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April 7, 2020

Headlines of the Week

FDA Relaxes Blood Donation Guidelines for Gay Men and Others

The Food and Drug Administration announced that it was significantly loosening its recommendations for blood donations from gay and bisexual men, reducing the amount of time men who have had sex with men should wait before they give blood to three months from one year in hopes of ameliorating a drastic drop in supply during the coronavirus pandemic. The earlier 12-month waiting period was intensely criticized as discriminatory and antiquated when the FDA introduced it in 2015 to replace a lifetime prohibition on blood donation by gay and bisexual men. That ban was enacted in 1983, early in the AIDS epidemic when little was known about HIV. The FDA re-examined the ban over the years but had maintained that the restriction was necessary to keep the blood supply safe and untainted by HIV. The FDA said the new recommendations would remain in place after the pandemic ends. LGBTQ+ advocates applauded the agency’s latest move but said they would work to lift the waiting period entirely. “LGBTQ+ Americans can hold their heads up today and know that our voices will always triumph over discrimination,” Sarah Kate Ellis, the President and CEO of GLAAD, said in a statement. “This is a victory for all of us who spoke out against the discriminatory ban on gay and bisexual men donating blood.” (New York Times, 4/2/2020)

The COVID-19 Pandemic Exposes the Need for Over-the-Counter Birth Control

In the U.S., over 99% of people for whom pregnancy is a possibility have used some form of birth control over the course of their reproductive lives. And yet, as people across the country find themselves navigating the COVID-19 pandemic, their ability to prevent pregnancy is increasingly being compromised. For those who rely on nonpermanent methods of hormonal contraception like the pill, patch, ring, or shot, access can be particularly complicated. Largely, that is because these methods require a prescription. This is something that has not changed since the pill first came on the market in 1960, when moral and medical arguments about contraception were very different. Today, however, nearly 8 in 10 adults in the U.S. consider birth control to be “a basic part of women’s healthcare,” according to results from a national telephone survey. And despite earlier concerns about medical risks, studies have found over-the-counter (OTC) sale of contraception—something that already occurs in many countries—is safe for both adults and teens. As already existing barriers to accessing contraception in the U.S. are amplified by the COVID-19 pandemic and as more cities go into lockdown, it is likely new obstacles will emerge. (Rewire News, 4/2/2020)

A History of Reproductive Rights, Told For Teens

The right to have an abortion in the U.S. has been under attack for decades and as a pandemic worsens in the U.S., states including Ohio, Texas, and Mississippi have attempted to temporarily ban surgical abortion as “non-essential.” These latest bans have drawn criticism from doctors and galvanized providers to file lawsuits. Politics and religion aside, women have been receiving and giving abortions for centuries, whether or not it was safe or legal—from 19th-century birth control businesses in New York to the Chicago group “Jane,” which was nearly shut down in the early 1970s. The 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade has been widely regarded as the historical turning point for women’s right to terminate a pregnancy — a decision that author Karen Blumenthal says was actually not feminist. “It wasn't a decision that said, ‘it's a woman's right,’” she told NowThis. Blumenthal, also a journalist, is the author of “Jane Against the World: Roe v. Wade and the Fight for Reproductive Rights,” a book designed and packaged for teens. The book’s deeply researched history of reproductive rights is laid out in narrative, character-driven terms, and adults could also learn a lot from reading it. Blumenthal told NowThis that she wrote the book for young adults because they will quickly become voters and are learning to form political opinions of their own. (NowThis, 4/1/2020)

Sexuality Educator Ericka Hart Talks Dismantling Oppressive Systems in Sex Ed and Beyond

Acclaimed sexuality educator and activist Ericka Hart has devoted their life to fighting oppression. As a queer, nonbinary person of color and also a breast cancer survivor, they know all too well the challenges of navigating the world at the intersection of several marginalized identities. “I want to see the dismantling of systems,” Hart says. And indeed, they are living that truth. Diagnosed with breast cancer at 28 years old, Hart made a splash across the Internet when they attended the AFROPUNK music festival topless, baring their mastectomy scars for all to see. That topless moment, Hart says, changed the way they approach their now 11-year career as a sexuality educator, as it helped them realize the importance of including disability in their curriculum. “Talking about breast cancer and sex has always been something I’ve resisted doing, but now, as someone who has to navigate the world with a chronic illness and a disability—as breast cancer is marked as both—I find it imperative. I have to talk about it and it’s necessary we talk about disability and chronic illness as it relates to sex. I make sure it’s prominent in my classroom and that we are affirming of all bodies that experience pleasure.” (Forbes, 3/24/2020)

This Week on Our Blog

Help Young People Make a Game Plan for Their Health with Volt20

20 Questions to a Healthy Future: Volt20
Looking for a way to engage the young people you work with while maintaining social distancing? Consider using Volt20 to help them create a game plan for their health. Volt20 helps youth think about their lives, decide what they like about their lives right now, what they wish were different, and plan for a healthy future. With Volt20, adolescents and young adults can focus on what’s going on with their bodies, minds, relationships, and the places they live, learn, work, and play. Read more...

Funding & Other Opportunities

Girls, Gender-Expansive Young People, and COVID-19: Federal Actions and Next Steps Webinar

April 8, 2020
11:00 AM ET

This webinar and conversation, hosted by National Crittenton, will review recent federal actions and what lies ahead as it impacts girls and gender-expansive young people, families, and nonprofit organizations. Time will also be reserved for a conversation on the impact of the pandemic on girls and gender-expansive young people.

Meeting the Needs of Survivors During COVID-19

April 9, 2020
3:30 PM ET

Join RALIANCE for this Sexual Assault Awareness Month virtual briefing on meeting the needs of survivors during COVID-19.

Emergency Grants to Address Mental and Substance Use Disorders During COVID-19

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) is accepting applications for this emergency grant program. SAMHSA recognizes there are currently 57.8 million Americans living with mental and/or substance use disorders. The current national crisis of COVID-19 will certainly contribute to growth in these numbers. Americans across the country will struggle with increases in depression, anxiety, trauma, and grief. There is also an anticipated increase in substance misuse as lives are impacted for individuals and families. The purpose of this program is to provide crisis intervention services, mental and substance use disorder treatment, and other related recovery supports for children and adults impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Funding will be provided for states, territories, and tribes to develop comprehensive systems to address these needs. The purpose of this program is specifically to address the needs of individuals with serious mental illness, individuals with substance use disorders, and/or individuals with co-occurring serious mental illness and substance use disorders.
Deadline: 4/10/2020

Black Maternal Health Week Webinar Series

The Black Mamas Matter Alliance is hosting a webinar series on April 13-16th on various topics related to Black maternal health. The April 13th webinar will feature birth and reproductive justice health professionals' experiences and guidance with respect to the COVID-19 pandemic and response. The April 14th webinar will highlight BMMA’s position with respect to Maternal Mortality Review Committees and their engagement with community-based organizations and advocates, along with policy considerations relating to Doula Reimbursement. The April 15th webinar will address root causes of disparities in black maternal health outcomes and will highlight how the medicalization of childbirth has complicated and marginalized black midwifery in the United States. The April 16th webinar will feature black-led community-based organizations working to advance Black Maternal Health, Rights, and Justice at the local level.

Using Storytelling to Get Your Organization's Message Across

April 15, 2020
11:00 AM ET

Storytelling is a way to connect an organizational mission to an audience in a memorable and emotional way. Using charts and graphs is great, but storytelling adds a component to data that makes it stick in people's minds. For this webinar, hosted by SHIFT NC, storyteller Sam Peterson (The Monti, TEDxUNC) will share how to craft a captivating tale of various lengths using theme, flow, resolution, and more to help communicate an organization's directive through an unforgettable tale.

At-Home Activism for the Month of April

Advocates for Youth invites you to join them for At-Home Activism: Going the (Social) Distance for Sexual Health & Rights. Connect with youth activists around the country during this month-long series. Programs include everything from fun trivia games and virtual movie nights, to youth activists teaching about reproductive justice & op-ed writing.  
Healthy Teen Network $40 for 40

Youth 360⁰Astronaut Scott Kelly Spent a Year in Space, and He Has Tips on Isolation to Share

Being stuck at home can be challenging. When retired Astronaut Scott Kelly lived on the International Space Station for nearly a year, it wasn’t easy. When he went to sleep, he was at work. When he woke up, he was still at work. Flying in space is probably the only job that there is no way to quit. But Scott learned some things during his time up there that he'd like to share—because they are about to come in handy again, as everyone is confined at home to help stop the spread of the coronavirus. Here are a few tips on living in isolation, from someone who has been there. Follow a schedule. Maintaining a plan will help adjust to a different work and home life environment. But remember to maintain a certain pace. Living and working in the same place for days on end, work can have a way of taking over everything. Take time for fun activities and don't forget to include a consistent bedtime. NASA scientists closely study astronauts’ sleep when we are in space, and they have found that quality of sleep relates to cognition, mood, and interpersonal relations—all essential to getting through a mission in space or a quarantine at home. Go outside. One of the things Scott missed the most while living in space was being able to go outside and experience nature. Research has shown that spending time in nature is beneficial for people's mental and physical health, as is exercise. Working out for two and a half hours a day, as astronauts on the space station do, isn't necessary but getting moving once a day should be part of a quarantine schedule (just stay at least six feet away from others). Read more...


The First 10 Years of the ACA: We Must Protect and Build on Major Gains in Sexual and Reproductive Health

March 23 marked 10 years since President Obama signed the Affordable Care Act (ACA) into law. Over this decade, the law has dramatically reduced the number of uninsured people in the United States, eliminated many unfair private insurance practices, expanded the scope of what health insurance covers, instituted new patient protections, supported the U.S. health care system’s ability to better deal with crises like the COVID-19 outbreak, and generally led to improved health and economic well-being for millions of people. More specifically, it has expanded access to sexual and reproductive health services in numerous ways. Yet, continued challenges from the Trump administration and other conservative policymakers threaten its future. This analysis from the Guttmacher Institute outlines the ACA's victories and what threats are interfering with efforts to building on its progress to further improve the U.S. healthcare system.

Identifying a Golden Opportunity: Adolescent Interest in Contraceptive Initiation in a Pediatric Emergency Department

Contraception use reduces teen pregnancy, and long-acting reversible contraception is recommended as first-line treatment. Since many adolescents use the emergency department (ED) as a primary source of health care, it is a potential site of contraceptive counseling and provision. For this study, published in the Journal of Women's Health, researchers surveyed adolescents to assess the desire for contraceptive counseling and initiation/change during an ED visit. Researchers used a sample of ED patients aged 16–21 years in an urban pediatric ED. Participants completed an anonymous questionnaire about sexual health, contraceptive use, and interest in contraceptive counseling. Researchers found that adolescents were interested in initiating or changing contraception during the ED visit, providing an important opportunity to discuss and initiate effective contraception.


The LGBTQ Community and COVID-19

As COVID-19 sweeps the world, hundreds of thousands of people have contracted the virus, and every community has been affected. The LGBTQ community in the U.S.—along with many communities around the globe— ill face unique challenges due to its economic and health care situations. The Human Rights Campaign has compiled a list of resources for the LGBTQ community that include an issue brief, webinars, and support for LGBTQ youth and their parents.

Tips to Keep Children Healthy While School’s Out

The CDC has released new guidance on keeping children healthy while schools are closed. The guidance includes steps to protect children from getting sick, information about social activities while schools are closed, and recommendations to help children continue learning. 

Teaching Middle and High School Sex Ed Online During a Pandemic

Is anyone about to teach comprehensive sexuality education online for middle or high school students for the first time ever? Many people are prepping without any substantial information, experience, or even research on how to do it. This blog post from UN|HUSHED gives 10 tips on how to present sexuality education online, given what we know about online education and sex education. UN|HUSHED is also doing 10 live webinar sessions that will discuss each tip and enable participants to get support and ideas. The series can be picked up at any time and past sessions have been recorded.

12 States Are Starting a Special Enrollment Period

Power to Decide has put together a list of states who have worked with insurance companies to create special enrollment periods for the uninsured to find coverage. They will continue to update information about what states are opening special enrollment.

#AskableParent Challenge’s #AskableParent Challenge is a 6-day newsletter program for parents of 4-18 year-olds featuring free resources to help navigate their kids' questions as they adjust to more time at home and social distancing. The challenge will live on the AMAZE website for parents to begin anytime, but we’re launching the new feature with a special social activation week Monday, April 6th — Saturday, April 12th. They will be hosting Facebook Lives, virtual zoom happy hours, and other programming with sexuality and mental health experts focused on helping ensure parents are their go-to for all of their kids questions—not older siblings, porn, or misinformation online. 
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