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 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

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

Over 90 Percent of What Planned Parenthood Does, Part 3: STD Testing

Welcome to the latest installment of “Over 90 Percent of What Planned Parenthood Does,” a series on Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona’s blog that highlights Planned Parenthood’s diverse array of services — the ones Jon Kyl doesn’t know about.

What is a sexually transmitted disease (STD)? It’s an infection that you receive or transmit through unprotected sexual contact. It can happen with one encounter or with multiple partners. Sometimes people say, “I’m a virgin, how can I get an STD?” These infectious diseases may be transmitted to another person through kissing or direct skin-to-skin contact, as well as bodily fluids such as blood, semen, or vaginal and cervical secretions.

More than half of us will have an STD at some point.

There’s no doubt about it, sexually transmitted diseases are a risk for anyone who is sexually active. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that there are 19 million new infections reported each year, and almost half of them are among young people ages 15 to 24. The Guttmacher Institute states that by the age of 17, most teens have had intercourse (vaginal sex). Arizona Department of Health reports show that our rates of chlamydia are increasing and gonorrhea and syphilis rates are remaining fairly steady, especially among teens and young adults. The American Social Health Association says that more than half of all people will contract an STD at some point in their lives.

Left untreated, STDs can create health problems for those infected. Untreated chlamydia and gonorrhea can lead to pelvic inflammatory disease, increased chances of tubal pregnancies, and chronic pelvic pain. In the worst-case scenario, these infections can lead to permanent infertility. Continue reading

STDs: The Basic Facts

GetTested150Coupons for STD-screening discounts in April 2013 are available here.

Anyone who is sexually active is at risk for contracting a sexually transmitted disease (STD). You can acquire an STD through vaginal, anal or oral sexual contact with an infected partner who may or may not have symptoms or signs of an infection.  Most of these infections do not go away on their own.  You may be embarrassed or feel guilty if you think you have a sexually transmitted infection, but it’s important to see your doctor. Untreated STDs can cause complications for your health and the health of your partner.

STDs are usually caused by bacteria or viruses.  Some common symptoms may include:

  • Rashes, open sores, blisters or warts in the genital area
  • Uncomfortable or painful intercourse
  • Swelling or tenderness
  • Pus, bleeding, odor or abnormal discharge
  • Burning during urination
  • Sometimes there may be no symptoms at all

Women usually make an appointment with their gynecologist, but both men and women may see their regular doctor for STD testing.  Anyone can make an appointment for an STD test using Planned Parenthood’s website.  For a discount code, click here. Continue reading