Thursday, June 3, 2010

Is birth control preventive care?

With too-high teen pregnancy and abortion rates in this country, activists are hoping the recent passage of a health care reform law is an opportunity for millions of women to gain access to free or low-cost birth control. Under the new law, preventive services — like immunizations, cancer screenings and other wellness checkups — must be offered to consumers as part of their insurance policy, at no additional out-of-pocket charge, starting in September 2010.

Currently, contraception is not "preventive care" as recommended by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF), but why shouldn't it be? As if she could anticipate the debate, Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) sponsored an amendment that would broaden the care available for women: "with respect to women, such additional preventive care and screenings not described in paragraph (1) as provided for in comprehensive guidelines." Though the amendment doesn't mention birth control specifically, Mikulski spokeswoman Rachel MacKnight has said, "From her perspective, that includes everything from heart disease screening and diabetes screening to mammograms to birth control."

In parallel to the new legislation, Planned Parenthood for one is using this year's 50th anniversary of the Pill as an agent for public action.

"2010 marks the 50th anniversary of The Pill. Today, though we've come a long way, countless women lack reliable access to The Pill. In the coming months, federal officials will consider measures that will dramatically increase access," the organization noted.

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Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Have a fiesta today, not a baby

Every day, more than 2,000 teen girls in the United States get pregnant. In fact, 3 in 10 girls will become pregnant by age 20.

To combat this disturbing trend, The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy is honoring the ninth annual National Day to Prevent Teen Pregnancy TODAY, May 5, 2010. "The purpose of the National Day is to focus the attention of teens on the importance of avoiding too-early pregnancy and parenthood," according to the National Campaign. The campaign features an interactive online quiz for teens to work through awkward social situations.

This year's events come at a particularly important time in the context of teenage risk. After consistent and steady declines beginning in the early 1990s, the nation's teen pregnancy rate rose 3% in 2006, according to recent data from the Guttmacher Institute.

"Clearly a renewed focus on preventing teen pregnancy is needed," said Sarah Brown, Chief Executive Officer of The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, organizer of the National Day. "We hope that— in some modest way— participating in the National Day will help teens think carefully about sex and contraception, the possibility of pregnancy, and the lifelong challenges of being a parent."

For more information:
Take the quiz
National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy

Monday, April 26, 2010

Oh wait, we almost forgot...

We know what you're thinking, "Websites are all well and good, but what about when I'm on the move? When is there going to be an iPhone app to find HIV/STD testing locations?"

Well, fear not. As we announced last month, GayCities and ISIS have partnered to provide access to listings in 95 U.S. cities. What we forgot to mention is that GayCities also has an iPhone app, and those nearby clinic locations now show up there, as well. Over 175,000 people have downloaded the app in the year of its existence, so now all those users have access to the nearest testing locations. What are you waiting for?

Where are the most popular spots? "SF, NYC, Chicago, LA, Dallas, Atlanta, Ft. Lauderdale--all the major gay enclaves--get great traffic. But we also have loyal followings in many smaller places, such a Nashville, Cleveland, and El Paso," according to Chris Bull,'s co-founder & editorial director.

For more information: GayCities on your iPhone

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Friends with Even More Benefits?

The term "Friend with Benefits" has been around for years, but is it more common than ever? And why are public health experts concerned?

According to a new study by a University of Iowa professor, published last month in the journal Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health, these types of hookups or casual relationships lead away from monogamy and toward more STDs. The concern is that that people who have nonromantic, or casual, relationships tend to have several partners at one time -- "concurrency," in sexual behavior lingo -- in contrast to those in romantic relationships, who tend to be more monogamous.

This may seem obvious, but in the context of less education about contraception and more avenues to hook up, either with friends or casual acquaintances, the behavior is even more dangerous. Funding for sex ed in schools has been slashed in favor of abstinence, but young people are connecting on Facebook and elsewhere, more than ever. We think we're invincible, and the friends we've known since middle school are clean, aren't they?

Since we can't battle hormones and technology, let's just start talking about communicating our needs and protecting ourselves. "We encourage people be aware of the potential for sexual concurrency and take appropriate precautions to avoid sexually transmitted infections," the study said.

For more information:

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Unwrap Your Art

Got some artistic bent and a passion for safe sex?
Are you under 25 and live in California?

The California Family Health Council has officially launched their 2010 Condom Cover Art Contest! Send in your best designs by July 1 and have a shot at winning $500.. PLUS your design could be one of six that will grace the wrappers of condoms sent out to your local clinics. So young people in your neighborhood can appreciate your art and be safe in the process..

Click here for more information and entry forms:

Monday, March 15, 2010

ISIS and Join Forces to Reverse HIV/STD Trends

It's not news that men who have sex with men (MSM) are at high risk for HIV and other STDs. New data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), released at last week's National STD Prevention Conference in Atlanta, simply underscores this point. What is news is the technology and the collaborations created to fight this trend.

In response to the new data, ISIS has partnered with to provide referrals to free and low-cost HIV and STD testing in 95 U.S. cities. On, users can already find reviews of gay bars, restaurants, hotels and events, in locations from Seattle to Jacksonville. With the addition of community organizations that provide HIV and STD testing, gay men and other MSM can now "take charge of their health in a trusted place online where they already spend a lot of time," according to Deb Levine, ISIS' Executive Director.

The data released by CDC indicate that rates of HIV infection among gay men and other MSM are more than 44 times higher than rates among heterosexual men and more than 40 times higher than women. Rates of syphilis, an STD that can facilitate HIV infection and if left untreated, may lead to sight loss and severe damage to the nervous system, are reported to be more than 46 times higher among gay men and other MSM than among heterosexual men and more than 71 times higher than among women.

"This new data is a clarion call to deal with the persistent neglect of the health of gay and bisexual men across the country," said William Smith, Executive Director of the National Coalition of STD Directors (NCSD). ISIS' partnership with is another cutting edge way to increase access to services for those who need it most.

About ISIS
ISIS Inc. is a 501(c)3 organization based in Oakland, CA whose mission is to use technology, new media and mobile for sexual health promotion and disease prevention. ISIS’ award-winning projects include SexINFO and Hookup text messaging campaigns, inSPOT, an STD ecard partner notification service, and Sex::Tech, an annual conference focusing on sexual health, technology and youth.

GayCities is the most comprehensive, user-friendly online travel guide for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people. Designed to bring useful, up-to-date information on gay bars, clubs, hotels, restaurants, and beaches to the masses, GayCities is community-driven, with thousands of listings and reviews, so that users can find out what travelers really think about a destination. GayCities currently provides in-depth reviews and information on destinations for 160 cities worldwide. For more information, please visit

Friday, February 5, 2010

The Politics of Sex Ed

Abstinence only. True love waits. Teen pregnancy on the rise.

The news has been filled with catchphrases and headlines, but what's the truth?

Here's a start. A recent Guttmacher Institute study found that, for the first time in over a decade, teen pregnancy rates rose in 2006 (the most recent data available). According to the report, "this decline started to stall out in the early 2000s, at the same time that sex education programs aimed exclusively at promoting abstinence—and prohibited by law from discussing the benefits of contraception—became increasingly widespread and teens’ use of contraceptives declined."

So are we seeing the results of a decade of neglect and moralizing, or simply a blip in the statistics?

"It is too soon to tell whether the increase in the teen pregnancy rate between 2005 and 2006 is a short term fluctuation, a more lasting stabilization or the beginning of a significant new trend, any of which would be of great concern," says Lawrence Finer, Guttmacher’s director of domestic research. “Either way, it is clearly time to redouble our efforts to make sure our young people have the information, interpersonal skills and health services they need to prevent unwanted pregnancies and to become sexually healthy adults.

On the same day the Guttmacher report was released, an even more surprising study (at least to feminist activists) showed a program that advocated abstinence seemed to be more effective in helping teens delay their first sexual experience.

The Guttmacher Institute studied the study that's been getting the most press. Just as we thought, the programs that best convince teens to wait to have sex don't moralize or tell them to wait until marriage. But only until they're ready and can make a healthy informed decision.

Or maybe it's just a political gambit. With all the moralizing of the Republicans in Congress, is it just a game to get votes? When Arlen Specter became a Democrat last May he stopped asking for funding for abstinence programs in his state, according to a article. And some activists would bring up the hypocrisy of unfaithful legislators telling young people to maintain the sanctity of marriage.

Behind the hype, one thing is clear: It's time for science and common sense to prevail. Contraception works when used correctly and reliably. Condoms are the best protection against STDs. Teenagers should be able to make decisions about their own lives with all the best tools at their disposal. So let's leave the moralizing to religious leaders, and the rest of us can get back to work.

For more information:

Monday, December 7, 2009

Social Marketing 101

Everybody's talking about Facebook and Twitter, and you want to get in on the action.. But your agency has no marketing department and only a few spare dollars to spend on this type of campaign.

Never fear.. Two California organizations, one with federal funding behind it, are here to help. "In an effort to increase primary prevention to prevent STD transmission and unintended pregnancies, the California Family Health Council (CFHC) Infertility Prevention Project and the California STD/HIV Prevention Training Center (CA PTC) have teamed up to create a web-based Youth Social Marketing Toolkit (YSMT). The toolkit provides an overview of how agencies with limited financial resources can develop a social marketing campaign that reaches out to youth and young adults."

Answering such questions as: "What is social marketing?" and "What do you want to say?" with case studies and samples, the Toolkit aims to bring the idea and promise of social marketing in line with efforts on the ground.

The writers of this toolkit are careful not to sell social marketing as the cure for all ills. You still need to follow the core concepts of successful marketing even in the new media environment. "Social marketing is not always a success. If the attitudes and behavior changes you are encouraging are still not perceived as beneficial, acceptable and attainable by the priority population, it may not be worthwhile to develop a social marketing campaign at this time. In this situation, it is better to introduce a behavior change recommendation by developing connections with community and agreeing on a unified goal before planning a social marketing campaign."

For more information: Youth Social Marketing Toolkit