Clinic manager: Take charge of your sexual health
Prior to COVID-19, sexually transmitted infections including chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis were already at a record high for the fifth consecutive year. The ongoing pandemic has limited the availability of testing, treatment and education for STIs — which means more STIs are going undetected and untreated during the pandemic.
April is STI Awareness Month. Now more than ever, it's critical to have the facts about STIs to avoid perpetuating STI stigma or shaming people who have STIs, which can make people less likely to get tested.
As the country continues to respond to COVID-19, STI care has taken a back seat. Although people are still having sex during the pandemic, we know that fewer people are getting tested, as some health care providers have deprioritized STI care and reduced or eliminated in-person appointments.
Two-thirds of community health centers nationwide have reported a sharp decrease in patients accessing screening and treatments due to COVID-19. Black women, trans people, young people and men who have sex with men continue to be disproportionately impacted by HIV.
Knowing your status and having access to STI treatment is critical to avoiding more serious future health issues. If left untreated, STIs can cause significant health issues, such as cancer, infertility or miscarriage.
Anyone who has vaginal, anal or oral sex can get an STI. According to a new report from the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine, 1 in 5 people in the United States will have an STI in any given year, with nearly 68 million infections in 2018.
All STIs are treatable, and many are curable. The most common STI symptoms are no symptoms at all, so getting tested is the only way to know your status.
While the COVID-19 pandemic has created new challenges to the way we provide health care across the country, Planned Parenthood is a leader in using innovative approaches to STI care and prevention. Through telehealth, patients can access time-sensitive and essential care with fewer visits to a health center.
Planned Parenthood Columbia Willamette's Milwaukie-Oak Grove Health Center offers STI testing and treatment services, as well as HIV prevention tools like prescriptions for PrEP, a daily pill that can help prevent HIV, and PEP, a series of pills you can take after you've been exposed to HIV that lowers your chances of getting it. We also provide the HPV vaccine, which is critical for preventing cervical cancer and other cancers. HPV is the most common STI, which around 80 percent of all sexually active people will have at some point in their life.
Sexual and reproductive health care can't wait — even during a public health crisis like COVID-19. The only way to fail an STI test is not to take it. Knowing your status is a way you can take charge of your sexual health.
Planned Parenthood is here to make sure you can always get the care you need to help protect yourself and your partners, whether online or in person. It's what we do — for your health, for your partners' health, for you.
Muriel Jordan manages Planned Parenthood Columbia Willamette's Milwaukie-Oak Grove Health Center. For more information about STI testing and treatment available via telehealth, visit ppcw.org.
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