About Anna C.

Anna first volunteered for Planned Parenthood as a high school student in the 1990s. Since then, she has received a bachelor’s degree from UC Berkeley and a master's degree in epidemiology from the University of Arizona. 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: Iisha Graves for State Representative, LD 13

The Arizona primary election will be held on August 30, 2016. 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 primary election, you must register to vote by August 1 — and can even register online. Make your voice heard in 2016!

Iisha Graves scaledIisha Graves is running to represent Arizona’s 13th legislative district. Although two-thirds of LD 13’s constituents live in Maricopa County’s West Valley, in terms of pure acreage the district is largely rural, stretching as far north as Wickenburg and all the way to the foothills of Yuma in the west.

Although Ms. Graves is running unopposed in next month’s Democratic primary election, in November she will be vying with Republican candidates to fill one of two available House seats. One Republican who she is likely to face is Don Shooter, who is running for the House after serving three terms as a state Senator — a position he used to oppose birth control access and attempt to enshrine anti-LGBTQ discrimination into law.


“We need to invest smarter in areas like education, preventive health care, and mental health.”


Voters in LD 13 looking for a candidate who prioritizes health care, education, and compassion can cast their ballots for Iisha Graves, who generously took the time to answer our questions on July 14, 2016.

Tell us a little about your background.

I grew up in a family that struggled with addiction and abuse. Despite the challenges this created for me, I broke the cycle of abuse, educated myself, and created a different life for my children than the one I had. My experiences have shown me the importance of mental health, medical care, and social services in ensuring individuals and families thrive. For over 15 years I have been working with at-risk populations of youth and adults. My campaign is founded on the idea that it is time to mend our failing education system so that it serves all our students; to transform the for-profit prison industry into a for-people industry; and to remodel our justice system so that people struggling with addiction receive social services and medical care rather than criminal records. Continue reading

Meet Our Candidates: Nikki Bagley for State Senator, LD 6

The Arizona primary election will be held on August 30, 2016. 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 primary election, you must register to vote by August 1 — and can even register online. Make your voice heard in 2016!

Nikki Bagley croppedThe sprawling 6th Legislative District covers a large swath of rural Arizona, from the Grand Canyon in the north to the Tonto National Forest in the south, and from Jerome in the west to Holbrook in the east. LD 6 is currently represented in the state Senate by Sylvia Allen, who in the past has opposed Medicaid expansion and whose record on education is not stellar; as head of the Senate Education Committee, Sen. Allen blocked legislation that would have improved sex education in Arizona, making it medically accurate, inclusive of all students, and opt-out rather than opt-in.


Education is the “best investment we can make for the future of Arizona.”


As a young mother, Nikki Bagley has a personal stake in improving Arizona’s education system so that our state is not only a beautiful place to live, but also a better place to raise a family. As a former city council member and mayor of Jerome, she has ample experience balancing budgets and serving her constituents. As Senator, she would replace Allen’s extremism with a moderating influence that is more in line with her district’s values. For these reasons and more, Ms. Bagley is our endorsed candidate for Senate in LD 6.

Ms. Bagley generously took the time to answer our questions on July 12, 2016.

Tell us a little about your background.

I am an Arizona native, farmer, teacher, and mother. I currently run the viticulture program at Yavapai College and am also the former mayor of Jerome. These experiences have helped to shape me as a person and my campaign for state Senate, particularly my focus on education and issues important to rural Arizona. Continue reading

Meet Our Candidates: Richard Andrade for State Representative, LD 29

The Arizona primary election will be held on August 30, 2016. 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 primary election, you must register to vote by August 1 — and can even register online. Make your voice heard in 2016!

Andrade_Richard scaledLegislative District 29, a West Valley district that includes Glendale and West Phoenix, is hosting a competitive House race this August — and that’s just the primary election, in which four Democratic candidates will be battling it out for two spots on November’s general election ballot. One of those candidates is incumbent Richard Andrade, who we endorsed in 2014 and are proud to endorse again.

Rep. Andrade is the great-grandson of Mexican immigrants, a third-generation railroader, a union member, and a U.S. Air Force veteran. On his website, some of the issues he prioritizes include health care, education, discrimination, and the struggles of working families.

Rep. Andrade generously took the time to answer our questions on July 4, 2016.


“Many working families are struggling to make a living and I have been fighting for them since I was elected.”


Since we last spoke, how has your commitment to serving Arizona grown? What has happened during that time to give you hope, and what has happened to strengthen your convictions?

Serving my first term in office has shown me the truth about politics in Arizona. Our Republican-led Legislature takes care of big businesses and corporations and not working families who need the tax cuts, but would rather cut programs for working families who need the assistance in order to survive. This has strengthened my commitment to run for re-election. I also have been very involved in participating in many actions against employers who have wrongfully terminated or harassed employees for wanting better working conditions, pay, and most importantly, access to affordable health care. Although there have been some victories, Arizona has a long way to go to protect working families. Continue reading

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

The Arizona primary election will be held on August 30, 2016. 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 primary election, you must register to vote by August 1 — and can even register online. Make your voice heard in 2016!

Quezada-2015The West Valley is home to the 29th legislative district, where our endorsed candidate for Arizona Senate has deep roots. Martín Quezada is a staunch defender of reproductive rights, the LGBTQ community, and comprehensive sex education. He has consistently earned our endorsement since 2010, when he first ran for a seat in the House. As a state representative and then a senator, he has both talked the talk and walked the walk, including most recently when he introduced SB 1019, which would have dismantled the “No Promo Homo” statute that effectively blocks Arizona teachers from mentioning LGBTQ people in sex education curricula.


“Since being first elected I have earned the respect of my colleagues, my constituency, even my opposition.”


Compare his record to that of his challenger in August’s Democratic primary election. Lydia Hernández, his Democratic opponent, made her opposition to reproductive rights known in 2013 when she signed the Center for Arizona Policy’s statement denouncing Roe v. Wade. The stark contrast between Sen. Quezada and Ms. Hernández highlights the critical importance of registering to vote and participating in every election — including the primaries!

With no Republican challengers, the race for the LD 29 Senate seat will be decided in August, so if you skip the primary election and wait until November’s general election to cast your ballot, it will have been too late to throw your support behind Sen. Quezada. We need him in the Senate to continue to stand strong against the bad bills introduced by the opposition — and to continue introducing legislation that would make Arizona a healthier and safer place to live.

Sen. Quezada generously took the time to answer our questions on July 1, 2016.

Two years ago, you prevailed over Lydia Hernández in a very tight primary race, and she is challenging you again this year. How did you do a better job representing your constituents over these past two years than Ms. Hernández would have, and how will you continue to do so?

To be clear, I have prevailed over Lydia Hernández in each attempt she has made to challenge me. I knocked her off the ballot in 2010 after discovering nomination petition forgeries, I defeated her in the 2012 appointment process to fulfill the LD 13 House vacancy. I defeated her in the 2012 Primary, finishing in first place in the House race, and I defeated her in 2014 as you mentioned above.

Since being first elected I have earned the respect of my colleagues, my constituency, even my opposition in the political world. I have remained true to the values of the people of LD 29 and been a consistent voice for the issues most important to them at the Capitol. Hernández has gone further down a path of being an outsider and an agitator and has grown more and more extreme in her views and has openly and proudly betrayed the values of our constituency by endorsing such extreme politicians as Gov. Doug Ducey and Secretary of State [Michele] Reagan. Continue reading

STD Awareness: What Does “Congenital Syphilis” Mean?

Treponema pallidum, the bacteria that causes syphilis

Treponema pallidum, the bacteria that causes syphilis

Congenital syphilis, for centuries a leading cause of infant mortality, is often thought of as an antique affliction, relegated to history books — but it is on the rise again. Between 2012 and 2014, there was a spike in congenital syphilis rates, which increased by 38 percent and are now the highest they’ve been in the United States since 2001. As of 2014, the last year for which we have data, more babies were born with syphilis than with HIV.

The word “congenital” simply means that the baby was born with syphilis after being infected in the womb. When an expecting mother has syphilis, the bacteria that cause the disease can cross the placenta to infect the fetus — and will do so 70 percent of the time. As many as 40 percent of babies infected with syphilis during pregnancy will be stillborn or will die soon after birth. It can also cause rashes, bone deformities, severe anemia, jaundice, blindness, and deafness. Congenital syphilis is especially tragic because it’s almost completely preventable, especially when expecting mothers have access to adequate prenatal care and antibiotics. Penicillin is 98 percent effective in preventing congenital syphilis when it is administered at the appropriate time and at the correct dosage.


More babies are being born with syphilis — but this trend can be reversed with wider access to prenatal care.


Incidence of congenital syphilis is growing across all regions of the country, but rates are highest in the South, followed by the West. Rates have also been increasing across ethnic groups, but, compared to white mothers, congenital syphilis rates are more than 10 times higher among African-American mothers and more than 3 times higher among Latina mothers, illustrating the need to increase access to prenatal care for all expecting mothers — and to ensure that this prenatal care is adequate.

Anyone receiving prenatal care should be screened for syphilis at their first visit, and some pregnant people — including those at increased risk or in areas where congenital syphilis rates are high — should be screened a second time at the beginning of the third trimester and again at delivery. Continue reading

Contraception Then and Now

When it comes to contraception, one thing is for sure: We’ve come a long way! And while the future might have even better things in store, like reversible male birth control, superior condoms, or remote-controlled implants, a look into the past reveals that modern contraceptors have a bevy of fantastic options to choose from. Unlike couples who had to forgo contraception or obtain birth control from the black market, nowadays Americans wishing to prevent or postpone pregnancy can select from a variety of legal, effective, and increasingly accessible family-planning methods.


While the history of birth control is fascinating, today’s contraception is the very best.


Let’s look at some old-fashioned birth-control methods and see how they stack up to their modern-day counterparts.

Linen and Guts vs. Latex and Polyurethane Condoms

Most people think of female condoms as new inventions, but the first condom recorded in history was made out of a goat’s bladder and inserted into the vagina — way back in 3000 BC. Ancient civilizations, from the Romans to the Egyptians to the Japanese, made penile sheaths and caps with a variety of materials, including linen, leather, lubricated silk paper, intestines, and tortoise shells. Linen and intestines remained popular through the Renaissance era.

A condom, with a user manual, from 1813. Photo: Matthias Kabel

A condom, with user manual, 1813. Photo: Matthias Kabel

Charles Goodyear might be most famous for tires, but his discoveries in vulcanizing rubber also led to the development of rubber condoms in the mid-1800s. Unfortunately, the Comstock Act of 1873 outlawed the manufacture and sale of contraception, and condoms were driven into a shadow economy. In the 1880s, New Yorkers might have been lucky to find black-market condoms made from surplus animal intestines, which were manufactured by Julius Schmid, a German immigrant who otherwise specialized in sausage casings — before his business was shut down by the New York Society for the Suppression of Vice. Condoms weren’t legal in the United States until the Crane ruling of 1918, just in time for the 1920 invention of latex, a form of rubber that was much stronger and more elastic — and with a shelf life of five years vs. rubber’s three months. By the 1920s, Schmid was once again on top of the condom game, peddling brands like Sheik, Ramses, and Sphinx.

Condoms made out of intestines are still on the market, sold as lambskin or “natural” condoms. However, they are not recommended for STD protection: Just as intestines need to allow nutrients to enter the body from digesting food, so too are viruses able to pass through condoms made from intestines. (Sperm, on the other hand, are thought to be too big.) These days, latex is the gold-standard material for condoms, while polyurethane can be used by people with latex allergies. Condoms constructed with these modern materials protect users from unintended pregnancy as well as many sexually transmitted infections, such as HIV and chlamydia. Continue reading

STD Awareness: June Is National Congenital Cytomegalovirus Awareness Month

CMVPop quiz: Can you name the virus that most commonly infects developing fetuses when they are still in the womb?

Here’s a hint: June is National Congenital Cytomegalovirus Awareness Month.

In case that clue didn’t make it obvious enough, I’ll tell you the answer. The most common infection among developing fetuses is caused by a virus you might not have heard of: cytomegalovirus, or CMV. Around 30,000 children are born with this infection every year, and some of these babies will go on to develop serious problems because of it. National Congenital Cytomegalovirus Awareness Month is a time to learn about how CMV can affect pregnancy.


Cytomegalovirus can damage developing brain cells early in an embryo’s gestation.


This year, it might be of even greater interest, given the parallels that can be drawn between CMV and Zika virus, the emerging pathogen that has been dominating headlines lately. First of all, both CMV and Zika virus can be transmitted sexually, though they are not the first things you think of when the topic of STDs comes up, as they are overshadowed by more famous sexually transmitted viruses like herpes and human papillomavirus. While many of us are infected with CMV as children, we can also be infected as adults, often through sexual transmission — the virus can be found in cervical and vaginal secretions, saliva, and semen. The sexual transmission of Zika virus is not as well understood, but we know it can be found in semen, and there are documented cases of men passing the virus to sex partners through vaginal and anal intercourse. It might even be transmitted from a male to a partner by oral sex.

Second of all, both CMV and Zika virus are associated with birth defects. However, while the connection between CMV and birth defects has been known to us for decades, it was only in April that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention concluded that Zika virus can cause fetal brain defects (though we’re still waiting for conclusive proof). Microcephaly is probably the most infamous of the birth defects associated with Zika virus, as well as CMV, but it’s not well defined. When you get down to it, though, microcephaly just refers to an abnormally small head, which itself might be indicative of a brain that has failed to develop fully. Continue reading