April 10 Is National Youth HIV & AIDS Awareness Day

The following is a guest post by Planned Parenthood Arizona’s Director of Education Vicki Hadd-Wissler, M.A.

Young people born in the 1980s belong to the first generation to have never known a world without HIV and AIDS. The numbers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are alarming, with young people between the ages of 13 and 29 accounting for almost 40 percent of new HIV infections in the United States! In Arizona, people ages 25 to 29 had the highest infection rate (28.1 per 100,000), and people ages 20 to 24 come in second with 26.1 per 100,000. It is estimated that 13 percent of those infected with HIV (in all age groups) are unaware they are infected — and, among HIV-positive youth ages 18 to 24, an estimated 44 percent are unaware of their status.


Help the next generation know a world where AIDS no longer poses a threat to a vibrant, healthy future.


National Youth HIV & AIDS Awareness Day (NYHAAD) on April 10 provides an excellent opportunity to discuss the importance of prevention, promote HIV testing, and help reduce the stigma often associated with HIV and STDs in general.

First organized in 2013 by Advocates for Youth, NYHAAD is intended to serve as an annual wake-up call to organize and educate young people about HIV and AIDS, and press leaders for investments in medical advancements and prevention strategies. The observance has received less attention nationally this year than in past years — no doubt due to the need to focus on saving the Affordable Care Act. But we can still be activists on the issue of HIV awareness. All of us have a young person(s) in our lives who we care deeply about. Let’s mark our calendars for April 10 as a day to commit to having a conversation with them to share important, life-enhancing information. Continue reading

Taking Action: This Month and Beyond

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

three-pp-supportersAn end to zero-copay birth control. Millions kicked off their health insurance. Abortion out of reach to a majority of Americans. The Environmental Protection Agency helmed by someone who believes the environment is not worthy of protection. Racists and white nationalists at the highest levels of the executive branch of the federal government. A registry of all Muslims and bans on their entry into our country.

Is this really real life? The Electoral College and incoming administration do not represent a majority of American voters, and yet voters are left with little recourse to stop the runaway Trump train. But this is America (right?), and our liberty to assemble all people who support freedom along with our ability to speak truth to power is the cornerstone of what we’re about — personal responsibility, liberty, and freedom — for everyone. Instead of building a wall, let’s open the door to solidarity and protect the rights endowed by the Constitution.

Emboldened by the election of Donald Trump as president, Republicans in Congress are expected once again to push to end federal funding for Planned Parenthood. They could attach such a measure to legislation to repeal the Affordable Care Act, which President-elect Trump said he would ask Congress to do immediately. A vote to eliminate Planned Parenthood from Medicaid could come as early as January 28; grassroots action is critical to having our voice heard! Continue reading

Meet Our Candidates: Athena Salman for State Representative, LD 26

The Arizona general election will be held on November 8, 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 election, you must have been registered to vote by October 10. Make your voice heard in 2016!

athena-salman-scaledLegislative District 26, which includes Tempe, Mesa, Phoenix, and the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community, is the home of Arizona State University, where Athena Salman got her start in student government. She now seeks a seat in the Arizona House of Representatives, where she hopes to continue LD 26’s tradition of fighting for such important causes as education, reproductive justice, LGBTQ equality, and immigrants’ rights.


“Sex education empowers young people to make informed decisions and leads to healthier communities.”


Some might say that Athena Salman was destined to dedicate her life to serving her community: Her mother named her after the Greek goddess because “the world needed more heroines.” Her activism began in childhood, blossomed in college when she organized fellow students to protest budget cuts to universities, and continues to this day. Her recent work has centered around increasing voter engagement among Latinos — campaigns that ultimately increased Latino voter registration by 500 percent — as well as empowering girls and young women through her involvement with Girl Scouts. Once in the House of Representatives, she will continue to fight for women’s rights, voting rights, and keeping education accessible to all Arizonans — “from cradle to career,” as she says on her website.

In LD 26, Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona recommends casting your two votes for House of Representatives for Athena Salman and Isela Blanc, candidates dedicated to social justice and making Arizona a better place for everyone. Ms. Salman generously took the time to answer our questions on October 21, 2016.

Tell us a little about your background.

I am a native Arizonan and community leader. I have worked tirelessly to strengthen the fabric of our communities. This year, I was presented with Tempe’s MLK Diversity Award for my experience advocating for women, education, working families, and immigrants. In light of severe budget cuts to education I organized hundreds of students to protest and pass state legislation. I have worked on several successful campaigns to expand Latino voter engagement, served as a union shop steward, empowered women and girls through Girl Scouts, built community support for early childhood development through First Things First, and authored national health care and higher education policy. I graduated magna cum laude from Arizona State University with degrees in economics and political science. Continue reading

Meet Our Candidates: Ian Danley for Phoenix Union High School District Governing Board

The Arizona general election will be held on November 8, 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 election, you must have been registered to vote by October 10. Make your voice heard in 2016!

ian-danleyPhoenix Union High School District is one of the most recent districts in Arizona to implement a comprehensive sex education policy, one that includes medically accurate, age-appropriate information on anatomy, reproduction, and biology; teaches students how to reduce risk of unintended pregnancy and STDs; and “empower[s] students to make informed decisions and create healthy relationships.” While these topics should form the basis of any sex education program, they are sadly lacking in most of Arizona’s classrooms, despite the demand for them.


“Helping our students learn and understand how to protect themselves, their relationships, their health, and their bodies is something we want for ALL of our students.”


Electing school board members who understand how important sex education is to students’ well-being is a crucial task for the savvy voter, and the parents and students of Phoenix Union are lucky that their district has forward-thinking folks at the helm — folks like Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona’s endorsed candidates Ian Danley and Lela Alston. Unfortunately, school boards are constrained by state laws, which in Arizona represent the weakest link in even the most progressive sex education policies.

The state of Arizona has forbidden schools from portraying same-sex sexual behavior in a positive light since 1991. In October 2015, the Phoenix Union High School District Governing Board issued a resolution expressing regret that their sex education policy, “while it is a significant step forward, is not truly inclusive.” And, despite their wish to be inclusive of all students, such as their LGBTQ kids, archaic state law has the district in a straitjacket. The school board has called this law “offensive” and “shaming,” and states that it “has no place in Arizona educational policy.”

Earlier this year, Democratic lawmakers attempted to repeal this law at the state level, but they were blocked by the Republican majority. The tension between the wishes of a local school board and state-mandated homophobia illustrates perfectly why it’s so important to vote the entire length of the ballot. Your state government makes educational policies that impact each district and each student. And, in Arizona, school boards have their hands tied by state-level legislation that prohibits them from offering their students the best curricula. Continue reading

Meet Our Candidates: Lela Alston for Phoenix Union High School District Governing Board

The Arizona general election will be held on November 8, 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 election, you must have been registered to vote by October 10. Make your voice heard in 2016!

photo of Lela - headshot 4-2014 copyPhoenix Union High School District governing board candidate Lela Alston is back and at it again. A longtime school teacher and current member of the House of Representatives, Ms. Alston is running for reelection to the governing board of the Phoenix Union High School District. Ms. Alston’s impressive track record of public service reflects her commitment to Arizona’s children and families, for whom she is striving to build a better future. As a school board member, Ms. Alston will continue to advocate for comprehensive sexuality education programs, fight for adequate funding, and celebrate inclusivity and diversity.


“Our students will be healthier in their current lives and in their future lives if they have full knowledge of important subjects such as contraception and HIV/AIDS.”


Ms. Alston participated in our “Meet Our Candidates” series in 2012 and 2014 as a candidate for the House of Representatives, and on October 10, 2016, she graciously agreed to a telephone interview in which she discussed her candidacy for PUHSD school board.

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

I am a retired teacher from PUHSD, and I was asked to run by my colleagues when they felt the board was not supportive of students, faculty, and other employees. I have long been involved in the political world, and I have always had education, children, and families at the top of my agenda. I served in the state Senate from 1977 to 1995, and in 1994 I ran for State School Superintendent and lost to Lisa Graham Keegan. After that, I went back to teaching school full time. I retired 10 years ago, and eight years ago there was an opening on the school board for which I was asked to run. I am now running for my third term on the school board and I have in the meantime gone back to serving my legislative district in the state House. This year I will be starting my seventh year in the House, so I will be term-limited from the House after this next two years.

As a teacher I taught home-economics, and my master’s is in child development and human relations, so the issues of education, family, and children just kind of naturally fit with the issues I have championed all my adult life. Continue reading

Meet Our Candidates: Kelli Butler for State Representative, LD 28

The Arizona general election will be held on November 8, 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 election, you must have been registered to vote by October 10. Make your voice heard in 2016!

kelli-butler-2016-scaledThe 28th legislative district has, until recently, been represented in the House by Democrat Eric Meyer and Republican Kate Brophy McGee, making it one of the state’s few swing districts. Dr. Eric Meyer, although termed out of the House, was not done fighting for his values and District 28. Evaluating his competition, incumbent Adam Driggs announced that he would not seek reelection. Kate Brophy McGee jumped at the opportunity to get in the Senate race, leaving two seats in the House up for grabs.

Kelli Butler, a Democrat, hopes to occupy one of those seats, keeping LD 28’s House representation split between one Democrat and one Republican.

Ms. Butler will be squaring off against Mary Hamway and Maria Syms, both of whom support heavy restrictions on abortion.  Ms. Syms also opposes including sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression in nondiscrimination laws. While all three House candidates have made education a central part of their platforms, Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona trusts Ms. Butler to advocate for a very important aspect of children’s schooling: comprehensive sex education. For that reason, and because of her strong support for reproductive rights, we recommend a single-shot vote for Kelli Butler.

Education, the economy, and child safety represent the three pillars of Ms. Butler’s platform, and comprehensive sex education links all three of these issues together. Including comprehensive sex education in schools empowers students with the information they need to avoid sexually transmitted infections and unintended pregnancies — the latter of which will help reduce dropout rates among teenage girls. When teens are able to delay childbearing until after they complete their educations, they are able to obtain better jobs and be less dependent on public assistance, helping to strengthen the economy. Knowledge about preventing pregnancy can help them start their families when they are ready, helping children to be born into more stable homes that are ready to raise them.

We need lawmakers at the Capitol to introduce legislation that improves sex education in all of Arizona, rather than making piecemeal advances one district at a time. Even school districts with relatively progressive sex-ed programs are constrained by state laws that, for example, forbid teachers from presenting LGBTQ folks in a positive light. We need representatives like Ms. Butler to give local school districts better laws to work with.

Kelli Butler is running to represent Legislative District 28, which includes Paradise Valley and parts of Phoenix. She took the time for an interview with Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona on October 12, 2016.


“Medically accurate and age-appropriate sex education is vital to every person’s health and well-being.”


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

I am a native Arizonan and I grew up largely within the boundaries of my district. I attended local public schools at a time when Arizona was near the national average in per-student funding. We had access to quality programs and educational options that are no longer available to our public school students today. When my two boys attended our neighborhood public school, I witnessed the dire results of budget cuts — programs like art, music, and electives were cut, class sizes increased, and teachers began leaving the profession. I got involved in politics because I am a passionate advocate for education and I want to be part of a different vision for our state. Continue reading

Meet Our Candidates: Michael Muscato for State Senator, LD 22

The Arizona general election will be held on November 8, 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 election, you must have been registered to vote by October 10. Make your voice heard in 2016!

michaelmuscatoMichael Muscato was born and bred in Arizona, leaving the state briefly to play baseball, then moving to California, where he taught himself to be a recording engineer — a career that sent him around the globe supporting touring musicians and other entertainers. The year 2013 saw his homecoming to Peoria, where he raises his family in the community in which he grew up and now seeks to represent in the Arizona Senate.

Legislative District 22 includes Sun City West, Mountain Vista, Surprise, Peoria, and Lake Pleasant, and is currently represented in the state Senate by Judy Burges, who opposes comprehensive sex education, believes in severe restrictions on abortion, and would not include LGBTQ folks in nondiscrimination laws. Given that she doesn’t stand for the rights and health of her constituents — in the ability of children to learn about sexual health and healthy relationships, in the ability of women to control their bodies and fates, or in people’s right not to be discriminated against on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity — it’s time to replace Sen. Burges with someone who will stand for all of LD 22’s electorate.


“I actually care about people and fight for their interests and needs over those of corporations and special interests.”


In fact, it was his deep disappointment with Sen. Burges’ performance as a senator that compelled Mr. Muscato to run for the Arizona Senate. As he wrote in Your West Valley, “Nothing about her voting record on issues is in support of children, families, or small businesses. She has repeatedly voted against funding public education, continuously voted against KidsCare, and voted to cut TANFF for those most in need of help.”

Mr. Muscato generously took the time to answer our questions on October 10, 2016.

Tell us a little about your background.

I am a 32-year-old former minor league baseball player drafted by the New York Yankees. After finishing baseball I became a self-taught engineer and quickly became a director, crew chief, and systems engineer for some of the most famous entertainers in the world for their national and international tours and concerts. I am also a small business owner in LD 22, having started a CrossFit gym three years ago based on a passion of mine, which is fitness. I am the father of two little boys (Cooper, 21 months, and Canton, 2 months). I am happily married to my amazing wife, Alicia, and I could not be more proud to be in a position to represent my hometown this election. Continue reading