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

The American Health Care Act, Act 2

It’s time to raise your voice.

When the House of Representatives failed to pass the American Health Care Act in March, we thought they would move on to other things. They had already faced the wrath of their constituents in town halls across the country, defending themselves against charges that they were taking people’s health care away.

But a promise is a promise, and the Republicans had promised their voters they would get rid of Obamacare. So they began to negotiate — only instead of negotiating with the moderates in their party and perhaps some Democrats, they chose to work with the tea party faction, who now call themselves, without irony, the Freedom Caucus — which had disparaged the original AHCA as “Obamacare-lite.” If the angry constituents packing town halls to capacity thought the first iteration of the AHCA was too extreme, what on earth made House Republicans think a Freedom Caucus makeover would produce a bill that would inspire less animosity than the first?


We must insist that our representatives remember that health care is a matter of life and death.


So Tom MacArthur, a supposedly moderate Republican who makes Ronald Reagan look liberal, and Mark Meadows, the Freedom Caucus leader who makes Reagan look like a full-blown socialist, hammered out a deal. The tea party objection to the AHCA was that it didn’t get rid of the ACA’s regulations on insurance companies — such as barring insurers from charging more money to women, older patients, or patients with preexisting conditions, or requiring them to cover essential services like preventive health care without cost to patients, emergency services, prescription drugs, and prenatal care. MacArthur and Meadows’ supposed compromise allows states to apply for waivers to opt out of these essential services, or to allow higher rates for those with preexisting conditions if they set up “high-risk pools.” MacArthur’s constituents were not pleased. Continue reading

What’s in a Name: Repealing the Affordable Care Act

Supporters drop off petitions and rally at Rep. Martha McSally’s Tucson office, March 15, 2017

As this post goes to press, word has come that Speaker Paul Ryan has pulled the American Health Care Act, being unable to muster enough votes to pass it. So we have escaped that disaster, and it appears no attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act will proceed in the near future. But the fight is not over. Aspects of this bill will come up in other forms and we will have to be vigilant. But this is a victory for activism, so many thanks to all of you who made phone calls, demonstrated, told your stories, and reminded the Republicans that destroying something is not the same as governing.

So as you read this, realize what we have escaped, and what we need to watch out for as we proceed.


People were going to die. But the free market would have triumphed.


Republicans called it Obamacare, and used that name as a slur to run against President Obama in 2012. It didn’t win that race for them, but there are enough people in this country for whom the name Obama is enough to damn a program. One woman, whose son lost his job and had his monthly insurance premium fall from $567 to $88, attributes that decrease to the tax credits in Trump and Ryan’s new American Health Care Act. You know, the bill that never passed. In actuality, her son became eligible for a subsidy under Obamacare — the Affordable Care Act — which is still the law.

Paul Ryan and his cronies in the House of Representatives hated the Affordable Care Act before it was written. They hated it even more when it passed and more than that when it was implemented.

What did they hate about it? Continue reading

Meet Our Candidates: Alex Martinez for State Representative, 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 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!

Alex Martinez 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. It is a beautiful section of the state, and given that it is a rural district, its constituents have different needs compared to their urban counterparts in metro Phoenix and Tucson. Alex Martinez, our endorsed candidate for the Arizona House of Representatives in LD 6, seeks to help meet those needs.


“We have a vested interest in women’s health care issues and providing family planning services.”


Alex Martinez, a fifth-generation southwest native, was born, raised, and educated in Arizona, where he earned a bachelor’s degree, a master’s degree, and an Ed.D. at the University of Arizona. Additionally, he is a Navy veteran, having served six years in the enlisted ranks and 30 years as an officer.

Martinez has been a public school teacher, principal, and superintendent, and his experiences in Arizona’s public schools give credence to his belief in the importance of sex education as a resource students need to ensure they have all the information needed to make healthy decisions. In an interview on July 25, 2016, Martinez told us he would like to “introduce legislation that provides funds to districts that provide sexuality education,” as well as to “provide funds to develop a statewide program so that there is uniformity with instruction.” Continue reading

Meet Our Candidates: Steve Farley for State Senator, LD 9

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!

farleypicSen. Steve Farley, who faces no opposition in either the primary or the November election, told us that he’s been spending much of his time “working to try to get a pro-choice majority elected in the Legislature,” no surprise for the pro-choice stalwart and father of two daughters whom Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona has endorsed multiple times.

The 53-year-old artist and businessman has represented Legislative District 9 since 2012. Initially elected to the Arizona Legislature as State Representative from District 28 in 2006, Farley went on to become House Assistant Minority Leader. In the Senate, Farley serves as Assistant Minority Leader, and is the ranking Democrat on the Finance Committee. He also serves on the Appropriations, Financial Institutions, and Ethics Committees.


“All students are our future, no matter who they are or love.”


Recognizing Farley’s rising profile in the Legislature, the Arizona Republic named him one of 16 Arizonans to Watch in 2016. In a recent conversation, he noted with some surprise that readers and reporters of the Arizona Capitol Times voted him Best Arizona Democratic Elected Official in 2016.

“I didn’t expect it,” he told us, clearly pleased.

Sen. Farley has run a public art and graphic design business since 1991. He created the photographic tile murals around Tucson’s Broadway Underpass after he invented a process for converting photographs to glazed ceramic tile.

Sen. Farley was kind enough to take the time for a telephone interview on July 11, 2016.

What kind of beneficial legislation would you like to see introduced, and why do you think it’s important to fight for it?

The most important legislation that needs to be introduced would get rid of the bad legislation that’s been passed for eight years. They’ve been full speed ahead to attack women’s health. We need to restore the relationship between a doctor and that doctor’s patient. Don’t try to write scripts for them to read, or institute an abusive waiting period and make it as hard as possible for women in rural areas to access health care. Ensure that women have access to the full range of legal health services. Continue reading

Meet Our Candidates: David Bradley for State Senator, LD 10

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!

From 2003 to 2011, Dave Bradley represented what was then Tucson’s Legislative District 28 in the Arizona House of Representatives. Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona had the opportunity to speak with him during his campaigns for Arizona State Senate in both 2012 and 2014. During this time, Sen. Bradley has been a tireless advocate for health care and education access and equity.

He was kind enough to take the time for this interview with us on July 12, 2016.


“The Legislature is the last place that medical practices should be dictated.”


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?

I like to say that my dreams still outnumber my memories, and as such still believe that Arizona can rise from its historical morass of being so backward in its approach to commonsense issues of equality and women’s rights. The Legislature is always the arena where incremental progress is celebrated disproportionately. When we do commonsense things like pass Medicaid expansion or KidsCare, we are reinvigorated. There is a long way to go, but I choose to believe that time will be on our side. Continue reading

Meet Our Candidates: Fred DuVal for Governor of Arizona

The Arizona general election will be held on November 4, 2014, and early ballots need to go out in today’s mail! 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.” Make your voice heard in 2014!

Fred DuVal scaledIn recent years, many Arizonans have been rightly concerned by members of the Legislature passing bills that are overtly partisan, regressive, and extreme. As part of the executive branch of the government, one of the governor’s roles and responsibilities is to act as a check-and-balance on the Legislature: The governor can veto bills that are harmful. A governor who is consistently on the side of sexual and reproductive health care access could, at the very least, make it much more difficult for members of the Legislature to continue attacking women, the LGBTQ community, and organizations like Planned Parenthood.

Fred DuVal will be that governor. In addition to making education a fundamental platform in his campaign, Mr. DuVal has consistently placed himself in support of equal rights and meaningful health care access.

All of this is of vital importance, but none of it gets at the real reason I’m voting for Fred DuVal on November 4. During the course of this election, I’ve had the opportunity to speak with or meet a number of candidates, including the opportunity to meet Mr. DuVal twice through some campaign volunteer events organized by the Arizona Education Association. What struck me most about him was his willingness to listen — not just stop talking, but really step back and listen — to questions voters were asking or experiences they were sharing.

Put all of that together, and I know he’s the kind of person I want representing me.

Fred DuVal was kind enough to take some time out of his busy schedule to answer a few of our questions earlier this month.


“Extremism has dominated Arizona’s political landscape for far too long.”


Tell us a little about your background.

I grew up in Tucson, Arizona. After graduating from Occidental College, I returned to Arizona, where I earned my law degree from Arizona State University. I went on to serve in Bruce Babbit’s office, helping craft our Medicaid system and bringing the highest levels of education funding in state history. I have dedicated my life to making my state a better place to live and raise a family. I intend to continue that as Arizona’s next governor. My wife Jennifer and I live in Phoenix with our 4-year-old son. Our older son, Will, attends college and is an ROTC cadet.

Outgoing Gov. Jan Brewer had a major accomplishment when she pushed through Medicaid expansion, despite opposition from within her own party. What will you do to build upon that success and ensure that every Arizonan has access to quality health care?

I applaud Gov. Brewer’s decision to continue to fund Medicaid. Arizona’s AHCCCS system has been praised as one of the best in the country, and as governor I would keep it that way. I fully intend on keeping Medicaid expansion; ensuring all Arizonans have access to high-quality, affordable health care is one of the main goals of my administration. Continue reading