By Michaela Maynard
Michaela is one of AIDemocracy’s 2010-2011 Issue Analysts. Find out more about Michaela below or take a look at the  Student Issue Analysts.

I don’t give it much thought when I pick up my birth control pills each month from the pharmacy.  I know that if I need them, I can walk to the store and buy condoms. On Tuesday nights, I watch MTV’s 16 and Pregnant.  As young Americans, we have the luxury of living in a society where reproductive health is accessible and topics like sex are becoming less taboo. Unfortunately, other countries in the world are not as progressive when it comes to issues surrounding sexual and reproductive health.

Each year, over 3 million females endure the dangerous tradition of female genital mutilation. At least 100,000 women every year are left incontinent and ostracized from their communities due to obstetric fistula.  Today, women account for almost half of the 33 million people living with HIV. This past May, the birth control pill turned 50 years old, yet many women don’t have access to contraception.

Barriers to women’s health are complicated, but the solution doesn’t have to be. In Malawi, Africa, Girl Guides are playing a role in improving the sexual and reproductive health of themselves and their peers. The Girl Guides Association is dedicated to teaching females about HIV/AIDS, promoting gender equality and safe sex practices, and inspiring young women to achieve their goals. Through education and empowerment the Girl Guides have the knowledge and the courage to make decisions about their health and their sex life, and little by little, they are establishing safer and better lives for themselves.  All women deserve this kind of girl power.

Michaela has a Bachelor of Arts in Spanish Language and Literature from the University of Rhode Island and a Master of Public Health with a concentration in Global Health from the George Washington University. She resides in Rhode Island where she is employed at a local hospital as a HIV/hepatitis C Clinical Research Assistant. In 2007, Michaela traveled to Malawi, Africa as the inaugural recipient of the Americans for UNFPA Student Award. She is an advocate for the health and rights of women all over the world.