STD Awareness: How Do I Tell Someone I Have Herpes? Or HPV? Or HIV?

Image provided by Katie to Vice

Of all the novel ways to jump-start a difficult conversation, presenting someone with a hand-drawn comic about herpes is among the most creative. A couple of weeks ago, Vice shared the story of Katie, a millennial with genital herpes who struggled to find the optimal way to disclose her status to potential partners. In a fit of inspiration, she wrote and illustrated a pamphlet that not only shared her history and status — it also included important stats and other facts about genital herpes, a highly stigmatized and widely misunderstood condition. Her pamphlet has been received well by potential partners, dispelling myths while also lightening the mood during what can be a highly fraught conversation.


Begin your relationship with transparency and respect.


Katie’s struggle is shared by a lot of people with treatable — but incurable — STDs, such as genital herpes, human papillomavirus (HPV), and HIV. (Herpes and HIV stay in the body for life, but 9 out of 10 times HPV will be defeated by the immune system. But sometimes, HPV lingers for years or even life.) Most of us don’t want to disclose too early, when we haven’t yet established trust, but we also might be wary of waiting too long, lest we be accused of dishonesty. And disclosing before it seems like sex is in the cards might seem presumptuous. It can be a fine line to walk.

Whether you design your own comic like Katie did, or try another route, the ability to disclose your STD status to a potential partner is an important communication skill to develop. Healthy relationships are built on a foundation of honesty and respect, and your potential partners need to make their own decisions when it comes to their comfort with possible exposure. To make an informed decision, they must be armed with all the facts — and you can help them! Continue reading

Yes, Virginia, Local Elections Do Matter

This post is from Planned Parenthood Arizona Strategic Relations Officer Kelley Dupps, who traveled to Virginia in late 2019 to work on state campaigns and help turn Virginia blue. After the news broke of Virginia’s ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA), Kelley shared some thoughts from last fall and reflected on where we’re heading into 2020.

Supporters and opponents of the Equal Rights Amendment in 1982

Virginia is a political beast of a state. Once the capital of the Confederacy and current home to the National Rifle Association, Virginia sports 13 lucky electoral votes (only two more than Arizona), and has served as a training ground for many organizers learning how to make a red state blue. When activists take a tobacco-growing, gun-toting Southern capital and organize it to recognize the humanity and equality of their citizens, they provide inspiration — and a proof of principle — to other organizers nationwide that the seemingly impossible is quite possible.

Effecting Change in Virginia


Virginia showed us what’s possible, and in 2020 Arizonans must remember that elections can be won or lost by just a few votes.


Last year around this time, in January 2019, the Virginia Senate refused to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA). Wielded by men and women who believe in patriarchy and voted to ensure that women were not seen or treated as equals under the law, that veto triggered a lot of grassroots passion, and the election season of 2019 in Virginia was lit! Voters wanting more visibility and representation in their democracy sent more women, people of color, and LGBTQ candidates to the state Capitol than ever before, turning a once beet-red state into big ‘D’ Democratic blue.

And elections have consequences.

A year later, on January 15, 2020, Virginia legislators voted to ratify the ERA, solidifying that women are to be treated as equal under the law! Continue reading

The People’s Agenda and the Next 100 Days

The following guest post comes to us via Kelley Dupps, strategic relations officer for Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona.

I love the smell of democracy in the morning!

Monday, January 13, was Opening Day of the 2020 Arizona Legislative Session, and it reeked of (small ‘d’) democratic hopes and dreams. But right out of the gate, before the session even started, Republicans filed bills that are set on limiting the rights of everyone from teachers to asylum seekers, cutting funding to public schools, and essentially outlawing inclusive sex education.

Planned Parenthood gathered with civic leaders, organizations, and progressives from around the state to remind legislators they are here to get the People’s work done and not be distracted by personal politics.

Our agenda — the People’s Agenda — reflects the needs of everyone in Arizona:

  • Education is vital to the future of our state and our children, and our partners at Arizona Education Association are advocating on behalf of teachers and educators for more equitable and progressive funding of public schools — including teacher and support staff pay, facilities maintenance, and school counselor and nurse allocations.
  • When it comes to Reproductive Rights & Justice, Planned Parenthood Arizona (PPAZ) and Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona (PPAA) are gladiators for bodily autonomy. PPAA aims to repeal a 1906 law that Arizona has on the books that criminalizes abortion providers by imprisonment of up to five years.
  • In terms of Equality, we heard from our partners at the Human Rights Campaign and Equality Arizona, who reminded us that LGBTQ people are still treated differently in Arizona and our vigilance is needed to protect the rights of all. Already this session, lawmakers are rumored to have introduced bills (like these already introduced in other states) that interfere with the delivery of health care to transgender youth. And sex “education” bills have been introduced that do not allow students to learn about the spectrum of identities, and others mandate schools teach abstinence to homosexuality.
  • Our partners at Teamsters 104 spoke on the need and the power of labor unions, highlighting the struggle of Tucson’s steelworkers, who have been on strike since October. Arizona needs an economy that is fair and works for all of us, and our partners at LUCHA are working to ensure the voter-passed minimum wage increases remain unhindered by the Legislature, while ensuring predatory loan companies are not a threat to Arizona families.
  • On the Environment; our friends at Chispa and the Sierra Club once again spoke truth to power, even if that power denies that truth. Climate change and the risk to communities’ air and water are real and happening now, and Chispa has been fighting the money and influence of Arizona Public Service Co. in the past few cycles.

The next 100 days are expected to be a roller coaster of emotions and parliamentary procedure. We’ll need your voice, your action, and, ultimately, your commitment to get us through 2020!

Please ensure you and everyone you care about is registered to vote, knows about the upcoming elections, and gets out the vote!

STD Awareness: When Syphilis Goes North

The bacteria that cause syphilis are shaped like corkscrews. Image: David Cox, CDC

Last month, a “weird” medical case made headlines. An Australian man with unexplained headaches and eye pain got a diagnosis for his mysterious symptoms when his doctors discovered he had syphilis — and the infection had spread to his head. Syphilis had caused both optic nerves to become swollen, triggering pain that worsened whenever he moved his eyes.

It might seem strange that a disease most people associate with below-the-belt symptoms can wreak havoc above the neck, but syphilis is a wanderer that can travel all over the body, sowing chaos wherever it goes.


Syphilis can quickly enter the nervous system and travel to the head, where it can cause blindness, psychiatric problems, and other trouble.


Ocular Syphilis

The bacteria that cause syphilis can be passed from one person to another through contact with a sore, which can appear on or around the mouth, genitals, or anus. Any type of sexual contact, including oral sex, can transmit these bacteria. Sores are painless, contain a highly infectious liquid, and can appear between three weeks to three months after infection. These sores aren’t always visible, which means you can’t tell if someone has syphilis just by looking at them.

Although the bacteria typically land in the mouth, genitals, or anus, they can also be sexually transmitted directly into the eye, causing redness and vision problems. After infection, syphilis sores can appear on the eyelids, tear ducts, and soft tissues around the eyes. Bacteria can also travel to the eye by entering the nervous system and blazing a trail to the optic nerve — no direct contact between the eye and a sore necessary. Continue reading

Standing with the Missing: Tucson Hosts the REDress Project

Tree at the Piikani Nation, Alberta, Canada. Photo: voyagevixen2

Last year, on March 11, red shirts and dresses filled the Arizona House of Representatives. Activists wore the color in support of HB 2570, a bill introduced by Rep. Jennifer Jermaine, D-Chandler, to address an ongoing crisis in Arizona’s Native American communities.

That crisis, and that visual statement in response to it, is also the theme of the REDress Project, a traveling exhibition by Métis artist Jaime Black, whose work opens at the Tucson Desert Art Museum on January 10. Black, who is based in Winnipeg, Canada, began the project in 2009, collecting and displaying dresses to “call in the energy of the women who are lost.”


Honoring the many lost throughout North America, the REDress Project will be on exhibit at the Tucson Desert Art Museum.


The red of those dresses has become a symbol — and the letters MMIW the shorthand — for missing and murdered indigenous women. In Native American communities, domestic abuse, kidnapping, and other forms of violence have put many victims on difficult paths to justice, often leading nowhere.

Gaps in jurisdiction, especially when the offender isn’t a tribal member, have been one barrierNon-tribal suspects fall under federal jurisdiction, but a shortage of federal marshals has often meant that they can continue offending with impunity. In a report published last year, the Urban Indian Health Institute found that roughly half of perpetrators in MMIW cases were non-Native. Continue reading

2019: A Year in Blogging

Nearly three years into the Trump administration, a lot of us are tired. The headlines got more and more draining, culminating in impeachment proceedings at the end of the year. But in response, we’re so fired up that we’re ready to storm the polls next November — and make sure our friends and family do so as well. And 2019 was also a time to be hopeful. In January, a record 102 women walked into the House of Representatives, ready to serve their constituents — making up nearly a quarter of House members, the highest proportion in U.S. history. The Senate saw gains as well, with 25 female senators out of a total of 100. Many of these newcomers made it their mission to fight for the very human and civil rights that are currently under attack.

Outside of politics, we’re still committed to connecting people to the information they need via technology, such as Planned Parenthood’s abortion finder tool, or the Roo app, a sexual-health chatbot that was named by TIME Magazine as one of the year’s best inventions.

Throughout the year, our bloggers were here to shed light on the political happenings and spread awareness about important sexual and reproductive health issues. We asked them to pick their favorite posts of 2019. They’re definitely all worth a second look!

Anne covered the fifth anniversary of the Hobby Lobby decision, which marked the Supreme Court’s ruling that some for-profit corporations could, like human beings, exercise religious beliefs. The Hobby Lobby decision placed religion over science, allowing employers to limit employees’ access to birth control methods otherwise guaranteed by the Affordable Care Act — exploiting a legal loophole to give corporations the right to damage their employees’ health in the name of religion. Five years later, its destructive legacy lives on: The Hobby Lobby decision has since been commandeered to deny birth control, attack the LGBTQ community, make a mess of health care administration, and more.

Matt’s favorite post pointed a spotlight on an important but overshadowed piece of history, the case of People v. Belous, which 50 years ago marked the first time a patient’s constitutional right to abortion was upheld in the courts. The post introduces us to Dr. Leon Belous, a Southern California physician who believed abortion bans were antiquated and barbaric — and was arrested for “conspiracy to commit abortion” after referring a patient to a safe abortion provider in the 1960s. The California Supreme Court vindicated Dr. Belous, setting the stage for Roe v. Wade and the expansion of abortion rights a few years later. As Matt tells us, “I think this case is especially relevant to the borderlands area and the complex role that border towns played in abortion access and the social attitudes toward the procedure.”

Ava wrote about the criminalization of miscarriage. That might not sound possible — the idea that someone could be arrested or imprisoned for having a miscarriage — but plenty of people find themselves in this perplexing and outrageous situation. People who lose their pregnancies may be blamed for these losses if others decide they engaged in risky behaviors, despite the medical fact that most of the time, miscarried or stillborn fetuses die of natural causes, and miscarriage within the first 20 weeks of pregnancy is astonishingly common. These laws may also target people of color, as Black, Latinx, and Native-American people are more likely to experience pregnancy loss than non-Hispanic white people. Simply put, criminalizing pregnancy loss casts pregnant people as vessels rather than people.

Tracey shared her own powerful and personal story about miscarriage. She described that string of four simple words — “I had a miscarriage” — as intimately felt and inconceivable to say. For Tracey, talking about the loss of a baby was almost as hard as losing the baby. She now uses her story to fight stigma, and to encourage other people to do the same. When we are silent around the issue, so many of us suffer in silence, while the reality of the prevalence of miscarriage is distorted for the rest of us. And when people don’t realize how common miscarriage is, they are more likely to blame and demonize those who lose their pregnancies.

Anna celebrated one of 2019’s medical victories, which was announced earlier this year. In her favorite blog post, she introduced readers to the “Berlin patient” and the “London patient,” two people who had HIV before coming down with blood cancers. After receiving bone marrow transplants from donors with genetic “immunity” to HIV, an amazing thing happened: Not only did their cancers go into remission — so did their HIV infections. When this feat was first performed more than a decade ago with the Berlin patient, people were hopeful it could be replicated in future cancer patients — but it took until this year for the success to be duplicated in the London patient. What do these cases mean for the millions of other people living with HIV?


Make your voice heard in 2020! Join our blogging team by becoming a Planned Parenthood Arizona volunteer. We want to help amplify your voice!

STD Awareness: Is Withholding HIV Status a Crime?

If your sexual partner had HIV and did not tell you about it, how would you feel? Most of us would feel betrayed, lied to. We might be scared that we’d contracted the virus, too. If we had known, maybe we would have chosen not to have sex, or might have taken different precautions. Perhaps we’d be angry that someone took away our ability to evaluate the risk for ourselves, and instead decided for us that the sex was worth the risk.


Disclosing HIV status can make someone vulnerable to risks, but open communication forms the basis of healthy relationships.


Many people think it should be against the law for someone with HIV to withhold their status from a sexual partner. To do so seems like a violation of someone’s right to make their own decisions about the sex they have, a denial of pertinent information that needs to be factored into one’s decision-making.

Then why are organizations like American Psychological Association, the American Medical Association, and the U.S. Department of Justice opposed to these types of laws?

Meet Nick

In June 2008 in Iowa, Nick met Adam on a dating website. They hung out at Nick’s apartment, spent a few hours getting to know each other, and eventually had sex. A few days later, Adam heard through the grapevine that Nick was HIV-positive.

The next month, three armed detectives stormed Nick’s workplace, took him to the local hospital, and ordered nurses to take his blood. Meanwhile, police were searching his house for drugs — not illicit drugs, but lifesaving antiretroviral drugs. Nick was arrested. His crime? Criminal transmission of HIV.

Even though Adam never got HIV. Continue reading