Dental Dams Help Spread Intimacy, Not STDs

It’s that time of the year when people focus on intimacy and romance. Most people think jewelry and roses are good gifts to give for Valentine’s Day. They’re nice, but you know what’s even better? Dental dams.

What’s a dental dam, you ask? Like condoms, dental dams are a way to prevent the spread of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) by covering the vagina or anus during oral sex. Dental dams are usually made of latex, and some are made from polyurethane. Since they’re used for oral sex, dental dams often come in different flavors, and they’re flexible enough to fit in your purse.


Dental dams are an essential component of protecting your sexual health.


Dental dams are particularly useful for lesbian partners, since oral sex is a common form of sexual activity, but anyone who engages in cunnilingus (the oral stimulation of female genitals) can use them. Dental dams are also beneficial for consenting partners who enjoy anal play (aka “rimming”). Dental dams serve as a barrier against most STDs, since many sexually transmitted diseases, such as syphilis, human papillomavirus (HPV), and herpes, can be passed simply by skin-to-skin contact. Gonorrhea, chlamydia, and hepatitis A and B viruses can also be spread through oral sex. HIV can be transmitted through oral sex if blood is present.

Unfortunately, dental dams aren’t distributed as widely as condoms are. You’re not likely to find a dental dam dispenser in a public restroom, and many community organizations provide dental dams on a request-only basis because they’re more expensive than condoms. And most drug stores don’t carry dental dams in the same aisle as condoms and lube because dental dams were originally created to be used during dental procedures. (Get it — dental dams.) Continue reading

STD Awareness: The HIV Epidemic at Home

In the United States, we understand HIV — the virus that causes AIDS — using a common narrative, one that gives us the impression that its deadliest chapters belong in decades past or distant places. It goes like this:

The disease emerged in the 1980s, cutting down young gay men in their primes and blindsiding scientists as they scrambled to unravel the virus’ mysteries. While AIDS initially whipped up mass hysteria among the general public, LGBTQ folks demanded equality, pushing to find treatments and a cure. AIDS activism and scientific research eventually led to the development of antiretroviral drugs, which tamed the plague by turning a death sentence into a chronic disease. Now, with the right medication, people with HIV can live long, healthy lives. The hysteria has died down, as most people realize viral transmission is preventable, and the infection is manageable.

One thing hasn’t changed, however: Just as it was in the 1980s, AIDS is still thought of as a disease of the “other.” Back then, it was a disease of gay men, a population cruelly marginalized by the general public. Today, it’s thought of as a disease of sub-Saharan Africa, where HIV prevalence is highest.

That narrative, however, doesn’t tell the whole story. Right here in our own backyards, the HIV epidemic continues to spread in the face of chilling indifference from those not affected. African-American MSM — men who have sex with men, who may or may not self-identify as gay or bisexual — have an HIV prevalence that exceeds that of any country in the world. In Swaziland, for example, 27 percent of adults are living with HIV/AIDS, but if current transmission rates hold steady, half of African-American MSM are projected to be diagnosed with HIV in their lifetime. Instead of taking this projection as a wake-up call to invest in lifesaving health policies, however, state and federal responses are poised to let it become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Contrary to racist and homophobic stereotypes, data show that black MSM aren’t more likely to engage in risky sexual behavior, use drugs and alcohol, or withhold their HIV status from partners. So why are they burdened with higher HIV rates? The answer lies beyond mere behavior, embedded in policies and practices that disproportionately harm people based on race, sexuality, and geography. Continue reading

STD Awareness: Transgender Men and Cervical Health

Healthy cervical cells as seen under a microscope. Image: National Cancer Institute

Just one month ago, headlines screamed that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) received a list of “banned words” from the Trump administration. One of those words was transgender, raising the alarm that the current president might be eyeing policies that would further marginalize the trans population and harm their health. (Other forbidden words include fetus, evidence-based, and vulnerable.) Some have argued it wasn’t Trump policy per se, but self-censoring on the part of the CDC to protect their budgets from being slashed by legislators hostile to transgender rights, abortion rights, science, people of color, and poor people.

In any case, refusing to use words like transgender can have grave consequences for trans health. If the CDC can’t reference the trans population when requesting money for services and studies, they will be hobbled in their ability to serve that population’s needs.


Recommendations for cervical cancer screening are the same for anyone with a cervix, whether trans or cisgender.


January is Cervical Health Awareness Month. Anyone who has a cervix can develop cervical cancer — including transgender men who have not had their cervixes surgically removed. In observance of the month, and in defiance of directions to avoid the word transgender, today we’ll discuss the importance of cervical health in trans men — and why taxpayer-funded entities like the CDC and the National Institutes of Health must be able to study and serve this population.

Transgender men (or trans men for short) are individuals born with female reproductive organs, but who identify as male. Likewise, cisgender women were born with female reproductive organs and identify as female. Both trans men and cisgender women were born with cervixes, and wherever a cervix exists, the possibility of cervical cancer exists. Continue reading

Meet Our Candidates: Kevin Patterson for Phoenix City Council District 6

The Arizona primary election will be held on August 29, 2017. 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. In order to vote in the primary election, you must be registered to vote by July 31. Early voting begins on August 2. Make your voice heard in 2017!

Kevin PattersonKevin Patterson is running for a seat on the Phoenix City Council — specifically for District 6. Mr. Patterson is the director of talent management and leadership development for Banner Health, the largest employer in Phoenix. Mr. Patterson has spent his life advocating for marginalized constituencies and building consensus for common-sense solutions to some of our state’s problems. Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona has endorsed Mr. Patterson because of his strong support for reproductive health care.


“Health care is a human right.”


On July 3, I had the opportunity to interview Mr. Patterson about his positions on health care advocacy, as well as his support of the LGBTQ community.

What motivated you to run for Phoenix City Council?

I am running for Phoenix City Council because I want my kids to grow up in a city where they feel safe, are provided opportunities to thrive, and [are] respected for their diversity. The national rhetoric right now is so divisive and combative that it makes me nervous to think about the type of world they will grow up in if more consensus-building policies aren’t put in place. I believe that change happens at home and in our communities on the local level. For our neighborhoods, I would like to create opportunities for responsible economic growth, safe neighborhoods, efficient public resources. Continue reading

Pride Month: Toward a Future Where Pride Is a Big Party

June is Pride Month, a time to celebrate the LGBTQ community. And while it has become a celebratory thing, it is important, especially in the current social and political climate, to remember that Pride Month did not start as a march. It did not start as a party. It did not start as a celebration. Pride Month commemorates the Stonewall Uprising.

In 1969, while it was illegal to be gay, there were gay clubs. One was the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village, New York City. The police would raid it every so often. They would arrest the patrons. They would beat the patrons. And they would look the other way if the patrons were murdered.


We are still here. You will not silence us. You haven’t been able to yet, and you never will.


One day, a group of gay people, mostly trans women and street kids, mostly people of color, said “NO MORE!” and fought back. That started six days of riots, where LGBTQ people from all over the city converged in Greenwich Village and demanded their rights. To demand their lives!

We have gotten used to Pride Month being kicked off with a Presidential Proclamation. Every year for eight years, we had President Obama issue a proclamation. As far back as 1999, when President Clinton issued the first one, we have grown accustomed to a march forward in our rights, our visibility. But we have forgotten about our origins, the roots of Pride Month, which are steeped in the struggle against homophobic, anti-LGBTQ violence. Continue reading

Abstinence Education Harms LGTBQ+ Youth

Did you know that lesbian, bisexual, and gay teens are just as (if not more) likely to have or father a teen pregnancy than their heterosexual peers? Furthermore, as most major data sources fail to gather data on gender identity, the trans teen pregnancy rate is largely unknown.

Last month was Teen Pregnancy Prevention Month. This month, June, is LGBT Pride Month. That makes now the perfect time to discuss queer teen pregnancy and what we can do about it.


We can create a world where every young person feels empowered to make choices for themselves, and where every pregnancy is planned and wanted.


To combat queer teen pregnancy, reduce homophobia, and save taxpayer money, the federal government should redirect the $90 million budget for abstinence education toward LGBTQ+ inclusive comprehensive sexuality education (CSE) programs. All too often, sexual health education focuses on heterosexual and cisgender youth. LGBTQ+ people are often only discussed in tandem with HIV/AIDS. As a result, queer youth report that sex ed feels irrelevant to their needs and further stigmatizes them. Worse yet, the federal government spends $90 million annually on sexual health education programs that teach sexual abstinence instead of equipping young people with the tools and resources they need.

This may soon change — but not for the better: President Trump’s proposed budget would eliminate the evidence-based Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program, while maintaining $85 million dollars for abstinence education programs. Continue reading

We Are Planned Parenthood. And We’re Here to Recruit You!

The following guest post comes to us via Kelley Dupps, public policy manager for Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona.

“My name is Harvey Milk, and I’m here to recruit you!” This was an opening line the gay-rights pioneer Harvey Milk often used to grab people’s attention. See, in the 1970s when Harvey was organizing for gay rights, the common misconception peddled by the media, religious organizations, and homophobes — and consumed by the general public — was that homosexuals wanted to recruit you and/or your children to join the ranks of the queers. The logic was that there was a small number of LGBTQ people, so in order to “survive” they needed to recruit — rather than, you know, being born that way. Many politicians, preachers, and pretty faces peddled the nonsense that LGBTQ folks — particularly gay teachers — were out to recruit children. While this was not the case, there were no organizations or prominent LGBTQ people to publicly fight back.


Oppressive powers thrive on fatigue and apathy. We need you to be active!


But Harvey was there to recruit you for the fight! Before he was a politician, he was a small business owner and community organizer. He knew what it was like to live in San Francisco’s Castro District, and he knew how his neighborhood and community had been ignored by those in power. By recruiting folks who wanted to see change at City Hall, who understood the gay community’s intersection of identities, and who would show up to rallies and meetings, Harvey was creating change that would ripple through communities for decades.

Forty years ago, in 1977, Harvey Milk became one of the first openly gay candidates voted into elected office when his constituents selected him to fill a seat on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. Harvey felt the impact of his candidacy — and win — far and wide, and advocated, not as a politician, but as a marginalized person, for other LGBTQ people to come out. Come out to your friends, family, co-workers, neighbors, and lawmakers.

Sharing one’s authentic self with other folks can be a terrifying journey, not to be taken lightly. Continue reading