Valley Health Group Buys 270,000 Condoms, Trains Providers To Prevent Zika Spread

Published: Tuesday, September 20, 2016 - 4:55pm
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(Photo by Tracy Greer - KJZZ)
Zika awareness poster created by the Georgia Department of Public Health.

There is a wide gap in knowledge about the Zika virus in the U.S.

A new study from the March of Dimes and the University of Chicago found, while the vast majority of Americans are aware Zika can be transmitted through a mosquito, less than six in 10 know that it can be sexually transmitted.

Now, the Arizona Family Health Partnership (AFHP) is looking to fill that knowledge gap with a new grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The nonprofit organization received a one-time grant of $248,626 from the agency to help educate healthcare providers here about prevention of Zika.

They’re not talking about mosquito bites—they’re tackling the issue from the reproductive healthcare side.  

“For us, it really has highlighted the need to talk about condom correct usage and consistent usage,” said AFHP CEO Brenda “Bre” Thomas. “How can we get information to both providers and clients about what they can do reduce their risk of mosquito bites as well as increasing use of contraception.”

Thomas said the federal agency had some additional funding at the end of the year and asked AFHP if they could use the funding because the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention identified Arizona as one of the states where the mosquito that carries Zika is found.

AFHP has just purchased 270,000 condoms to distribute to healthcare providers statewide. They’re going to be doing free training for healthcare providers to help them educate their patients about avoiding pregnancy if there is an outbreak of Zika here in Arizona, Thomas said.

“We will be doing work that is reaching out to women of reproductive age, and we’re focusing on women that do not want to be pregnant and we’re also focusing on unintended pregnancies,” she said. “Ideally helping women avoid an unintended pregnancy so that if the Zika virus becomes prevalent in Arizona, they will be able to control their fertility and wait until they’re ready to have a child.”

Thomas agrees the first line of defense against Zika has to be preventing mosquito bites.

“But, the second line of defense absolutely needs to be around birth control and reproductive healthcare for men and for women,” she said.

The information about Zika seems to be updated daily, she said, but right now the message is that the virus can stay in semen for up to six months.

“So, we need to talk to women and men about consistent and correct usage of condoms, we need to talk to men and women about emergency contraception,” she said.

And that could create some pushback from conservative groups who don’t support birth control or emergency contraception.

To that, Thomas said, “There’s always a chance of pushback, but this is a public health conversation we need to have.”

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