What does one think of when Planned Parenthood comes to mind? Complicated procedures and even more complicated politics?

There has been a struggle for decades that circles reproductive rights. From the Proclamation of Teheran to the Beijing Platform, from Margaret Sanger to first wave feminism, it has all stemmed from one thing: a woman’s control over her own body. Women struggle everyday with the decision whether or not to terminate a pregnancy and none of these gravida are selfish. It’s a difficult, important choice that should be protected by law. Yet, Planned Parenthood does not stop their consult with women. Indeed, many men and teens depend on Planned Parenthood as a center that provides if free or at least low cost STD and HIV testing as well as education on how to protect oneself in the bedroom. I sat down with Beth Kanter of Planned Parenthood for a planned interview about the issues surrounding her job and our genitals.

What say you about STD prevention for gay women?
Female condoms and add to that list latex dams, gloves and finger cots. You can visit our website at www.ppil.org and we have a widget on there called My Method which is a tool to find out which birth control [and STD prevention] method works best for the individual.

How often should someone get tested for HIV?
It really depends on people’s risk factors and their behavior. The CDC recommends being tested at least once a year if you do things than can transmit HIV including injecting drugs or steroids with needles, having sex for money or having sex with an HIV infected person, having more than one partner since your last test and having a partner who has had sex with other partners since your last HIV test [but] we encourage our patients [if] they are engaging in risky sexual behavior we would advise six months.

As a gay male I have followed that advice rigidly throughout my sexually active years. But I wanted to know how many times a straight, single female in her early twenties who isn’t in any committed relationship should get herself tested.  Kanter reassured me that it “depends,” regardless of gender or orientation, “on how many partners she has, if she is using contraception” if so “what methods is she using, so it really depends but we do recommend” bar none “every six months.”

Is the HIV test free?
It depends. If you qualify for Medicaid they will cover the cost of it. Otherwise, there is a charge associated with it.

What can you tell us about the IUD?
The IUD is a small T-shaped device that’s inserted into the uterus to prevent pregnancy and it is one of the long tern contraception methods.

What would you say is one of the biggest misconceptions about the use of contraception and STD prevention, in terms of excuses, exist?

I personally don’t think any excuse not to use contraception is a good one. People have come up with crazy things, [not] necessarily crazy things but, you hear things like, “oh, it was the heat of the moment, we didn’t think about it,” and “time of the month,” but regardless, it’s critically important both for protection against STDs and for pregnancy that people use contraception every time they engage in sexual behavior

Gozamos.com is geared toward, typically Latino youth and many in our culture are extremely religious. Do you think a person’s religious or ethnic background dictates their use of contraception?

I’m not aware of any studies that reflect that. I know that different religions have varying opinions on the use of contraception. We just encourage everyone, regardless of their race, ethnicity, religious practices, that if they are engaging in sexual behavior, that they do use contraception to protect against STDs and unplanned pregnancies.

Your services are bilingual as well?
Correct.

Is it just English and Spanish or do you provide other languages?
We do have some resources, we have a language line in our house centers to assist people who speak other languages

How do you think Planned Parenthood has changed the fabric of our society when it comes to healthcare for not only young people but also people of low income backgrounds and the general public overall?

Planned Parenthood serves 65,000 men, women and teens every year and throughout the country, 1 in 4 women will have utilized a Planned Parenthood [for] healthcare services. Over 90% of the services that we provide are preventive health care services. Everything from gynecological exams to STD and HIV testing, counseling, treatment, breast and cervical cancer screenings, birth control counseling, options counseling, pregnancy tests. . . So, I think that we have such a wide range of reproductive health care services that really are there for everyone regardless of their ability to pay. We are a social safety net for so many women to ensure that they have adequate access to high quality reproductive health care services.

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