STD Awareness: Sexually Transmitted Infections and Seniors

For a while now, seniors plus sex has equaled a surefire route to punchlines and nervous giggles. Take, for instance, an episode of Amy Poehler’s old TV show, Parks and Recreation, titled “Sex Education.” In the opening scene, Poehler’s character Leslie Knope sets up the premise of the episode:

Soon, Knope and her team of public servants find themselves giving information about sexual health to an audience full of elderly citizens, which attracts the attention of abstinence advocates, who accuse her of moral depravity. Hilarity ensues. Funny stuff!

Funny, but based on a not-so-funny reality: Baby boomers and other older people are facing rising rates of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), both here in Arizona and nationwide, as well as across the pond in Jolly Old England.

Earlier this year, the Arizona Department of Health Services released data showing an increase in STD rates among people 55 years of age or older. For example, in Maricopa County, this population more than doubled its gonorrhea rate, which climbed from 6.1 cases per 100,000 people in 2012, to 12.7 per 100,000 people in 2014. That’s still much lower than the overall rate for Arizona, which was 97.8 cases per 100,000 people in 2013, but the fact that the rates of gonorrhea and other STDs are spiking among the 55-plus population is alarming nevertheless. Continue reading

Jon Tells Us Why He Interned With Planned Parenthood

The following post comes to us via Jon Brown, a journalism student, aspiring voice actor, and current Planned Parenthood Arizona intern.

JonMy name is Jon Brown. I’m a student at Arizona State University. I chose to intern at Planned Parenthood because, quite simply, I believe in what they do (yes, guys support Planned Parenthood too). From campaigning for women’s rights during the era of suffrage to pushing uncomfortable yet necessary conversations (such as STD testing) into public focus, I have stood by their beliefs and I admire them for having the courage to stand up on controversial issues when no one else will.


I expected more of a passive role when I first started working here. I couldn’t have been more wrong.


Planned Parenthood doesn’t only focus on women’s issues, they tackle any social issue that they feel needs addressing. At a recent luncheon called I Stand with Planned Parenthood, they brought on guest speaker Ashley Spillane, who is the president of Rock the Vote, an organization dedicated to increasing the youth involvement in politics.

So, you know I like the organization, but I absolutely love the part of it that I interned with directly. The department head for whom I interned and everyone at the organization I encountered have been wonderful. They made me feel welcome, and instead of handing me a list of responsibilities they asked me what I wanted to get out of this internship. I’m a journalism major and I was looking for public relations experience, so I worked on the social media aspects of this organization. Continue reading

GYT: The New Third Date!

handsThe following guest post comes to us via Kate Thomas, community sexuality educator for Planned Parenthood Arizona. Kate has her master’s degree in public health from the University of Arizona and a passion for ensuring that people of all ages have access to the information, resources, and support they need to be sexually healthy.

The infamous third date … Why does it carry so much pressure? Media and peer pressure tell us that the third date equals sex. But, after only three dates, how can you know if you’re ready to jump into bed with someone? Have you talked to your partner about their expectations and yours? Have you discussed your sexual histories? When was the last time the two of you were tested for sexually transmitted diseases (STDs)? Never fear! Planned Parenthood Arizona is here to help.


Make a date at Planned Parenthood Arizona for discounted individual and couple’s STD testing in April!


April is GYT month. GYT: Get Yourself Talking. Get Yourself Tested. During the month of April, Planned Parenthood Arizona will be offering discounted STD testing at its health centers. We sexuality educators recommend getting tested with every new partner, or at least once a year. GYT month is a great time to get your STD screening done for a great price!

Getting tested for STDs — it’s the new third date! So plan on going to a Planned Parenthood Arizona health center with your new partner, and get your STD tests. While you’re waiting for the results, you’ll have some time to discuss your sexual histories, expectations, boundaries, likes and dislikes, and you’ll have time to get to know them even better! Imagine how amazing it will be to make a physical connection with someone when you know that they have already been cleared or treated for any STDs. Your fourth date will be that much more to look forward to.

We understand that not everyone gets tested with their new partner before having sex. Just be sure to practice safer sex and use condoms or dental dams to protect against STDs. Always use a new condom or dental dam with every sex act (vaginal, oral, and anal) from beginning to end, and make a plan to get tested as soon as possible.

GYT: Get Yourself Talking. Get Yourself Tested. Planned Parenthood Arizona is here to help you stay sexually healthy through our health services, education, and advocacy efforts. And, during the month of April, we’re offering discounts on some of our STD screening services so that you and your partner can prioritize one another’s sexual health, whether it’s your third date or your thousandth. Visit ppaz.org for more information, and be sure to follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and our new Tumblr!

Arm Yourself Against Genital Warts and Cancer!

RosieVaccineBWVaccines are pretty nifty: Injecting a few tiny particles stimulates your immune system to build antibodies, which can bind to and help destroy harmful pathogens. A well-oiled immune system can neutralize these invaders before they have a chance to make you sick! In the war against infectious disease, we should be boosting our immune systems at every opportunity, and vaccines are one of the best weapons in our arsenal.

You’ve probably heard of HPV, or human papillomavirus, which causes genital warts and certain cancers. HPV has the dubious honor of being the most common sexually transmitted pathogen — some call it “the common cold of STDs.” According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “HPV is so common that nearly all sexually-active men and women get it at some point in their lives. This is true even for people who only have sex with one person in their lifetime.”


You might not know how easy it is to contract HPV — vaccination allows you to take charge of your health.


There are many strains of HPV. “Low-risk” strains can cause genital warts, which aren’t usually harmful but might be upsetting. “High-risk” strains can cause cancers of the cervix, anus, vagina, vulva, penis, mouth, and throat. The good news is that a vaccine called Gardasil protects against HPV-6 and HPV-11, which cause 90 percent of genital warts, and HPV-16 and HPV-18, which cause 70 percent of cervical cancers and 90 percent of anal cancers.

With protection available against a common virus that can cause upsetting warts or fatal cancer, you’d think that everyone would be lining up for Gardasil shots — but, unfortunately, vaccination rates are very low in the United States. Many of us opt out of vaccination for ourselves or our children because we don’t realize how easily HPV is acquired, or we minimize its potential to harm.

HPV is easier to contract than you might think, so if you think the risk is too small to outweigh other justifications against immunization, read on — you might not be aware of just how easy it is to acquire this wily virus. Vaccination is an empowering option for those of us who want to do all we can to take our health into our own hands. And, by being immunized, we can play a role in driving cancer-causing viruses into extinction, which would be feasible with sufficiently improved vaccination rates. Continue reading

STD Awareness: 10 Myths About Sexually Transmitted Diseases

The Internet is brimming with contradictory claims about sexual health, and you don’t know what to believe. Your friends give you advice, but you’re not sure if it sounds right. To make things worse, you might not have had evidence-based, medically accurate sex education in your school. In this edition of our STD Awareness series, we’ll take on a few myths about sexually transmitted diseases to help you sort fact from fiction.

1 MYTH: You can tell if someone has an STD by looking at them.
You might expect that if someone has an STD, their genitals would have blisters, warts, or noticeable discharge. But your partner looks fine, so you might think there’s no need to ask when his or her last STD test was.

However, while many people with STDs do have visible symptoms, they’re the exception rather than the rule. For example, three out of four women and half of men with chlamydia have no symptoms. Herpes is often spread when there are no symptoms present. Someone can be infected with HIV — and capable of transmitting it to others — and go years without showing any signs. A quick visual inspection can’t tell you very much about someone’s STD status.

2 MYTH: You can’t get an STD from oral sex.
While it is generally true that oral sex presents less of a risk for contracting STDs, this risk is not trivial. Most STDs can be passed along by oral sex, including chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis, hepatitis B, herpes, human papillomavirus (HPV), and HIV. You can reduce your risk by using barrier methods like condoms and dental dams consistently and correctly.

3 MYTH: Condoms can’t prevent the spread of HIV.
Many proponents of abstinence-only education state that condoms don’t protect against HIV, claiming that latex condoms have holes that are large enough for viruses to pass through. This claim isn’t backed by evidence. An intact latex condom dramatically reduces your risk of being exposed to sexually transmitted viruses such as HIV. (It is true that a lambskin condom does not provide adequate protection against HIV.) Continue reading

What the Holidays Mean for Your Sexual Health

The following guest post comes to us via Morganne Rosenhaus, community engagement coordinator for Planned Parenthood Arizona.

The holidays bring a lot of joy, a lot of yummy treats, and, apparently, a lot of sex.

Rumor has it that during the holidays, we are all increasingly likely to have sex. Perhaps it’s the merry spirit of the holidays or maybe it’s the abundance of holiday parties. It’s tough to discern exactly what it is that accounts for this increase in sex, but the “why” is not nearly as important as the “how.”

Yes, exactly. How are people having sex? Are they having safe and protected sex? Are they having consensual sex? For Planned Parenthood Arizona, the “how” is the most important part.

As an organization that seeks to provide honest information and compassionate care to patients, the “how” matters to us. We want the men, women, and young people we serve to be healthy — to have healthy relationships and to have safe sex.

As one of the largest reproductive health care providers in Arizona, serving more than 60,000 patients each year, it is important to us that our patients have the tools they need to make the best decisions for themselves and their families when it comes to reproductive health.

At the end of the day, Planned Parenthood Arizona is here to help you have a safe, but enjoyable holiday season! Here are some simple steps to stay healthy and protect your reproductive health this holiday season:

  • Use condoms. You can get condoms at any Planned Parenthood Arizona health center.
  • Back up your birth control with emergency contraception. Get Plan B now, just in case your Plan A doesn’t work out like you expected. Yep, we have Plan B too.
  • Start off the New Year healthy by making an appointment to get your annual check up, including an STD screening, at your local Planned Parenthood Arizona health center.

There are 13 Planned Parenthood Arizona health centers throughout Arizona. Be sure to check and see if you have one near you at www.ppaz.org and call 602-277-PLAN (7526) in Phoenix, 520-408-PLAN (7526) in Tucson, or toll-free 855-207-PLAN (7526) from anywhere else in the state to make an appointment today.

So, does the holiday season really correlate with an uptick in passion? The jury is still out on that rumor. But it sure is something more exciting than holiday socks to look forward to each year!

What Is Title X? Free or Sliding-Scale Family Planning Services in Arizona

The Jean Hoffman Health Center in Tucson is a Title X location.

What is Title X (Title 10)? And why should I care?

The short answer: Title X may mean that some people qualify for free or reduced-cost family planning services, which could impact their ability to meaningfully access health care. In a time of rising health care costs and precarious employment, that is no small thing.

The longer explanation: Title X is a federal family planning program that was enacted in 1970. For anyone keeping historical tabs, this means that Republican President Richard Nixon signed this piece of legislation into action. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Population Affairs, “The Title X program is designed to provide access to contraceptive services, supplies and information to all who want and need them. By law, priority is given to persons from low-income families.” While there are other federally funded health care sources for people with low incomes, Title X remains the only source dedicated specifically to family planning services.


If you can’t afford family-planning and sexual health services, Title X may help.


In Arizona, the Arizona Family Health Partnership uses Title X funds to provide services to approximately 40,000 people each year. Most of these people have incomes at or below the federal poverty line and may not otherwise have access to health care. Four Arizona Planned Parenthood health centers receive Title X funds through the Arizona Family Health Partnership to provide reduced cost sexual and reproductive health care. Continue reading