4 Reasons to Get a Pap Test

By Elizabeth Perkins

Did you know that cervical cancer is one of the most preventative cancers? Thanks to the easy and effective Pap test (aka Pap smear) health care providers frequently catch precancerous cells. Nowadays in the U.S., cervical cancer rates are lower than they used to be. That’s largely due to the prominence of regular pap smears, and increased access to preventative health care (thanks Affordable Care Act!). However, there are still plenty of folks with cervixes who don’t go for their regular checkup. So, why should you get a Pap if you feel perfectly healthy?

  1. Pap tests are proactive, so the point is to catch problems early on. A Pap test is meant to test for precancerous cells on the cervix. Wait, where’s the cervix, you ask? Don’t worry, I got you:

Internal Sexual Anatomy

The cervix is a part of the body that constantly changes. It sheds and regenerates its cells, and is especially vulnerable to precancerous cells. Pap tests check for problems with these changes. Cervical cancer can take years to develop. Abnormal precancerous cells don’t usually have any symptoms. Even if you don’t feel like anything’s wrong, it’s important to get a Pap test to be sure. Once cervical cancer has developed, treatment gets more difficult and expensive.

  1. HPV is the most common STD. Most sexually active people will get at least one type of HPV in their lives. HPV is also the leading cause of cervical cancer. Most folks who are sexually active have been exposed to HPV at some point in their lives. One in four people with a cervix will contract the types of HPV that could lead to cervical cancer, but just 1 in 1000 cases actually result in cervical cancer. That’s because we have so many great ways to prevent HPV! Getting the HPV vaccine and visiting your health care provider for regular checkups and a Pap test can go a long way to keep HPV from becoming cervical cancer. And don’t forget condoms – using a latex or polyurethane condom correctly every time you have sex will significantly reduce your risk of getting HPV.
  2. HPV can progress into cancer if you wait too long to get checked. Health care providers recommend pap smears every three years starting at age 21. If it’s been longer than that, it’s time to make an appointment. If you’re nervous, prepare yourself so you know what to expect, and tell your provider so they can talk you through the visit.
  1. You deserve to be healthy! Going to see your doctor for a regular pap test is an important part of self-care. No one else will take care of your health but you.

Your local PPINK health center can schedule you for your next pap test, whether or not you have insurance. In honor of cervical cancer awareness, share this blog with someone you care about. Prevention is love.

What’s the deal with HPV? What you need to know about the most common STD

By Emily

Although cervical cancer is the second leading cause of cancer related death among women worldwide, regular cervical screenings, early treatment, and vaccination against the types of human papillomavirus (HPV) most commonly associated with the development of cervical cancer also make it one of the most easily preventable cancers.

What is HPV?

HPV is the most common sexually transmitted disease (STD) and nearly all sexually active individuals contract it at some point in their lives. There are more than 100 types of HPV, over 40 of which infect the genital area. In most cases, HPV has no symptoms and goes away on its own without causing any health problems. However, some types of HPV can cause lasting infections that can lead to the development of cancer in the anus, throat, cervix, penis, and other places in the body. Fortunately, there are vaccines available that protect against the main types of HPV that account for more than 70% of cervical cancers*.

How are HPV and HPV-related health problems prevented?

Although nearly all sexually active individuals will contract some form of HPV in their lifetimes, there are several things you can do to lower your chance of getting HPV. HPV vaccines are safe, effective, and can protect everyone, regardless of their anatomy and sexual preference, from many diseases and cancers caused by HPV. Routine screenings for cervical cancer in the form of a Pap test and/or HPV testing are also recommended if you have a cervix and are between the ages of 21 and 65 to catch pre-cancerous conditions and treat abnormalities early. Correct and consistent use of latex or polyurethane condoms can significantly lower the risk of contracting HPV, however, no method is 100% effective at preventing the spread of STDs aside from abstinence.

Who should get vaccinated against HPV?

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends that all children aged 11 or 12 should be vaccinated against HPV. While the vaccine is most effective when given before someone becomes sexually active, the vaccine can generally be taken up until age 26 for those who have not been previously vaccinated.

Where can I get vaccinated?

HPV vaccines are generally available at pediatrician and OBGYN offices, local health departments, and Planned Parenthood health clinics. Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky health centers offer the Gardasil vaccine for men and women up to age 26. Vaccine cost depends on insurance status, so call your local clinic for a price estimate.

Side effects of HPV vaccines are no different than those caused by other common vaccines. They are: pain, redness, or swelling at the injection site, dizziness, fainting, nausea, and headache. These are temporary, but the vaccine can prevent many serious health problems including the development of cervical cancer. HPV vaccination is an important step you can take to prevent cervical cancer. Consider getting the vaccine this January during Cervical Cancer Awareness month.

* Gardasil and Cervarix only protects against two types of HPV associated with cervical cancer – 16 and 18. Gardasil 9 protects against 7 types of HPV associated with cervical cancer – 16, 18, 31, 33, 45, 52, and 58. In both cases, the vaccine accounts for coverage for types accountable for over 70% of CC cases as 16 and 18 account for over 70% of all cases alone – Gardasil 9 protects against types associated with 90% of all cases.

World AIDS Day and Beyond: The Time to Act Is Now

ideology pic

Via Ideology

December 1st marked World AIDS day as a day to bring awareness to the international AIDS crisis. AIDS stands for acquired immunodeficiency syndrome, which is the next phase of the human immunodeficiency virus, also known as HIV. According to the World Health Organization, in the last three decades, over 34 million lives have been claimed by HIV-related causes.1. Globally, there are approximately 36.9 people living with HIV1. In the US, around 1.2 million people are living with HIV and 1 in 8 does not know it2.

Transmission can happen in three main ways: exchange of vaginal fluids or semen during unprotected sex (oral, anal, or vaginal); exchange of blood through contaminated needles, syringes, and medical equipment; and mother to child transmission in breast milk and during childbirth. Preventing HIV transmission can happen at three critical times: before exposure, during exposure, and after exposure to the high risk activities previously listed. In Indiana, HIV numbers increased in areas such as Scott County as access to testing centers and clean needle exchange programs declined. As of November 2015, 181 people have tested positive for HIV in this area 3.

Prevention Before High-Risk Activity

  • Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) medicine, consistently taken by folks at high risk for potential HIV transmission
  • Antiretroviral treatment (ART), given during pregnancy to lower chance of transmission from HIV carrier to child
  • Voluntary Medical Male Circumcision to reduce the risk of transmission from women with HIV to men without HIV

Prevention During High-Risk Activity

  • Condoms (internal or external) during oral or penetrative sexual activity
  • Sterilized needles to prevent transmission from shared or reused needles

Prevention After High-Risk Activity

  • Post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) medicine, taken within 72 hours of potential exposure
  • Antiretroviral treatment (ART) to reduce the risk of transmission from partner with HIV to partner without HIV

Despite a 35% decrease in new cases since 2000 our work is far from over. Through greater access to treatment, evidence-based sex education, and prevention method improvements, communities around the globe continue their efforts to bring HIV/AIDs to an end.

1HIV/AIDS Fact Sheet. (2015, July 1).
2World AIDS Day 2015. (2015, October 28).
3Indiana State Department of Health (2015, November 6)


PPPP: Precautionary Protection and Planned Parenthood

When we talk about preventive care, our first thoughts often go towards flu shots, general practitioner check-ins and dental checkups. But did you know that many people don’t have the same type of routine check-ins about their reproductive health? Sometimes, a lack of knowledge of reproductive health services is the primary barrier. Never fear because today, we’ll take some time to discuss some of the precautionary and preventive services that many clinics like Planned Parenthood provide.


Regular screenings are important. Just like getting cars serviced, our bodies work best when we keep up with routine service in regards to our reproductive health. And just like cars, different people need different services. Did you know that Planned Parenthood provides screenings for testicular cancer and testing for HIV and STDs? The Center for Disease Control recommends that all folks 13-64 get tested for HIV and continue to get tested with each new sexual partner1. There are even certain services are aimed at cervical care, including Pap tests and HPV testing. In 2012, 12,042 women in the United States were diagnosed with cervical cancer2. In Indiana, 1 in 4 women between the ages of 21-65 did not have a pap test in the last three years (slightly lower in Kentucky –1 in 5).3 With screening and early detection, we can get these numbers down!

Now you have some idea of the precautionary and preventive measures, the next step involves making that appointment! Thanks to our find a health center tool, all you need is a zip code or city to locate the health center nearest you. After you’ve located your nearest provider, scheduling is just a call or click away. Just like vitamins, brushing teeth and avoiding falling pianos, being proactive about our reproductive health goes a long way with keeping our bodies healthy, happy and whole.

1 (Centers for Disease Control)

2U.S. Cancer Statistics Working Group. United States Cancer Statistics: 1999–2012 Incidence and Mortality Web-based Report. Atlanta (GA): Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and National Cancer Institute; 2015.

3 Women’s Health and Mortality Chartbook: 2014Edition. Washington, DC: DHHS Office on Women’s Health. 2014


One-on-one: Let’s Talk!

By: Candice

“Jesse had condoms at school today and gave me one.”

 “Jordan’s mom let them  have a boyfriend. Why can’t I have a boyfriend yet? It’s not like we would just jump to sex.”

*cue tires squealing/dish dropping/whiplash sequence*

It’s finally here. The “birds and the bees”, “the facts of life”, THE TALK!

Your teen has started asking questions about sexuality and is looking to you for answers. Maybe you think that you should’ve just invested in that puberty book that you saw on display at the bookstore. Or by some stroke of luck, the health teacher at school will tackle it for you. The  good news is that you are not alone! Every day, parents and caregivers handle questions about these topics and sometimes it feels difficult to handle.  However, studies show that parental conversation and support of youth strongly correlates to low-risk behavior and building of autonomy1. Let’s take a look at a few of the different ways we can get a conversation going:

“I’m sure you have questions about what the condom is used for. What did Jesse have to say about them?”

This gives them a chance to ponder on the purpose of protection as well as hearing the perspectives of their peers.

It’s no secret that young people often get information about sex from their peers. Unfortunately, that information is usually a mixed bag of myths, facts, horror stories, and urban legends. By asking  youth questions about what they’ve heard from people their own age, it not only gives you a chance to find out what information (correct or incorrect) is circulating, but also it gives you a chance to have a discussion with your child rather than just lecturing, which nobody likes.

“Maybe we should sit down and talk about this. Perhaps Jordan and their mom have discussed boundaries for dating. We should probably discuss this, too.”

Since they felt like they could tell you about their worries, you could share yours as well.  Sometimes teens assume that parents never want them to have any fun, but that’s not true! Parents just want their teens to be safe and careful in relationships, whether that’s with friends, trusted adults or potential partners.

Take a moment to find a comfortable spot and discuss these types of situations with your teen. Having these conversations takes practice. Discuss your family’s values while also keeping an open ear. By affirming their questions and learning together, we can increase awareness and understanding for all.

1Rodgers, Kathleen Boyce. “Parenting Processes Related to Sexual Risk-Taking Behaviors of Adolescent Males and Females.” Journal of Marriage and Family, 1999., 99, JSTOR Journals, EBSCOhost. Web. 26 Oct 2015

1Rodgers, Kathleen Boyce. “Parenting Processes Related to Sexual Risk-Taking Behaviors of Adolescent Males and Females.” Journal of Marriage and Family, 1999., 99, JSTOR Journals, EBSCOhost. Web. 26 Oct 2015

Know the Facts – Get Yourself Tested

By: Jasmine

Did you know: “1 in 2 sexually active people will get a sexually transmitted disease (STD, also called STI for sexually transmitted infection) by the age of 25? Most won’t know it. The only way to find out is to Get Yourself Tested” (itsyoursexlife.com). April is dedicated to a social movement called Get Yourself Tested or GYT, which was started to help young people take control of their reproductive health with regular STD testing.

know the facts 1

When you start a new relationship or have sex with a new partner, it’s important you have the awkward condom talk, use barriers like condoms or dental dams, and get tested together. Remember—you can’t  tell by looking who has an STD, so follow U.S. Centers for Disease Control guidelines and get tested once a year.

How do you get tested? Getting tested is simple and easy, and usually painless! When you go for your test it’s usually not in a doctor’s office like this:

know the facts 2

But rather, something more like this:

know the facts 3

Often as a sexuality educator, I get questions about what to expect about testing. Providers will ask you a lot of questions that may be uncomfortable. The provider will need to know specific information to help determine your risk of infection. It is important to be open and honest when you respond to their questions so they can give you the best possible care and the information you need to stay healthy.

Some questions might include:

“Have you ever (or are you currently) having sex?
“Do you have sex with women, men or both?”
“Do you have oral sex? Anal sex?”
“Do you use condoms?”
“Do you have symptoms – what is different from what you normally experience?”
“Do you know if your partner(s) have any STDs or symptoms of STDs?”

(From itsyoursexlife.com)

know the facts 4

GYT is about knowing yourself, and knowing your status, while carving your own path in life. (itsyoursexlife.com).  Planned Parenthood health centers offer STD testing, as well as information about how to protect yourself from STDs. So, what are you waiting for? Make an appointment today by calling 1-800-230-PLAN or find a testing site near you.

GYT Month is Here

By: Cici Stutsman, Indy Teen Council Member

Happy Spring—it’s  GYT Month!

What is GYT?

GYT stands for Get Yourself Tested. It is a campaign advocating for everyone, especially young people, to get tested for sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), also called sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

Why should you get tested?

If you are sexually active, then you are at risk of contracting an STD. Condoms can and should be used to reduce the chance of infection, nothing is 100% effective against STIs except for abstinence. Most STDs have minor or no noticeable symptoms. Even if you don’t feel sick, being tested ensures that you can take care of your own health and honestly tell your partner(s) that you’re STD free.

How can you get tested?

In Indiana and Kentucky, Planned Parenthood is promoting testing during the month of April and some health centers are even offering free testing and counseling. There are also at home tests available through stores like CVS and Walgreens. But, while the idea of a private test may sound appealing, professional support and knowledge on how to protect yourself from STDs or what to do if an STD is present is worth the visit to a professional.

How often should I get tested?

The frequency of STD tests depends on how many sexual partners you have and how reliably you use condoms, it’s also depends on if you have shared needles with anyone (sharing needles can spread things like HIV). Hormonal birth control, like the pill or the shot, does NOT protect against STDs. Everyone who’s sexually active should know their status and get tested once a year, with more frequent  testing for more variety in partners.

Schedule an appointment today! Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky now has online scheduling!

Pubes: The Hairy Truth

By: Melanie, Education Intern

pubes 1

You may have heard the phrase “manscaping” recently (and no, I’m not talking about the cute neighbor boy mowing his lawn). “Manscaping” refers to a male-bodied person trimming or grooming his pubic hair. While the trimming trend is relatively recent for men, the idea of a woman trimming or removing her pubic hair has been openly discussed for much longer, and it’s often reflected in porn. Either way, choosing to alter your pubic hair can be a big – and sometimes tricky – choice.

Pubic hair naturally starts growing during puberty, which is usually between the ages of 8 and 16 and often happens a little earlier for girls. It may be thick and curly or thin and straight. It may grow around a person’s genitals and groin (some pubic hair on the labia, the shaft of the penis, or the upper part of a person’s inner thighs is also normal) or it may only cover a small area above the genitals. Your pubic hair may or may not even match the color and texture of the hair that grows on your head and the rest of your body!

The idea of grooming your pubic hair to look a certain way has been around since at least the 1950s. In the 1970s, many people let their pubic hair grow untamed – people were proud of their bushes! While many people still find untamed pubes empowering, beautiful, and sexy, options for pubic hair care are more diverse than ever now. The trends more recently include an array of exciting things to do with your pubic hair, like waxing, shaving, trimming, shaping, going ‘au naturale,’ or even dying it (seriously).

You may be wondering why you have pubes at all. If some people remove them all the time, what’s the point? Researchers have lots of theories about why humans have hair around their genitals, many of which are related to evolution. One reason is that secretions from glands around the genitals mix with healthy bacteria on the skin to produce pheromones. Pheromone scents are unique for each and every person. Another person’s scent may or may not be noticeable to you, but it taps into your unconscious mind to influence your sexual attraction to that person. Plus, abrasions or cuts resulting from removing pubic hair can actually increase risk for STDs like HPV and Herpes that are spread by skin-to-skin contact. What an awesome built-in protection, right?

Pro Tips (before we get into the hairy details):

  • Anytime you remove hair completely, the process of growing it back in can be itchy and uncomfortable. This may also cause you to have some razor burn (red bumps), ingrown hairs, or folliculitis, all of which can be somewhat painful. If it is too painful (i.e. long lasting, you find an abnormal rash, etc.) see a medical practitioner.
  • Remember that any small cuts or abrasions on the skin around the genitals (even the tiny ones that you can’t see) can increase your risk for STD transmission if you’re sexually active. To minimize or prevent STD transmission, take precautions like using a condom or keeping boxers on during penile-vaginal sex, or any genital to genital contact.
  • Hair grows back. If you shave or wax once and don’t like it, you can choose not to do it again!

pubes 2 pubes 3

Before you choose what you do with your pubes, be sure to consider your own health and safety. Make sure you know the facts about each of your options, and keep in mind that some of them require upkeep and might be pricey!

  1. Shaving can be tricky around the genitals, where there are tons of blood vessels and nerve endings that help you feel good and function well. Also, shaving in a slippery shower or without a mirror may end in disaster! Make sure that if you choose to shave, you use a clean, new razor every time.
  2. Waxing can be painful and can cause ingrown hairs, but the smoothness lasts for much longer than shaving. Waxing should not be a “DIY” (do-it-yourself) project! If you choose to do this, leave it to the professionals.
  3. Trimming can be a good middle-of-the-road choice if you’re unsure. This option allows you to keep some of your pubic hair, but trim off the excess. This may be a good choice if your pubic hair grows in such a way that it sometimes gets caught in your underwear lining or the zipper of your pants.
  4. All-natural pubic hair is also a perfectly normal decision. This choice doesn’t require any maintenance (besides regular washing in the shower, of course), and some people say that they even enjoy the sensation of hair on their genitals during sexual activity.

It’s entirely up to YOU! You can always experiment until you find the ‘do for you. Make sure that whatever choice you make for your own pubic hair is something you’re comfortable with. It seems like your partners will care a lot about what you do with your pubic hair, but trust me – they won’t. Someone who cares about you shouldn’t make you feel like your pubic hair is ‘gross’ or ‘dirty.’ It isn’t!

There are all kinds of choices for caring for your pubic hair, including letting them grow! The long and short of it is this: always treat your body with care, kindness, and respect – even those prickly pubes.

Domestic Abuse: Is it Getting Worse?

I recently facilitated an education session that I called “It’s in the News Again”. This was around the time the story emerged about Ray Rice and his partner, Janay Palmer. Unfortunately, it seems this issue is escalating in terms of how often we hear about it in the media. Whether it is a celebrity or an everyday Joe or Jane, it feels like not a day goes by that we don’t hear, read or see something about domestic abuse.

Indiana has the second highest teen dating violence rate in the country. Teen relationships are often where old family patterns begin to repeat. The Domestic Violence Network’s 24th Annual Commemoration event was held on Tuesday, October 7, 2014 at Broadway United Methodist Church. We learned that 67 people in Indiana died as a result of domestic violence. Among them was an IMPD officer who was killed by her ex-husband – a fellow IMPD officer.

So what is it that perpetuates these high rates of violence in Indiana and around the country? Undoubtedly, we see it more because of modern media and technology. I believe it’s more than that though. While we can recognize abuse in its worst forms – hitting, beating, shooting, stabbing, killing – often, more subtle forms of coercion and abuse are not recognized. Examples include:  controlling behaviors, jealousy, and verbal abuse. These are behaviors that many people would not consider abusive, but are often woven into the pattern of behaviors that could and often do escalate to more recognizable forms of abuse.

When children and teens witness domestic abuse day after day in their homes and neighborhoods, it becomes expected. For them, it is ‘normal’. This was never more poignant to me than when I was working with a young woman in a public housing community. She told me that she would not get married until age 50 (she was about 11 or 12 at the time, so 50 seemed ancient to her) – “because that way when he beats me it won’t matter.” I was stunned and frightened for her. I tried to provide her with examples that disproved her belief that this was the way it had to be. She remained firm though, in her belief that being abused is a normal part of having a spouse. No matter what I said, she was resigned to the idea that she would suffer abuse if she married. This incident was many years ago, but I still remember that young woman’s words. I can only hope that by some miracle, she was able to broaden her experience and learn that she does not have to accept that as her fate. Thinking about the pervasiveness of domestic abuse in our daily lives in Indiana and Kentucky, perhaps it is me who was disproved.

Young people learn from us by watching how we behave. Many will adopt the same behaviors they see us display. What non-verbal messages are you sending the young people in your life? They also benefit from the opportunity to discuss or maybe even role-play with us solutions to relationship problems and concerns. Are you “askable”? Would a young person be able to dialogue with you without feeling judged? October is “Let’s Talk” Month. This is a great time to talk to the young people in your life about healthy relationships.  If we can start early and keep an open mind and open door, imagine how we might change things.

From Dreaming to Making It Stick

This past October, our PPINK educators hosted a retreat for peer education teens from Indianapolis and Louisville. In one activity, the teens formed small groups, debated the most intense problem teens in their cities face, and came up with a plan to solve it. Their ideas were presented to the entire group and one was chosen. All agreed that the most important issue teens face was a lack of consent or unclear definitions of consent. They felt strongly about this issue in particular because they all knew someone who had struggled with the definition, was confused by media representations, or simply had a partner try to push their own definitions. In order to solve this problem they worked to first define consent and then create a bumper sticker using this definition. The result is below; peer eds created the definition, designed the sticker, and worked to get it approved.

consent 10

One of our peer educators in Indianapolis had the following story to share about the stickers:
“This happened on a Tuesday night shortly after I got home from a Teen Council meeting in which I picked up 10 or 11 of our #DefiningConsent stickers. Another student from Brownsburg High School posted a vaguely sexist tweet about what happens to girls on spring break. When other students from the school questioned him, they were met with jokes pertaining to drugs and rape from other students, which infuriated me. I took a picture of the consent stickers I had, and tweeted that they are up for grabs for anyone who may want them, and I will be placing some around the school if anyone would like to help; a fellow student replied and told me that she would be happy to. I gave half of the stickers I had left to her, and a couple more to other students. I placed the remaining three stickers I had left in various spots in BHS’s senior academy: on the door of the boys’ restroom, by the vending machines, and in a stairwell.
Shortly after that, I saw people taking pictures of the stickers I had up, and I also overheard other students talking about the stickers in a positive light. I even heard from word of mouth that the girl I gave the rest of my stickers to placed them in other parts of the building, and they caused a stir in that area of the school as well. I had some students ask me what exactly I meant to say in handing out the stickers and what my motives behind it were, and after some explaining, many of them told me they didn’t realize how large of an issue it was, and that they thought it was neat that I was interested in the cause. I’ve also given the stickers to my immediate family, and have gotten them more involved in backing the cause. There are many people who initially thought Planned Parenthood only dealt with abortion who now know the many issues Planned Parenthood deals with in terms of safe sex education and sexual health as a result of the consent stickers being passed around.
When I was placing and handing out the stickers, I did not expect them to cause this large of a movement at my school, but I could not be happier with the outcome. I look forward to handing out more stickers, and I think it would be absolutely fantastic if this could happen in other schools and settings as well!”
To learn more about the stickers, Teen Council (peer education), or PPINK programs please contact central.educator2@ppin.org

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