Category Archives: Sexually Transmitted Infections

Let’s Keep Each Other STD FREE

By: Emma Ziulkowski


STDs (sexually transmitted diseases) and STIs (sexually transmitted infections) are more common than you think. It’s important for you to take proper precautions which are easily accessible to learn about through sex education.

Let’s start with the numbers to better understand the severity. According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) STD’s are increasing significantly now more than ever and “Americans aged 15-24 account for half of the estimated 20 million new STDs in the U.S. each year. In 2015, there were 981,359 reported cases of chlamydial infection among persons aged 15-24 years, representing 64% of all reported chlamydia cases.” Only certain STDs/STIs are required to be reported to CDC or other state health departments. These include gonorrhea, syphilis, chlamydia, hepatitis A and Hepatitis B. So as you can see, more than half of all people will contract an STD/STI at least once in their lifetime.

But there is something we can do about it.

Sexual education is key when understanding your body, sexual encounters, and your options. Most people will tell you to practice abstinence. I’m here to say there are other options for individuals to protect themselves. Protection against STDs and STIs include condom use, routine testing, vaccinations, or being aware of the sexual history of your partner(s).

This is just a basic summation of STDs/STIs to bring you awareness. I’m a firm believer in sexual education and there are many routes one can take in educating themselves. Sexual health education isn’t easy to talk about with just anyone, and in my opinion a great source to better educate yourself is to visit any Planned Parenthood health center. They offer a variety of education resources and have staff members you can speak with in confidence. Planned Parenthood teaches you how to practice safer sex. You can start easy by visiting their website to see the services they offer at



Trump Kills Worker’s Protections: Featuring Trump’s many tweets about women.

By: Cassandra Hedrick

It’s no surprise that Donald Trump has very little respect for women. It also shouldn’t be surprising that on March 27th he signed several bills that will take away important protections for women workers. He revoked the 2014 fair pay and safe workplaces order, which made companies allow paycheck transparency and banned forced arbitration for sexual harassment cases.

By taking away these regulation, Trump has made it possible for companies to discriminate against women workers. By taking away paycheck transparency, businesses will now be able to pay women less. This means employers can make it policy for employees not to talk about salaries with coworkers, therefore, women will not know if they are being paid less.

What’s worse, is that companies can now put forced arbitration into their employee contracts. This means, if a woman is sexually harassed or assaulted in the workplace, she must go through the employer and settle the case outside of court. This lets companies to keep sexual assault scandals within the company. It also prevents victims from wanting to come forward about sexual assault cases in their workplace.

But why would Trump do this? He claims he respects women’s workers, you would think he would want to protect them.

But it seems to him that protecting women workers is not nearly as important as de-regulating the economy. He claims these regulations are an unnecessary restriction on businesses. However, without these regulation, employers will be able to pay women less and they may become victims to sexual harassment and assault in the workplace. I’m sorry not discirminatting against women is such an undue burden on businesses.


Sex Education: The Importance of a College’s Sexual Culture and Sexual Support Systems

By: Jillian James

When you choose a college, you may consider factors like academics and extracurricular involvement. However, it is important that you look at your potential college’s sexual culture and what resources are available on campus. This is critically important because you want to join an environment that is accepting, welcoming, and that will be able to offer a wide variety resources.

Here are some important factors to consider when judging a college’s sexual culture:

  1. Is free birth control offered on campus, like condoms? How accessible are they?
  2. Is there a women’s clinic on campus? Would you feel comfortable going there if you had an issue?
  3. Does the college offer STD/STI testing? Is it free?
  4. Is the campus friendly to the LGBTQ community? Are there clubs and events for LGBTQ students?
  5. Are there support systems in place for survivors of sexual assault and rape?
  6. Are classes offered about sex and sexuality, or is it a taboo topic academically?
  7. What is the social culture like? Do men or women control it? Is their social pressure to hook up or have casual sex?

These questions are all incredibly important because they can help you have a happy, product, and safe time at college. If some of these support structures don’t exist at your current college or university, try to implement them yourself and attempt to create a healthy sexual culture on your campus.



Plan B & Emergency Contraceptives


By: Cassandra Hedrick

Emergency contraceptives are ways to prevent pregnancy after your first form of birth control has failed. The most popular form of this is the Plan B pill. Here is everything you need to know about Plan B before you take it.

How and when should you take Plan B?

Plan B is for times when things like forgetting to take you birth control or when the condom breaks. You can take it up to 3 days after having sex, but it works better the sooner you take it. Plan B should not be used as your primary birth control method, but it can be very helpful in case of emergencies.

Where can you get Plan B?

Plan be can be bought at just about any pharmacy. You can also get it at your local Planned Parenthood. If you go on the Plan B website you can use their store locator to help you find the closest place you can get Plan B. You type in your zip code and it will show you all the stores that carry the pill.

What are the Risks?

Plan B is generally safe. It is just a high dose of Levonorgestrel, the hormone found in most birth controls. However, like any medication, it comes with some side-affects, which includes…

  • A period that is lighter, heavier, early, or late
    • Nausea
    • Lower abdominal cramps
    • Tiredness
    • Headache
    • Dizziness
    • Breast tenderness
    • Vomiting

If you puke within two hours of taking the pill, call a medical professional and ask if you should take another dose.

                Plan B can be very helpful in preventing pregnancies, even though it should not be your primary method of birth control. While it does come with some side-affects, it is generally safe. You can get it at just about any pharmacy and you do not need an ID. While you should talk to your doctor about getting on a birth control regimen, if that ever fails there is a backup

Sexual Health: What it is

By Nicole Mclaren


Before writing this article about sexual health I thought that it was focused on the physical aspect like STIs and their prevention, through researching this topic I have come to understand what it actually means. Sexual health has to do with not only the physical but also the social and mental well-being in relation to sexuality.

To be sexually healthy one should possess a positive approach to sexuality and their sexual relationships. Sexual health is related to other human rights like the right to be any sexual orientation without facing discrimination and gender equality. This means that the social setting in which one is engaging in sexual acts can impact the person’s sexual health. So someone who is not free to be informed about their choices for reproduction is someone who is not able to live a sexually healthy life. Without the fulfillment of human rights sexual health is absent from a society and therefore from the individual.

The lack of access to health care especially reproductive health care impacts the lives of young people across the globe. The U.S. has a relatively high adolescent birth rate, 27 out of 1000 15-19 year olds has a child. This is higher than almost every western European country and is only one off from India’s adolescent birth rate. We must understand that this is not always a choice by young people and it speaks more to the social norms and access to reproductive health care and education.

This aspect of sexual health can impact the rest of someone’s life. In the U.S. teen mothers are less likely to graduate from high school and are more likely to live in poverty than their peers. In order to prevent both mothers and children from facing these obstacles we must provide education about sexual health and access to birth control for young women. The education about sexual health must focus on evidence-based education instead of abstinence based education.

Sex Ed for Queers

By: Cassandra Hedrick


Recently, more and more kids and teens are coming out as gay, bisexual, or trans. However, LGBTQ+ sex is not included in most sex ed curriculums. In fact, only 12 states require sexual orientation to be taught and 3 of those only teach negative information, like homosexuality is a sin and a criminal lifestyle. This means the vast majority of LGBTQ+ youth are uninformed about how to practice safe sex.

It is common knowledge that you can’t get pregnant having sex with the same gender, so many gay and bi teens don’t think about protection.Image_11 In fact, gay and bi men between the ages of 13 and 29 make up 2/3s of new HIV infections. Gay and bi girls are also more likely to contract an STD or even become pregnant than straight girls. This is because they are not taught how to protect themselves during sex. Even I didn’t know exactly how protection would work until I was in college and discovered what a dental dam was.

Another consequence of not having LGBTQ+ inclusive sex ed is the increase in bullying. Because the LGBTQ+ youth are excluded from most sex ed lessons, and in some criminalized, they are less accepted by their peers. Gay, bi, and trans teens are victims to more violence and bullying than straight kids.

In 2016, Canada introduced a bill that would require sex ed to be LGBTQ+ inclusive. This would start with third graders being taught about sexual orientation and gender identity and accepting differences. In the US, a bill has been introduced that would require not only medically accurate, but also LGBTQ+ inclusive sex ed. This bill is called the Real education for healthy youth act, and you can sign the petition to have is passed at

LGBTQ+ inclusive sex ed would help keep gay, bi and trans teens from contracting STDs, as well as decrease bullying. You can help us make that happen by signing the petition. And, if you have any more questions about sexual orientation, gender identity, or sex education you can visit You can also talk to your teachers about adding sexual identity and gender orientation to the curriculum.


How to Shop for Condoms

Today we’re reposting an oldie, but goodie. Happy condom shopping!

When you’re standing in the condom aisle, seconds seem like hours. Your eyes dart nervously across the colorful packaging, waiting for some clear sign that you should grab one particular box and make a mad dash for the checkout line. Oh yeah, then there’s that pack of gum to grab.

Condom shopping doesn’t have to be difficult or awkward. If you use my three-point condom shopping system, you’ll be outta’ there and gettin’ busy before you know it.

Step #1 – Material

Condoms are made from three different materials – latex, polyurethane and lambskin.

  • Latex: helps prevent pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections; stretchy, yet durable; ring at base; reservoir tip for ejaculate; inexpensive (or free if you get them at the health department or Planned Parenthood)
  • Polyurethane (fancy word for plastic): helps prevent pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections, safe for those with a latex allergy; less stretchy than latex, but still durable, ring at base; reservoir tip for ejaculate; transfers heat better than latex; female condoms come in this material
  • Lambskin: helps prevent pregnancy ONLY (because it is made from animal intestinal lining, it has small pores that bacteria and viruses can fit through, but sperm are bigger, therefore contained by the condom); a bit more eco-friendly than latex or polyurethane; safe for those whose culture or religion dictates the use of a “natural” method of birth control or for those not worried about sexually transmitted infections; no ring at base (more like a drawstring); no reservoir tip for ejaculate; distinct odor; fairly expensive

So, decide which material is right for you and, when you’re shopping, let your eyes wander to the bottom right side of the boxes – that’s where the material type is usually printed. I recommend latex or polyurethane.

Step #2 – Expiration Date

Condoms are manufactured about 5 years before they expire so if your condoms expire next month, they’re already 5 years old. Age degrades the material, making condoms more likely to break. The expiration date is usually printed on the back or side flap of the box and on each individual condom, as seen below:


Step #3 – “The Extras”

By “extras” I mean lubricant, spermicide, size, texture, flavoring, etc. Here’s the skinny on the “extras”:

  • Lubricant: unless you have a bottle of safe lubricant (water-based, because oil-based breaks condoms) handy, opt for lubricated condoms for vaginal and/or anal sex. For oral sex, either get a dental dam or cut an unlubricated condom up the side.
  • Spermicide: this is often called nonoxynol-9 and is a chemical that helps to kill sperm. The use of spermicides is debatable on several fronts. Do your research before you decide on this one.
  • Size: condoms are basically one-size-fits-all. There are, however, “slim fit” and “extra large” versions. Just remember, condoms are SUPPOSED TO BE SNUG.
  • Texture: ribbed or studded – truth is, it doesn’t matter much, particulary for penis-in-vagina sex. Why? Because the vaginal walls have very few nerve endings, making it hard to feel tiny ribs or studs. Think about it – women can wear tampons for hours and not feel a thing! Really, ribs and studs and such are just marketing tools.
  • Flavoring: If it tastes like strawberries, that means it has some sugar and flavoring to make it taste like strawberries. These condoms are meant for oral sex only. Sugar can cause a yeast infection because it throws off the pH balance in the vagina.

But what about the brand name!!!??? I get this question a lot. Just pick a trusted brand. You might need to try various types of condoms before you find one that you really like.

If going to the store to purchase condoms or going to the health department or Planned Parenthood to get free ones is just too intimidating for you, do your shopping online.

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Why Young People Should Still See a Gynecologist Before Their First Pap Smear

Nurse Meeting With Teenage Girl And Mother In Hospital

Nurse Meeting With Teenage Girl And Mother In Hospital

Many people now know the new guidelines from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) do not recommend pap smears until the age of 21. This can be a bit confusing and frustrating for parents and teens that still have sexual and reproductive health care needs and are unsure if they should visit a gynecologist or sexual and reproductive healthcare provider (SRHP) who specializes in this area.

Here are some of the most common reasons young people should go to a SRHP.

STDs – Many young people and their partners need to be tested or treated for STDs. They may also want to talk to their parent/guardian and their medical provider to determine if they should receive the Human Papilloma Vaccine. The Gardasil Vaccine is recommended for boys and girls ages 11 or 12. The vaccine is recommended for people ages 9 to 26. According to Merck pharmaceuticals, the Gardasil vaccine helps protect against 4 types of HPV that cause 70% of cervical cancer cases, 70% of vaginal cancer cases, and up to 50% of vulvar cancer cases. In males and females ages 9 to 26, GARDASIL helps protect against about 80% of anal cancer cases and 90% of genital warts cases.

Vaginal Infections – Infections can occur at any time during our lives and many times have nothing to do with whether we are sexually active (i.e. urinary tract infections, bacterial vaginosis, yeast infections, folliculitis).

Menstruation – Some teens have irregular periods, PMS, painful cramps or heavy bleeding that keeps them home from school or work, acne or other medical conditions like endometriosis or abnormally large ovarian cysts that may require medication, procedures, or an office visit.

Birth Control – A sexual and reproductive health care provider can discuss the benefits and potential side effects of each birth control method and help the patient determine which method is best for them.

Pregnancy – Young people can receive pregnancy tests, options counseling, and preconception health if someone is planning to become pregnant in the future.

Safer Sex – Education can empower people to make safer choices and know their risks if and when they decide to be sexually active.

LGBTQ Health Concerns – Specific information can be given on how to be safer with a partner, medical concerns that impact LGBTQ individuals and referrals to additional resources.

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Helpful Sexual and Reproductive Health Websites and Apps

Alcoholism-FAQs1More and more people look to the internet to find information concerning their health, which is a good thing when they find accurate information that may empower them to take control of their health. However, the internet can be a dangerous place – there’s a lot of misinformation out there. Here are a few trustworthy websites and apps that you may find useful.

Period Tracker (Fertility & Ovulation tracker and Period Calendar) by Sevenlogics, Inc. This app can track your periods, daily moods, health symptoms, notes, and even the weather, so you can see how they correlate to your cycle days. The app also helps you predict your most fertile days.

Bedsider – Birth Control and Doctor’s Appointment Reminders Do you wish you could have an extra birth control reminder for your pill, ring, patch or shot? The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy has developed a site called Bedsider that allows you to set up a reminder for birth control by texting “MyBC” to 42411 from your U.S.-based mobile phone. An appointment reminder can also be setup through their website that is sent to you a few days before so you won’t forget your doctor’s appointment ever again.

Planned Parenthood – Planned Parenthood has a ton of information on sexuality and reproductive health as well as frequently asked questions on each topic. The topics include women’s health, STDs, birth control, parent resources, teen resources and other sexuality information. Planned Parenthood also has text services available if you’ve have health questions that you want to get answered right away. To text, send a message to 774636 for more information.

Baby Center – Baby Center has an app called My Pregnancy Today. It is a fun way to track the development of the pregnancy and to see how big the baby is by comparing it to the size of a fruit or vegetable. The website also provides a basic guide on nutrition and helpful tips during each trimester. It also has a contraction timer when you are in labor.

WebMDGeneral Medical Information – This website or app can give individuals information on a wide variety of medical topics in easy to understand language while still being medically accurate. I would just caution people not to start self-diagnosing or assuming that they have a condition without consulting with a medical provider. It is a great source for information if someone is looking up a specific health-related topic.

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The Self-Cleaning Vagina – Discharging the Myths of Discharge

botticelli-venus-400x400-300x300Recently, I asked the staff at one of our health centers for a story that highlighted a myth about vaginas. They cited a recent story in which a patient came in complaining of vaginal discharge and, once diagnosed with a yeast infection, was convinced it was because she worked in a bakery. Yeast … around you … yes, we get the idea. But no, unless one places a baked good into the vagina, the chances the infection came from a yeasty treat are null and void.

We might chuckle a little at the sticker shock of such seemingly silly logic, but we realize the societal truth that vaginal discharge, along with many other reproductive health issues, is not usually a hot topic in people’s everyday lives. There is a lot of shame and embarrassment surrounding vaginal care, so let me clear a few things up.

Having worked for Planned Parenthood for close to four years, here are a few things I wish I could scream from the rooftops for every vagina-carrying human to hear:

1. Douching is bad for you and can cause the symptoms you’re trying to avoid!

We’ve all seen the boxes of Summer’s Eve tucked between the maxi-pads and pregnancy tests on our local pharmacy shelves. I’ve even seen advertisements that suggest vaginal douching will give a woman the confidence she needs to ask for a raise at work (what the hell?) I’ve heard women say their mothers douched, so they do it themselves. They’ve heard it makes them clean, or that it makes them smell good (with blatant implication that the natural odor is foul). Some do it every so often, while others integrate it into their sexual health routine more frequently. Regardless of the frequency of douching, please do yourself a favor and STOP! Douching, specifically with any agents that contain a fragrance, can drastically alter the natural balance of vaginal flora and acidity needed to self-regulate. Women who douche frequently are more susceptible to vaginal irritation, bacterial vaginosis, STIs, yeast infection or Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID). Same can be true for scented soaps and tampons … your temple smells fine the way it is, keep the perfumes outta there!

(**In some rare instances a medical professional may advise douching with water or other banal substance, in which case err on the side of your trusted health care advisor).

2. Healthy vaginas do not smell like fish or any other aquatic sea life!

There is a cultural myth that vaginas smell bad, specifically “fishy.” This myth has been further circulated within our society by some pretty off-color jokes (a blind man and a fish market…) which, while funny to those telling it, can often lead to reinforcing insecurities within women about their bodies. In a culture as dually sexually repressed and exploited as ours, it’s no wonder that this notion reigns “true” in the public arena. I can’t think of anyone else beside my P.P. family who would go toe to toe to argue the damaging ramifications of such a sexist joke as the punch line is delivered, so how else do we stop these dangerous lies from spreading? My thought is: education.

3. Vaginas are independent: When left alone they can clean and manage themselves just fine!

The Vagina, as stated, is a self-sustaining organ that naturally produces bacteria and acids that cleans itself. It also produces a clear or whitish, generally odorless (sometimes acidic), itchless discharge that can increase and decrease in quantity as the menstrual cycle (28 days) changes. If you’re on a hormonal birth control method, your discharge may differ when on it from your non-hormonal cycles, as ovulation (releasing of the egg from the ovary) may increase discharge for a few days. Sexual arousal can also increase vaginal discharge, as your vagina naturally lubricates (though adding a fragrance-free water-based lubricant can help prevent tearing of condoms).

4. At the end of 6-8 hours, take out your tampon!

Too often a woman will come into our health centers complaining about a terrible vaginal odor, only to have the clinician remove days, weeks, or even months old tampon remnants. We call these “impacted tampons,” and they have the potential for some serious consequences, such as incredible odor (we sometimes have to close down the exam room for the day afterward), infection (bacterial vaginosis or pelvic inflammatory disease), toxic shock, or even death! It is so critical to take your tampons out within the time suggested for use on the package label, but also easy to ignore. Here’s a tip: confirm all tampons are out at the end of your period by placing your finger inside your canal and checking!

5. If your vagina smells abnormal, has colored or thick discharge, itches, or is generally out of the norm, head into Planned Parenthood!

So many times we see clients who incorrectly self-diagnose vaginal symptoms, and end up further irritating their condition, or wasting time and money on incorrect treatments. If I had a dollar for every time over-the-counter yeast medication was used on bacterial vaginosis, I’d create a P.S.A. about this topic and launch it during the Super Bowl. Delaying proper treatment of vaginal infections or sexually transmitted infections does not improve your health or save you money. Contrary, it can worsen temporary symptoms or cause irreversible damage to reproductive organs. Often clinicians can write a prescription that has multiple refills, if you are a person with chronic susceptibility to a specific infection, so you don’t have to pay for every visit to the health center (this rule is very specific to your condition, your health history, and the medical discretion of the clinician).

Here are some helpful links to some info about common vaginal infections, and as always, WE’RE HERE FOR YOU!