STD Awareness: Prevention vs. Punishment

Before antibiotics, syphilis could kill and gonorrhea was responsible for most cases of infertility. Both diseases could spread from husband to wife to baby, potentially destroying families. So you’d think medical breakthroughs in prevention and cures would be welcomed with open arms.

The actual history, like the humans who create it, is much more complicated.


Compassion, rather than fear and guilt, should guide medical practice.


During World War I, sexually transmitted diseases were a huge problem — second only to the 1918 flu pandemic in the number of sick days they caused (7 million, if you’re counting). The Roaring Twenties saw a sexual revolution, and by World War II, the military was once more fretting about losing manpower to debilitating infections that drew men away from the front lines and into the sick bays.

The armed forces did what it could to suppress prostitution and distract soldiers with recreational activities. But the human sex drive could not be contained: The vast majority of U.S. soldiers were having sex — even an estimated half of married soldiers were not faithful to their wives during WWII. Victory depended on soldiers’ health, so during both WWI and WWII, the military provided its sexually active soldiers with “prophylaxis,” medical treatments that could reduce risk for venereal disease — or VD, as sexually transmitted diseases were called back then.

Anyone who thinks condoms are a hassle or “don’t feel good” should read medical historian Allan M. Brandt’s description of a WWI-era prophylactic station, which soldiers were instructed to visit after sexual contact: Continue reading

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

SB 1367: Grieving Families Are a Casualty of Arizona’s Latest Attack on Abortion

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

Senate Bill 1367, also known as the “live delivery” or “fetal torture” bill, depending on your worldview, was signed into law on March 31 by Gov. Doug Ducey.

Proponents of SB 1367 framed the bill as one that would give “survivors” of abortion a “chance at life” by requiring abortion providers to be trained in and stock equipment needed for “neonatal resuscitation” to keep the baby alive by any means necessary. Opponents pointed out that the chances of a late abortion resulting in a live delivery are slim to none, and the law would have “cruel consequences for grieving parents.” Families who learn their baby has fatal defects would be denied the chance to hold their newborn for the brief time they have with it, instead forcing doctors to perform heroic measures that could cause extreme suffering. Parents whose babies won’t have more than a few minutes or hours of life deserve to decide for themselves how they will spend that precious time.


Doctors will be bound to a law written by people who don’t understand how medicine is practiced.


SB 1367, an abortion bill that will do nothing more than traumatize patients, was introduced by extremist politicians looking for a fight with Planned Parenthood — although Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona intentionally stayed out of the debate. Planned Parenthood Arizona (PPAZ) does not perform late abortions, and we didn’t want deceptive lawmakers to distract the public by turning SB 1367 into a “Planned Parenthood bill,” which would draw focus from more pertinent underlying issues. To be clear: This bill stigmatizes abortion, denies compassion to families facing heartbreaking decisions, and does not impact the services provided by the amazing health care professionals at Planned Parenthood. PPAZ stands in solidarity with patients in need of health care and providers of legal, late abortions.

In the face of science, SB 1367 doubles down on the obscure and morbid aspects of abortion care in hopes of getting closer to the extremists’ coveted abortion ban. SB 1367 would require fetuses delivered at 20-24 weeks to be given “lifesaving” measures, regardless of the clinicians and patients in the room, regardless of the nonexistent instruments made tiny enough to achieve “lifesaving” measures, regardless of the ethics, morality, and humanity around grieving families and the care their specialists provide. Continue reading

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

2016 in Review: Our Bloggers Boost Their Favorite Posts

How can we put it? 2016 was a doozy. When we rang in the New Year on January 1, the Supreme Court was gearing up for one of the most important abortion-rights cases in years. When Justice Antonin Scalia died in February, President Obama named a replacement — and Congressional Republicans refused to hold hearings for the nominee, disregarding their job description. Both the Democratic and Republican parties were running exciting primaries — but, as we swept away the New Year’s confetti, Donald Trump was still considered by many to be an unfathomable joke.

While we did bask in a summertime victory, when the Supreme Court struck down Texas’ draconian anti-abortion laws, we were blindsided by Donald Trump’s Electoral College win — especially given that Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by a margin of nearly 3 million. As we say goodbye to 2016, we are unsure of what the future holds for reproductive rights, with a president-elect and Congress that are hostile to our cause, and the next Supreme Court nomination in unfriendly hands.

Throughout it all, our amazing volunteers stood by our side, never afraid to speak against current injustices or share important lessons from the past. As we enter 2017, we’ll need our volunteers more than ever! Our blogging team is made up of Planned Parenthood volunteers, who will be standing at the ready to document the events that unfold over the coming year — and to demand justice. But for now, our bloggers are looking back on their favorite posts from 2016. Please check them out!

rosa-parks-arrestMatt had no problem picking his favorite post of 2016: his piece on the long history of African-American women bringing sexual harassment to light. As Matt says, “the background reading for that one was really fascinating. Hopefully my synthesis did all of the source material justice!” It was only 30 short years ago that the Supreme Court handed down a landmark decision in sexual harassment law. Meritor Savings Bank v. Vinson was just one chapter in a long history of black women spearheading the fight against sexual harassment — from Rosa Parks to Anita Hill. Read Matt’s post to learn more about these brave women.

Tex-Supremes thumbnailAnne spent much of 2016 following the Supreme Court — including the deliberations and final ruling in this year’s Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt. When laws that purport to protect women’s health don’t actually do so, something has gone terribly wrong. Luckily, in June, the Supreme Court stood up for facts, logic, and the scientific method when they overturned Texas’ HB2, which wrote obstacles to abortion into law — under the guise of “protecting women’s health.” Anne’s pieces on the Supreme Court underscore how very important it is to have a president who will appoint justices who will uphold our constitutional right to control our own bodies.

shout-your-abortion-thumbnailGene had a clear candidate in mind when asked to share his favorite post of 2016: “That’s easy,” he told us, “Shouting My Abortion.” Gene, who has never had a uterus, ponders what it would be like if he could get pregnant — and have an abortion. Would abortion stigma start to fade away if cisgender men could get pregnant? Or would their bodies become heavily politicized battlefields as well? Regardless of your ability to become pregnant, statistics show that someone you love has had an abortion. Yet stigma keeps us silent. Read Gene’s thoughts on destigmatizing this common, legal, and important medical procedure.

Crosshairs thumbnailRachel kicked off 2016 by helping us fulfill our New Year’s resolution to read more when she reviewed “Living in the Crosshairs,” an enlightening, shocking, and enraging book that documents anti-abortion terrorism in the United States. The violence and threats routinely leveled at abortion providers not only heavily influences their lives, it also impacts all of us by making the full spectrum of reproductive health care more difficult to access. Now that November’s presidential election has put the United States on the brink of further dwindling access to safe abortion, this book will be — unfortunately — more relevant than ever. Understanding the obstacles abortion providers face, and the sacrifices they make, is important, making “Living in the Crosshairs” required reading.

Anna usually writes about the single-celled organisms that torment our nether regions in the form of sexually transmitted infections, but this year, her favorite post was about the history of contraception. When it comes to contraception, we’ve come a long way — from fish bladders to latex condoms, from womb veils to diaphragms, and from stem pessaries to IUDs. We can also use the morning-after pill rather than resorting to dangerous methods like douching with harsh chemicals to attempt to prevent pregnancy after unprotected sex. Even better, we don’t have to buy our condoms and other contraceptives on the black market! Read Anna’s post to learn some fun facts about the history of birth control.

pride flagsKelley is a PPAA employee who moonlights as a blogger. This summer, they wrote about the 47th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, which set the modern LGBTQ rights movement into motion. When the cops busted Stonewall Inn in June of 1969, it wasn’t a typical police raid — this time, the LGBTQ folks they were harassing fought back. While the riots themselves only lasted three days, the fight for equality continues into the present. Whether patronizing Stonewall in 1969 or Pulse in 2016, the LGBTQ community deserves safe spaces free of violence. Read Kelley’s favorite piece of 2016 to learn about this important chapter in the enduring struggle for human dignity.

Let’s Talk About … Being the Parent of an LGBTQ Child

The following guest post comes to us from Planned Parenthood Arizona’s education staff. Contact them at education@ppaz.org.

father-and-son-thumbnailOctober is Let’s Talk month, when Planned Parenthood advocates for better parent-child communication around sexuality. Last year we wrote about why it’s so important for any parent to talk to their child about sexuality — early and often. Parents are the primary sexuality educators of their children, and children who can talk to their parents about sexuality wait longer to have sex, and are more likely to use protection.

Planned Parenthood has great resources to help parents talk to their kids. Advocates for Youth also has a comprehensive guide to help parents through difficult conversations. Planned Parenthood also has resources for parents of LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer/Questioning) youth. You might also ask your friendly local librarian about one of these books recommended by PFLAG, a national organization for families, friends, and allies of LGBTQ people.


Demand LGBTQ inclusivity and comprehensive sex education in your school district.


On November 2, Planned Parenthood will host an interactive workshop in Phoenix for parents of LGBTQ youth, where they can practice being an “askable” parent. Parents of LGBTQ kids may find it a little more difficult to be an “askable” adult. But it’s even more important because your children are at particular risk. LGBTQ youth face significant obstacles in their schools, in the world, and, sometimes, unfortunately, in their own homes. LGBTQ youth experience high rates of homelessness, depression/anxiety, and astronomically high rates of suicides — 3 times higher than straight youth. Study after study has shown that, in schools, LGBTQ youth face much higher levels of bullying, harassment, intimidation, threats, and physical assault than their peers. Stopbullying.gov reports that bullied LGBTQ youth (or youth perceived as LGBTQ) are more likely to skip school, smoke, use alcohol and drugs, and to engage in other risky behaviors.

If your child is transgender, their risks are exponentially higher. Almost all transgender students report being harassed at school about their sexual orientation and/or gender. More than half of transgender students report being physically harassed (pushed, shoved) in school. And about a third report being physically assaulted (punched, kicked, or injured with a weapon). For more information on transgender discrimination in schools, please see Harsh Realities: The Experiences of Transgender Youth in Our Nation’s Schools, available online here. Continue reading

The Best of 2015: A Year of Blogging

Every week, we publish new material on the blog — a feat that would not be possible without the dedication and talents of our amazing volunteer bloggers! It is our not-so-humble opinion that the blog publishes high-quality, informative, insightful, and sometimes downright fun pieces, and the entire Planned Parenthood Arizona family is so proud to have it as a showcase. To commemorate another successful year of blogging, we asked our bloggers to pick their favorite posts from 2015.

holding hands from backRebecca usually writes about contraception, but in 2015 she conceptualized the new Teen Talk series, aimed at our younger readers but still plenty relevant to people of all ages. One of her favorite pieces was about the decision to abstain from sexual activity. While we live in a culture in which a lot of us feel pressure to have sex — even before we’re ready — we all have the right to make our own choices about sex, including the choice not to have it! For some of us, saying no can be hard, but can also be liberating. The issue of abstinence is highly fraught in our culture, but we love Rebecca’s deft and respectful handling of the topic.

gloria thumbnailAnne is our newest blogger, and we have been blessed by her lively prose! Anne’s favorite post was called Abortion: Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, in which she wrote about the growing movement to fight stigma by “shouting our abortions” — rather than whispering about them or staying quiet. Given that 1 in 3 women has had an abortion yet the topic remains so taboo, the issue is largely shrouded in secrecy and silence. Anne shares her own story — and speaks powerfully about why it’s so important to shatter that silence once and for all. If “coming out” was so successful for the LGBTQ community, will it also help foster compassion and spread visibility for the many people who have had abortions?

breastfeedingCynthia was another new addition to the blogging team this year, and her debut post was also her favorite. In August, to celebrate National Breastfeeding Month, Cynthia shared her sweet story of breastfeeding and bonding. She wrote about how breastfeeding her son was the most “rewarding, challenging, frustrating, amazing, and empowering” thing she’s ever done. Breast milk has myriad benefits for both mother and baby, and Cynthia covered many of them in an informative post interwoven with her personal experiences and insights.

Stadium thumbnailMatt continues to write insightful posts about the intersection between the personal and the political. In August, Matt helped herald the football season with his look at how expanding the University of Arizona’s stadium shrunk abortion access in the state. As he so eloquently wrote, “Abortion was never meant to be a bargaining chip. It was sacrificed in 1974 to give more football fans a seat at the game. It’s time undo the damage and give more abortion supporters a seat in the legislature.” Whether you’re a Wildcats fan or simply interested in learning more about this chapter in reproductive-justice history, we think you’ll be fascinated (and enraged) to learn about the stadium deal.

cropped CDC library disease agents gonococciAnna is a graduate student in health sciences who has carved out a niche for herself as our unofficial STD blogger. One topic she keeps coming back to is antibiotic-resistant gonorrhea, which is classified as an “urgent threat” by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Thanks to the bacteria’s ability to evolve so quickly, we only have one good antibiotic left to cure this serious infection — and no new ones on the horizon. Find out how the bacteria that cause gonorrhea are able to evade our pharmaceutical arsenal, whether they’re having “bacteria sex” with one another or grabbing genes from their cousins. These bugs have a unique talent for altering their genes, which would be admirable if it weren’t so worrying!

Harvey Milk Day thumbnailMichelle celebrated Harvey Milk Day with a touching tribute to this pioneering LGBTQ leader, who would have blown out 85 candles on his birthday cake last May — if his life hadn’t been cut short in a senseless and tragic assassination in 1978. As one of the first openly gay politicians ever to be elected to public office, Milk sponsored an anti-discrimination bill, fought to establish daycare centers for working mothers, helped to increase low-cost housing options, and consistently advocated for the rights of all marginalized communities. Check out Michelle’s piece to learn more about Harvey Milk, what he accomplished, and why his legacy is so important to celebrate!

condom and hand thumbnailJon joined us early this year — first as an intern, and then as a volunteer blogger. We loved the piece he wrote about the place birth control has in his life, especially in a world in which the birth control burden can too often fall on women’s shoulders alone. Jon used condoms to take responsibility for his part in preventing pregnancy, and to boost the effectiveness of his partners’ birth control pills. With typical use, condoms and oral contraceptives can combine to be more than 98 percent effective! For Jon, birth control helped him plan his future, complete his education, and forge relationships — and condoms were an essential component of that toolkit.

standwithpp pic thumbnailKelley actually isn’t a Planned Parenthood volunteer — they’re our public policy manager! That didn’t stop them from contributing some strong pieces to the blog. For Trans Awareness Month, Kelley shared their journey to living authentically — a post that was both heartfelt yet humorous, personal yet universal. In Arizona, Kelley can be fired for their sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression — but feels lucky to have found a supportive home with Planned Parenthood. No matter what month it is, Planned Parenthood supports the trans community because we stand for autonomy over one’s own body, identity, and decisions.