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.

Meet Our Candidates: Martín Quezada for State Senator, LD 29

Martin Quezada 2014The Arizona primary election will be held on August 26, 2014. 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.” In order to vote in the primaries, you must register to vote by July 28 — and can even register online. Make your voice heard in 2014!

The 29th legislative district’s current state senator, Steve Gallardo, is not seeking reelection, and now Martín Quezada and Lydia Hernández are vying for the open seat in the Democratic primary election. Martín Quezada has deep roots in Legislative District 29, a West Valley district that includes Glendale and West Phoenix. He has used his background in law and passion for public service to represent the interests of his constituents, standing strong against bad bills that have been introduced over the past several years.

In so doing, he’s stood up for reproductive-health patients’ right to privacy, fought for the dignity of the LGBTQ community, protected the right to receive an abortion after 20 weeks, and fought to keep state funding for preventive health-care services provided through Planned Parenthood Arizona.

Mr. Quezada and Ms. Hernández have served alongside one another as seatmates representing LD 29 in the House; however, when it comes to reproductive rights, they could not be more different. This race could very well be decided in the primary election, highlighting why it’s so very important to vote in every election — including the primaries!

Mr. Quezada generously took the time to answer our questions on July 19, 2014.


“My opponent differs from me in several areas, but women’s rights and women’s health choices is one of the clearest distinctions.”


It’s great to talk to you again! How has your commitment to serving Arizona grown over the past two years? On the policy level, what has happened during that time to give you hope, and what has happened to strengthen your convictions?

My commitment to serving Arizona has grown tremendously over the past two years since I’ve gained a deeper understanding of how to be an effective legislator. During my first full term, as a “rookie,” I’ve used this time to learn as much as possible and improve my skills as a legislator. I’ve been hugely successful in that regard and my performance reflects that. Through that learning process, my appreciation and love for public service has only deepened.

On the policy level, we saw Democrats make significant achievements with the help of a few moderate Republicans to pass significant legislation that would benefit the entire state. Those achievements, though politically difficult, gave me hope that more successes and better policy could be enacted in the future.

Yet, my convictions were strengthened because of some of the extreme and hyper-partisan bills pushed by the Republican Party. Some bills this past year that were extremely homophobic or blatantly discriminatory in nature reminded me that despite our advancements, that type of hatred is still alive and well, and we need to be vigilant in our efforts to defeat those efforts. Continue reading

Meet Our Candidates: Victoria Steele for State Representative, LD 9

Steele,-Victoria_10The Arizona primary election will be held on August 26, 2014. 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.” In order to vote in the primaries, you must register to vote by July 28 — and can even register online. Make your voice heard in 2014!

Victoria Steele has represented Tucson’s Legislative District 9 in the Arizona House of Representatives since 2012, and is now running for reelection. To get an idea of why we’re so excited to support her, check out her recent op-ed in the Arizona Daily Star, in which she discusses how last month’s Supreme Court decisions might embolden foes of reproductive justice here in Arizona. We’re also proud to introduce you to her here!

We had a wonderful conversation on July 10 at Raging Sage in Tucson, where Ms. Steele talked to us about her accomplishments and goals; her commitment to abortion access and comprehensive sexuality education; and her Republican opponent, Ethan Orr, whose voting record on reproductive health is out of step with the views held by the majority of his constituency. While you can hope that Ethan Orr will vote in favor of women’s health, you can know that Victoria Steele and her fellow Democratic candidate Dr. Randall Friese will do so!

Read on to get to know Ms. Steele even better!


“It’ll be even harder to get our rights back if we’ve lost them all, so let’s not let that happen.”


Interviewer: I’m glad we get to meet in person this time! How has your commitment to serving Arizona grown over the past two years? On the policy level, what has happened during that time to give you hope?

Representative Steele: I was really excited to see that we were able to finally defeat SB 1062 [a bill that would have allowed discrimination on religious grounds, for example against LGBTQ people]. That gives me a lot of hope. The only reason that happened is because the community got mad. The governor’s veto came way too late as far as I’m concerned.

That was a very hopeful thing, because it showed what I really suspected was true, that a majority of the people do not feel that we have the right to discriminate. There is a very vocal minority that feels otherwise. To me, that is hopeful.

A poll of Arizona Republicans showed they were in favor of vetoing SB 1062. It just shows how quickly the tide is turning, which is pretty exciting to me.

It is. Continue reading

STD Awareness: Is Syphilis Making a Comeback?

men syphilisBefore antibiotics, syphilis was the most feared sexually transmitted disease (STD) out there. It was easy to get, quack cures were ineffective and often unpleasant, and it could lead to blindness, disfigurement, dementia, or even death. When we were finally able to zap infections away with drugs like penicillin, it seemed like we’d finally won the battle against this scourge. Whereas syphilis rates were highest before antibiotics became widespread in the 1940s, by 2000 we saw a low of 2.1 cases of syphilis per 100,000. At the dawn of the new millennium, many scientists thought the United States was at the dawn of the complete elimination of syphilis.


Using condoms, regular STD testing, and limiting sex partners are the best ways for sexually active people to stay healthy.


Must all good things come to an end? They shouldn’t have to, but in the case of syphilis, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has announced that syphilis rates are rising, with incidence doubling since 2005. In the United States, there are now 5.3 cases of syphilis per 100,000 people, but that number is a bit misleading because it represents an average across the general population. When you break the population down by age, race or ethnicity, gender, or sexual orientation, that rate might be much higher or much lower. For example, syphilis rates are actually on the decline among women (at only 0.9 cases per 100,000), but among men it is 9.8 per 100,000. In fact, most new syphilis cases — 91.1 percent of them, to be precise — are in men, most of whom are gay or bisexual.

Syphilis is rising the most dramatically among men in their twenties, especially among men who have sex with men (MSM). While some wonder if syphilis is growing among twenty-somethings because this group didn’t live through the early era of AIDS, when HIV was seen as a death sentence and safer sex practices were more common, it might also be due to the fact that STD rates are higher among young people in general. Continue reading

My Partner Just Told Me They Have Herpes. I Don’t. Now What?

handsHas your new partner just informed you that he or she has herpes? People have many reactions when hearing this kind of news — and, depending on how informed you are about herpes, your reaction might be tinged with panic or fear. If that’s your instinct, try to keep those feelings in check: Your partner might be feeling very vulnerable, so it’s best not to react with shunning or shaming.


More than 80 percent of people with genital herpes are unaware of their infections.


By being open about his or her STD status, your partner has demonstrated a sense of responsibility toward your sexual health and a respect for your ability to make informed decisions. It’s possible that your partner was not given this same consideration by the person from whom he or she contracted herpes — some people with genital herpes choose not to disclose their status, while most don’t even know they carry the virus in the first place.

Herpes is more widespread than most of us realize. It can be caused by one of two strains of the herpes simplex virus: HSV-1 or HSV-2. While HSV-1 is more commonly associated with cold sores and HSV-2 is more commonly associated with genital herpes, either virus can infect the genital area. One estimate states that 1 out of 5 American females and 1 out of 9 American males between 14 to 49 years of age have a genital HSV-2 infection.

Now that you know your partner has herpes, you might have some questions. How easy is it to transmit genital herpes from one partner to another? What can you do to minimize your chances of catching the virus? And, while it is certainly stigmatized in our culture, is herpes something to fear? Continue reading

STD Awareness: Gardasil and Males

menIt’s Men’s Health Month, and yesterday was the last day of Men’s Health Week, which means we’re going to look at a men’s health issue that is usually ignored: the impact of human papillomavirus (HPV) on the male population.

You’ve probably heard of HPV in discussions about cervical cancer and Pap testing. But HPV doesn’t care about gender, and is perfectly content to invade cells in anyone’s genital tract, mouth, throat, or anus. In males, HPV can cause genital warts as well as anal, oropharyngeal (mouth and throat), and penile cancers.


HPV will cause more oral cancer than cervical cancer by 2020.


The good news is that most HPV infections can be prevented by a vaccine called Gardasil, and you don’t need to be female to get it. However, few males are actually getting the HPV vaccine: In 2012, 20.8 percent of U.S. males 13 to 17 years of age had received at least one dose of the HPV vaccine, but only 6.8 percent completed the three-dose series.

Gardasil Is for Everybody: Good News from Australia

This huge disparity in promoting Gardasil to female patients rather than male patients has real-world consequences. In Australia, girls have been vaccinated with Gardasil since 2007, covered by their national health system. Four years into the program, genital wart rates fell by 93 percent in females less than 21 years of age. Even though males weren’t being routinely immunized, genital wart rates fell by 82 percent among heterosexual males in the same age group. That’s because their female partners had received the vaccine, which had the effect of protecting much of the male population. That might sound pretty nifty, but the female-only vaccination policy left out gay and bisexual males, whose genital wart rates saw no corresponding decline. Continue reading

STD Awareness: Genital Herpes

Herpes viruses inside a cell. Image: CDC

In the most recent Planned Parenthood annual report, a Tucson mother describes her daughter’s mysterious ailment, which stumped doctors at the hospital. Her symptoms included an itchy, tender genital area with painful lesions — but the physicians who “pored over her poor vulva” decided it was nothing to worry about and sent her home. A few days later, though, she called her mother in the middle of the night, sobbing, her condition now worse. “There were lesions, pustules, and the area was deep red,” her mother wrote. So this time, she called the experts: Planned Parenthood.


If you have symptoms, get checked out! An accurate diagnosis is more likely when symptoms are present.


The condition wasn’t nothing — it was genital herpes, and the mother praised Planned Parenthood for “spot[ting] something other pros missed.” Indeed, sexual and reproductive health is what we do — day in and day out! Whether you’re young or old, sexually active or celibate, insured or paying out of pocket or eligible for sliding-scale fees, we’re here to share our expertise with you.

The word “herpes” comes from an ancient Greek word that means “to creep,” after the “creeping” nature of skin lesions that might spread across areas of one’s body. We now know that the herpes simplex virus can “creep” up and down nerves, retreating to nerve cells to go dormant and returning back to the surface of the skin to cause symptoms or “shed” new virus particles. (Like a cat sheds fur, so too can people shed viruses.) Continue reading

STD Awareness: Can Lesbians Get STDs?

couple WSWA couple of months ago, in time for Valentine’s Day, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced that it would start using the term “condomless sex” instead of “unprotected sex.” The move was hailed by many HIV advocacy groups for taking into account other risk-reduction practices, such as medications that decrease the chances of HIV transmission.


Women can transmit just about any STD to one another.


However, while medications can reduce HIV risk, condoms still offer protection from both pregnancy and many other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), such as chlamydia and gonorrhea. One reason that condoms are so valuable is that they can be placed over a penis to collect fluids before and after ejaculation — dramatically reducing risk for both pregnancy and many STDs. So, even when using anti-HIV meds, engaging in “condomless sex” can still be risky.

But what if partners are engaged in sexual activities that don’t involve penises? Not all sexual couplings involve a cisgender man, and even those that do might not utilize a penis at every encounter. When two people without penises have sex, they’re probably going to be engaging in condomless sex — though condoms can be placed over penetrative sex toys or cut along the sides to be converted into dental dams, they might not figure too prominently in this couple’s safer-sex arsenal. Lesbians protecting themselves with dental dams are technically engaged in “condomless sex,” but it’s still a far cry from being “unprotected.” Continue reading