She advocated for equal pay, fair and living wages, and reproductive justice. “If women don’t have basic rights over their own bodies, they cannot equally contribute to the conversation, they cannot be at the table, they cannot be a player in moving our state forward,” she asserted. “If women don’t have these basic rights, they cannot contribute to the economy, and their families cannot have the quality of life that we so deserve in Arizona.” Continue reading

Meet Our Candidates: Esther Durán Lumm for State Representative, LD 21

The Arizona general election will be held on November 4, 2014, and early voting is already underway! Reproductive health care access has been under attack, both nationally and statewide, but Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona has endorsed candidates who have shown strong commitment to reproductive justice. To acquaint you with our endorsed candidates, we are running a series called “Meet Our Candidates.” Make your voice heard in 2014!

Esther Duran Lumm scaledEsther Durán Lumm is currently seeking to represent Legislative District 21 — an area that includes El Mirage, Peoria, and part of Glendale — in the Arizona House of Representatives, and is the only House candidate we endorse in that district. We recommend a single-shot vote for her — voting for Esther Durán Lumm and no other House candidate will give more weight to your vote.

She kindly took time for an interview on October 10, 2014.


“If Americans are ensured of the pursuit of happiness, they must be entitled to choose their own life partners and lifestyle without government dictating to them its version of right or wrong.”


Tell us a little about your background.

I’m a native of Arizona, born of immigrant parents from Mexico. I am married and have a blended family of five children, 12 grandchildren, and one great-grandson. I retired in 2001 after working for Bull Information Systems, Inc., formerly Honeywell, for 27 years as an editor for their worldwide newsletter, a supervisor, a technical writer, and a project manager. Prior to that I worked for Mountain Bell as a directory assistance operator for five years, and a member of the Communications Workers of America Union.

Simultaneously to my career at Bull Information Systems, I worked part-time as a facilitator for victims of domestic violence at Faith House. I have been an advocate for education, working people’s rights, children’s rights from K through 12, faculty and administrators’ rights in higher-education colleges, and laborers’ rights. My advocacy efforts have been voluntary through the Arizona Hispanic Community Forum, an advocacy organization of which I am a member since 1987.

Earlier this year, one of your opponents, Rick Gray, voted for HB 2284, which permits the health department to inspect abortion clinics without a warrant. What do you think about this new law?

I am opposed to this law, as it violates women’s rights. I see it as just another unjust movement to keep women as second-class citizens. Continue reading

Contraception in the Zombie Apocalypse

The zombie hoard approaches. Photo: Caio Schiavo

The zombie horde approaches. Photo: Caio Schiavo

If you’ve watched a zombie movie with your friends, you’ve probably talked about what kinds of weapons you’d be packing in case of a zombie apocalypse. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention even has a list of supplies you’ll need for a zombie preparedness kit, which includes smart choices like water, duct tape, and bleach. (I would add toilet paper to that list. How you’ll miss it when you’re on the run!) But how many of you have discussed birth control?


You’ve probably picked out which weapons to use during the zombie apocalypse. But have you chosen a birth control method?


Even if your greatest dream is to have a baby, you must admit that the zombie apocalypse is the worst time to be pregnant, give birth, and raise a child. Fleeing and hand-to-hand combat can be a drag while pregnant, and childbirth can kill you, especially without access to trained personnel or hygienic supplies. And if you do manage to birth a baby into this cruel new world, diapers can distract from more pressing duties, and the infant’s cries can attract undead attention.

When you’re in hardcore fight-or-flight mode, taking a pill at the same time every day might be difficult, and besides, a supply of pills can take up valuable backpack real estate. Plus, even if you find an abandoned pharmacy to raid, birth control pills and condoms come with expiration dates and can be affected by high temperatures. The same goes for contraceptive patches and rings. For these reasons, you need a contraceptive method that’s well suited to the zombie apocalypse. Besides abstinence, what are your options? Continue reading