STD Awareness: Confronting Sky-High STD Rates

For the past five years, Americans have been breaking records left and right — a good thing when we’re talking about athletic feats or scientific breakthroughs, but not so great when we’re shattering records for catching sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). Chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis are all on the upswing, with a combined 2.3 million cases in 2017 — and those are just the cases that were reported. Since most people with these infections don’t know they have them, the real number is thought to be much higher. The United States has the dubious honor of boasting the highest STD rates of all industrialized countries — though rates are also climbing in England and Western Europe.

The good news is that these three STDs are preventable and curable. Sexually active people can dramatically reduce their risk by using condoms and dental dams, or by being in mutually monogamous relationships in which partners test negative for these infections. And, because many STDs don’t show symptoms, it’s important for them to receive regular STD screening to ensure infections are caught and cured before they can do any damage.

But there’s also bad news. First, while the symptoms of these infections can be awful, they compel you to seek prompt treatment — making these awful symptoms a good thing, in a weird way. Unfortunately, most people with these infections don’t have symptoms, allowing the bacteria that cause them to spread silently from person to person. If not caught, chlamydia and gonorrhea can lead to chronic pain and fertility problems, and syphilis can lead to organ damage and even death. These infections can also increase HIV risk and be passed to a baby during childbirth. 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

Pro-Choice Friday News Rundown

  • Let’s start this week’s rundown on a ridiculous note. Apparently a bunch of weirdos think a sticker on the head of a penis is an alternative to a condom. #FacePalm (Slate)
  • 45’s administration defunding evidence-based sex ed in favor of abstinence-only propaganda will not make America great. (Tucson Weekly)
  • Rep. Ben Ray Luján — the chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee — became the latest to suggest that 2018 Democratic candidates don’t have to be pro-choice. While he didn’t clarify this comment, what I’m hoping he means is that Democratic candidates can be personally pro-life, as long as they are active in protecting the LEGAL RIGHT women have to abortions. If this isn’t what he meant, he’s sadly misguided and has no business representing or leading the party. (NY Mag)
  • More on that? This Atlantic article about the Democratic Party’s “abortion dilemma” is also concerning. It worries me that we continue to hear about “pro-life” Democrats and whether or not they should be “welcomed” by members the party and supported when they run for office. First of all, pro-choice people are also pro-life. We value the lives of all people. We value and respect the choices of women who wish to bring life into the world and women who do not. I think it’s perfectly acceptable for a Democrat not to embrace abortion personally. What is not acceptable is to legislate in a manner that disempowers women from making choices regarding their wombs. It would be a GRAVE mistake for Democrats to support candidates who would cruelly force women to endure unwanted pregnancies. Reproductive rights are human rights. This should not represent a “dilemma” to a party that purports to care about human rights. (The Atlantic)
  • Virginia, why is there a need for you to go down the forced vaginal ultrasound path other than to humiliate and violate women? (Rewire)
  • Texas, why is it easier to buy a gun that has the potential to kill scores of people than to access abortion in your state? What a shame we live in a society that so clearly values punishing women for their sexual behavior over protecting living, breathing people. (Houston Chronicle)
  • Other wretched news out of Texas? They’re looking to restrict insurers from covering abortion. What other safe, legal medical procedure would they dare try this on? Can’t think of any? Me neither. (Texas Tribune)
  • Renee Bracey Sherman wrote a great piece for The New York Times about the concern anti-abortion activists claim to have for “black lives” terminated by abortion, but not via police killings. She states, “Far too often, compassion for black lives doesn’t extend beyond the womb or to the black women carrying that womb.” (NYT)
  • Jessica Valenti of The Guardian reminds us all that pregnancy has the potential to be lethal and that no one should be forced to give birth against their will. (The Guardian)
  • A nonprofit in the U.S. is helping throw women in El Salvador in prison for having abortions. Disgusting. (Slate)

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

Pro-Choice Friday News Rundown

  • The Congressional Budget Office just released its scoring of “Trumpcare.” As anyone with half a wit about them presumed, it’s not favorable. And it’s not a good look for the GOP. Twenty-three million Americans stand to lose their health care coverage over a 10-year period. Others, with chronic illnesses and preexisting conditions, would pay much, much more for health care OR lose it altogether. But hey, at least rich, healthy people would be OK and premiums for some will drop in price simply because the plans cover less. Tell me again how this is a win for the majority of Americans? The health and welfare of MILLIONS of people are being sacrificed so the wealthy can have even MORE of a financial advantage? (WaPo)
  • Also in the headlines re: “Trumpcare Is Astronomically Bad”: “GOP health-care bill could cost women $1,000 more per month for ‘maternity’ insurance coverage — and even more when they have kids.” And again I’ll remind you, this is all being done so rich people can be more rich. Please don’t ever forget that important fact. (CNBC)
  • Not only should the left NOT abandon so-called “identity politics,” women of color should lead the identity politics movement. OUR issues represent the future direction of progressive politics! (Salon)
  • Why does the gender pay gap persist? Motherhood. (NY Times)
  • Planned Parenthood Arizona allowed an Allure Magazine writer to spend three days following staff and patients at our Maryvale clinic in Phoenix serving Title X and Medicaid patients. Women’s stories are so powerful. (Allure)
  • Meanwhile, Iowa has cut Planned Parenthood off from federal Medicaid reimbursements and we are being forced to close four clinics there. So disappointing and disheartening for the people who rely on our care. (Mother Jones)
  • If you thought 45’s administration couldn’t get any crueler, buckle up. The budget he released earlier this week would cut off food for poor people who have too many kids. So let’s put this into perspective. They want to make it harder to prevent pregnancy by eliminating poor people’s access to Planned Parenthood by cutting us off from federal Medicaid dollars. They want to make it impossible to abort a pregnancy a woman does not want or cannot afford. And then if you have the misfortune of being economically disadvantaged but have multiple children, they want to starve them to death. Wow. Could these people BE any more pro-life? (WaPo)
  • The administration is cool with wasting $277 million on abstinence-only education though — despite tons of evidence it’s ineffective! (Bustle)
  • There’s Been a Huge Increase in Campus Sex Assaults. Why?! (The Daily Beast)
  • Danielle Ofri, a physician at Bellevue Hospital in New York, wrote a terrific piece for Slate about the history of our broken health care system and how times and opinions about health care being a basic human right in this country are a’changing. Universal health care, here we come? (Slate)
  • The GOP attacks on Planned Parenthood in Iowa are hitting low-income women especially hard. (Salon)
  • For more than 10 years, women around the world have had access to online abortion. It’s time for the U.S. to catch up. (HuffPo)
  • We’ve said it a million times and we’re going to continue to say it as the evidence mounts: Federally qualified health centers CANNOT step in seamlessly to provide the care Planned Parenthood does. Our absence would harm millions of people for the foreseeable future. To quote the great Beyonce, we are IRREPLACEABLE.  (Guttmacher)
  • Even in a state as “blue” as California, abortion can be hard to come by for many women. (Rewire)
  • 45’s administration has done everything under the sun to wage war against women’s health, our economic livelihoods, and our futures. (WaPo)
  • Let’s end this on a funny note. An anonymous “fetus” wrote a letter to Mick Mulvaney — 45’s penny-pinching budget director who thinks the rich should get to pay obscenely low taxes while “the poors” suffer without medical care and food stamps. Nothing like satire from the unborn! Ha! (Slate XX Factor)

Meet Our Candidates: Scott Prior for State Senator, LD 16

The Arizona primary election takes place TODAY! Find your polling location here. 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 today’s primary election, you need to have been registered to vote by August 1. Missed the deadline? You can still register online for November’s general election. Make your voice heard in 2016!

Scott Prior is resilient and tenacious in his commitment to underrepresented citizens. He is running for the state Senate in Arizona’s Legislative District 16 for the third time. He previously ran in 2012 and 2014, at which time he shared his thoughts with Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona (PPAA). PPAA has endorsed Mr. Prior each time because as a Democrat who is independent-minded, he places the interest of people over the interest of profit. He is committed to individual freedom and believes that human dignity should come before corporate, government, or religious interests. Mr. Prior’s wife is running in the same district for the state House of Representatives. Scott and Cara have been married 20 years and live in Apache Junction. They are both committed to reproductive justice.


“Sex education should be age-appropriate and provided in schools.”


Legislative District 16 includes Apache Junction, East Mesa, Gold Canyon, and northern San Tan Valley. Mr. Prior will be running against Republican David Farnsworth. Sen. Farnsworth believes that abortions should always be illegal and does not believe that the Arizona government should fund clinics and medical facilities that provide abortion services. Sen. Farnsworth also does not support sex education in schools, increasing funding for programs to prevent teen pregnancy, the inclusion of sexual orientation in Arizona’s anti-discrimination laws, or recognizing same-sex marriages.

On July 8, 2016, Mr. Prior generously took time to share his thoughts with PPAA again via Skype, sharing why he is more determined than ever to win this election.

Since PPAA last spoke with you, 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?

The serious mistakes made over the last two years by the state Legislature have made me even more resolved to make a difference in the state of Arizona. Funding for schools has been slashed while corporate tax breaks and funding for private prisons have been increased. I do not want to see what has happened in Kansas happen in Arizona. In Kansas, there has not been enough money to keep the schools open the entire year.

As a secular humanist, I do not believe or follow any religion. It is unacceptable for the Phoenix City Council and the Arizona Legislature to deny all but Judeo-Christian faiths from taking part in opening invocations. It is important that we all understand the importance of the separation of church and state. Continue reading

Meet Our Candidates: Kristel Foster for Tucson Unified School Board

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 need to have been registered to vote by August 1. Missed the deadline? You can still register online for November’s general election. Make your voice heard in 2016!

kristel fosterKristel Ann Foster is a Spanish-speaking educator first elected to the Tucson Unified School District Governing Board in 2012. She’s seeking a second term. A language-acquisition specialist with degrees from Northern Arizona University and the University of Arizona, she’s spent her entire career teaching and developing curricula — in Sunnyside Unified School District; at the University of Arizona, as a clinical assistant professor; in the Aurora, Colorado, public schools; and at the Discovery School in Cuernavaca, Mexico.


“Knowledge empowers individuals to better their lives.”


Foster has said that she’s proud of her work with Superintendent H.T. Sanchez and fellow Board members Cam Juarez and Adelita Grijalva to craft a Five Year Strategic Plan that offers “continuity, stability, and articulated vision [that] was missing for a long time in TUSD.’’

“I am an educator who understands how critical the political process and actions by elected officials are to the effectiveness and success of our public schools,’’ Foster writes on her Facebook page. “I am also aware of the serious attacks that public programs are under. My passion for quality public education and dedication to the students and teachers in our community inspire my service on the Tucson Unified School District’s Governing Board.’’

Foster responded by email on July 21, 2016, to questions Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona posed.

Tell us a little about your background and why it’s important to you to be involved with education in your community.

I am an educator with 25 years of teaching experience. I’ve directly experienced policy decisions in the classroom and know how these affect teaching and learning. I’m honored to bring this perspective to the discussions we have on the TUSD Board as we move our school district forward. Continue reading