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Planned Parenthood sponsors Essence FestivalPlanned Parenthood Federation of America, an organization dedicated to providing women with cost effective healthcare options, is sponsoring the 2012 ESSENCE Music Festival in New Orleans.

PPFA, and it’s affiliate Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast, have spent the week-end “[educating] attendees on Planned Parenthood’s affordable, high-quality health services and offer birth control counseling and information,” according to the organization’s press release.

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This is the first time in the organization’s 100 year history that Planned Parenthood has sponsored the iconic festival that draws hundreds of thousands to the Big Easy for music, fun, beignets and Bourbon Street.

“At Planned Parenthood, we know that women and families are often too busy with work and life to prioritize their own health. That’s why, we’re focused on making sure that women have access to high-quality, affordable health care and education,” said Dawn Laguens, executive vice president for public policy, advocacy, and communications at PPFA. “The ESSENCE Music Festival is not only a great cultural event but also a great opportunity to educate festival attendees about health disparities in the African-American community and the affordable, high-quality care that Planned Parenthood provides in communities across the country.”

Celebrity guests have been dropping by the Planned Parenthood booth at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center, including Grammy Award-winning singers Estelle and Q Parker, Rocsi Diaz, former co-host of BET’s 106 & Park, actress Keisha Knight Pulliam (The Cosby Show and Tyler Perry’s House of Payne), celebrity stylist June Ambrose of VH1’s Style by June, and Reverend Al Sharpton, host of MSNBC’s Politics Nation.

“African Americans have higher rates of many preventable diseases, including cancers, diabetes, heart disease and sexually transmitted infections,” said Dr. Vanessa Cullins, vice-president for external affairs. “Planned Parenthood wants to help African Americans get and stay healthy, and the Essence Music Festival is a terrific place to engage with and educate people about how to live healthier lives. The festival is a party — but with a purpose.”

Dr. Cullin was also available during PPFA’s “Ask the Expert” question-and-answer session on Saturday to provide attendees with important information. Diaz also moderated a 30-minute “Ask the Expert” Game Show on the Essence.com Live Stage.

In addition to providing birth control counseling and information, Planned Parenthood staff and volunteers has been handing out fans, T-shirts, water bottles, and tote bags all week-end.

Planned Parenthood released the following statement to shed light on it’s services:

Planned Parenthood is the nation’s leading sexual and reproductive health care provider and advocate.  We believe that everyone has the right to choose when or whether to have a child, and that every child should be wanted and loved.  Planned Parenthood affiliates operate nearly 800 health centers nationwide, providing medical services and sexuality education for millions of women, men, and teenagers each year.  We also work with allies worldwide to ensure that all women and men have the right and the means to meet their sexual and reproductive health care needs.

In addition to PPFA’s presence, the week-end has been full of celebrity performances and appearances, such as D’Angelo, SWV, actress Tempest Bledsoe and Vanessa Williams, who discussed family, love and relationships during one of a series of free panel discussions with her mother Helen.

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