Monday, October 3, 2016

Zika 101: A Health Update From Our Medical Director

Health Update: Dr. Mary Diana, Medical Director

Zika virus is transmitted through the bite of an infected mosquito (Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus). These species are common in Central and South America, but have now made their way north and have been found in Puerto Rico and Florida. New York State has one of the highest numbers of Zika cases in the U.S., although all of these are associated with travel.

While Zika is primarily a mosquito-borne infection, it can also be transmitted sexually through bodily fluids. The vast majority of sexually transmitted cases are from a male traveler to a female partner. There have recently been cases of female-to-male and male-to-male transmission. No one knows how long the virus stays alive in the blood/semen.

The CDC recommends that men who have had a symptomatic Zika infection use condoms for 6 months.
 If they have traveled to an area where Zika is common, but don’t develop any symptoms, they should use condoms for 6 weeks.

Symptoms of Zika infection are headache, fever, joint or muscle pain, conjunctivitis (pink eye), rash, and vomiting. Some people don’t have any symptoms. There is no treatment or vaccine for Zika virus. The infection is self-limited, and usually resolves by itself within a week. Routine testing/screening of the general population for Zika virus is not recommended. Recently, Zika virus infection has been associated with development of Guillain-BarrĂ© Syndrome, a rare neurologic condition involving weakness and sometimes, paralysis. Research is being done to better understand this link.

Zika is a very serious problem in pregnancy. It is passed from the mother’s blood through the placenta to the fetus. Fetuses who become infected during the late first trimester or early second trimester develop severe microcephaly (a condition in which the brain is markedly underdeveloped) as well as other serious irreversible neurologic birth defects. Zika infection later in pregnancy can lead to low birth weight and stillbirth.

Since there is no treatment for Zika virus infection, preventing infection is paramount. Women who are pregnant or trying to become pregnant should avoid travel to areas where Zika is endemic and should avoid having unprotected sex with men who have travelled to these areas. Women who live in endemic areas are advised to prevent mosquito bites by using insect repellants, window screens and mosquito netting, and by wearing long sleeves and pants. If a woman has had a Zika virus infection, she should wait at least 8 weeks before trying to become pregnant.

Policy Update: Katherine Bruno, VP Public Affairs 
Recently the Senate finally passed a bipartisan Continuing Resolution (CR) and Zika funding package and the House is expected to pass the bill before the end of the week, averting a government shutdown and funding the government through December 9, 2016.

We can’t believe it took Congress more than 220 days to approve funding to fight the Zika virus without excluding some of the providers most qualified to help. It shouldn’t have taken this long, but this is still welcome news for women in the Capital Region and around the country.

With the serious risks Zika poses for pregnant women, we are not surprised that medical experts have consistently said that family planning providers must play a central role in preventing the spread of this virus. What surprises us is that some in Congress managed to ignore that guidance for months, trying to jam through a bill that excluded family planning providers. Thankfully, this funding demonstrates importance of family planning providers in combatting Zika, and more broadly, in providing basic health care to women, men and young people.

Planned Parenthood is here to make sure that all women, men and young people the Capital Region and all over the nation have access to the information, health care and support necessary to decide to prevent unintended pregnancy, safely end a pregnancy, or carry a pregnancy to term and raise a child. We believe that all people should be empowered to make decisions for themselves and their families, including the decision of whether to have a child, no matter who they are or where they live.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

The Real Truth about Mycoplasma Genitalium, the "New STI." A Word from our Medical Director.

By Mary Diana, M.D.
Note: this article has been minimally edited for public consumption.

I’m writing to let you know about a “new STI” which you might be reading about in the media.

Mycoplasma is a class of bacteria, of which there are six different species. Five of them inhabit the genitourinary tract. The species Mycoplasma pneumoniae infects the respiratory tract, causing what is commonly referred to as “walking pneumonia.” Mycoplasma hominis is another well-known species in Ob/Gyn, and is often related to pregnancy complications including miscarriage, pre-term labor, low-birth weight, neonatal infection, and stillbirth.

Mycoplasma genitalium is the species that is recently in the lay press and is being called the “new STI”. This species was first identified in the early 1980s and has been recognized as a common cause of male urethritis, representing 15-25% of nongonococcal urethritis in men. Symptoms include pain during urination and discharge from the penis. In women, it is less clear what role it plays, and has not been well-studied. It can be found in the vagina, cervix, and endometrium. Much like Chlamydia and Gonorrhea, there are usually no symptoms in women. There is some evidence that it may cause pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), although it appears that this only occurs in 5% of women who are infected. Studies looking at its relationship to infertility are conflicting. More research needs to be done.

There is good evidence that M. genitalium is transmitted sexually. As far as incidence of infections goes, it is more common than Gonorrhea but less common than Chlamydia, depending on the population studied.

Currently there are no FDA-approved tests for Mycoplasma genitalium. Cultures can take up to 6 months and there are only a few labs in the world that can do this. In research settings, M. genitalium is diagnosed using a method called NAAT (nucleic acid amplification test) which detects the genetic material of the bacteria (this is the same type of test we currently use for Chlamydia and Gonorrhea). It can be detected in urine as well as cervical, vaginal, and urethral swabs. Again, this test is not FDA-approved and is not commercially available. Even if it were available, screening the general population would not necessarily be recommended, and testing would be limited to patients who have symptoms of urethritis, cervicitis, or PID.  Unfortunately, treatment is not straightforward. 

Hopefully we will be able to test for this infection in the near future, but at this time, testing is not available. This is another great reason to encourage condom use!!

If you have further questions, please contact your local Planned Parenthood Health Center.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Thank you, Olympic Condom Guy.

As reported by Distractify and other news sites, officials will be handing out half a million condoms to athletes at the Olympics this summer, which averages out to over 40 condoms per athlete.  I get it-- all of these people are young, fit, full of stamina, and they're on a big trip away from home, so excitement levels are high. Things happen.  And while it may not be the first time officials have done this-- the first time was in 1988, when they handed out 8,500 condoms-- it is the first time condoms are being given directly to women. Hooray to Olympic officials for finally realizing that women can annihilate an 800 meter freestyle world record, and also initiate sex. Wow!

Zika has been classified as a new STI directly linked to birth defects, so the increase in condom distribution isn't a total shock. Regardless, the efforts should not be overlooked. In conjunction with Olympic officials, people also have this fellow to thank:

Thank you, Eric. Olympians, go forth and sex safely.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Volunteer Opportunities!

Get Involved!

Upper Hudson Planned Parenthood is looking for volunteers to get involved and to help us engage in our community through outreach efforts and get out the vote opportunities!

In addition, we look forward to working side by side at other community events and continue to fight for reproductive freedom and help educate our community on the importance of safer sex! Together, we can demostrate our power, engage our people and move our work of expanding access to sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights forward.

For the next few months as we lead up to the election, we are looking for volunteers who want to work on My Vote, My Voice, our voter registration campaign! Get Out The Vote volunteers are needed in Albany, Columbia, Greene and Rensselaer counties. If you are interested in helping us GOTV, please respond below or email Amy at

Upcoming Volunteer Opportunities!

  • 15:  Letter to editor on Women’s Equality Day (Anniversary of the adoption of the 19th amendment) (copy to be provided by UHPP)
  • 18:  Tabling at Back to School Night @ LaSalle School, 174 Williams Road in Troy from 6 to 9pm.
  • 20:  Tabling and GOTV Voter Registration at the Carnival on the Hill @ Star of Bethlehem Missionary Baptist Church, 513 Clinton Avenue, Albany from 12 to 3 pm.
  • 20:  Tabling and GOTV Voter Registration at the Carnival on the Hill @ Star of Bethlehem Missionary Baptist Church, 513 Clinton Avenue, Albany from 2 to 5 pm.
  • 24:  Tabling and GOTV Voter Registration at Josephs House, 74 Ferry Street in Troy from 4 pm to 5:30 pm.
  • 30:  Tabling and GOTV Voter Registration at the Rensselaer County Dept. of Social Services in Troy from 10am to 12pm.

  • 1:  Letter to editor on National Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month (content to be provided by UHPP)
  • 24:  GOTV Voter Registration at LarkFEST in Albany. Times to be determined.
  • 30:  Tabling and GOTV Voter Registration at SUNY Albany, Information Studies Department Annual Program Symposium (Uptown Campus) from 12:30 pm to 2:30pm.

  • 1:  Letter to editor on Planned Parenthood's 100th Anniversary (copy to be provided by UHPP)
  • 9:  Tabling and GOTV Voter Registration at the Troy ChowderFest from 12 to 4pm

  • Get Out the Vote tabling in the Albany Health Center (any day in August or September)
  • Get Out the Vote tabling in the Troy Health Center(any day in August or September)

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Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Lands End & Gloria Steinem: So What’s the Big Deal?

The Vice Chairperson of UHPP's Board of Directors, Jill Rafferty-Weinisch, has written a scathing dissertation of Lands End's resent goof regarding Gloria Steinem.

For those of you who may not have heard, Lands End decided to feature a different "icon" every season to appear as a model on their website and in their catalogs.  Gloria Steinem is a prominent American feminist, activist, and author.  She appeared as the first guest in the icon series.  Pretty great, right?  Or maybe not for some.

Some anti-feminist and anti-choice people protested the selection of Steinem as an icon, and threatened boycotts.  Lands End caved, and pulled the feature.

Jill goes on to describe the backlash:
"The response to the apology has been fierce, and although there is no way for me to gauge whether the company has lost more customers because of the original article or the ensuing backlash, damage to their reputation is assured. The company’s liberal “if you’re not satisfied for any reason” policy is leading to mass returns. Their Facebook page has become a rallying point for angry women feeling their trust (and consumer dollars) have been betrayed.
Women and girls are routinely socialized that their rights are acceptable – as long as they do not offend or make anyone else uncomfortable. Our existence is regularly constrained by the possibility we might make someone feel bad, or horny, or angry, or threatened. It has broad and sweeping ramifications in terms of violence against women, educational attainment, workplace equity, the provision of medical care, basic bodily autonomy… virtually every part of our lives."
Read her full blog here.

What Jill doesn't tell you in her blog, is that she gathered up every single article of Lands End clothing she had, no matter how old it was, and returned it. She was a big fan of their stuff, and had accumulated quite a bit of it over the years.  True to their policy, they refunded her every cent; over $2000 worth.

Do you have Lands End clothing in your home?  Are you unhappy with their decision to remove Steinem from their website and materials?  If so, you can do something about it.  Take a stand!