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Archive for the ‘Sexually Transmitted Infections’ Category

Far too many Latinas suffer and die from cervical cancer—in fact, Latinas are diagnosed with this deadly disease at a rate 40% higher than their white counterparts. But there is hope: with adequate access to quality preventive care and treatment, we can end cervical cancer and it’s harmful impact on our communities. At the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health, we advocate for polices that will lower Latinas’ incidence of cervical cancer and share educational resources and action kits so that Latinas can raise awareness about and prevent cervical cancer in their families, in their communities and for themselves.

We’re about to get some real help. With the implementation of the new health reform law, and thanks to the work of Congress and the Obama administration, Latinas across the US will soon have even more tools in the fight to end cervical cancer. Under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, or just “ACA,” new insurance plans will cover a number of services aimed to prevent cervical cancer at no additional cost to patients.

Starting on September 23, 2010, new health insurance plans began to cover the full cost (without co-pays, deductibles or co-insurance costs) of the following cervical health related services:

Additionally, while routine Pap tests (even after HPV vaccination) remain the most effective way to prevent or detect cancer at its earliest (and most treatable) stages, those who wish to boost their cervical cancer protection with one of the HPV vaccines (Gardasil and Cervarix) may receive the vaccine at no additional cost, depending on your age.

 

Why is this change important to Latinas?

As we’ve pointed out before, Latinas have the highest rates of cervical cancer incidence and second highest rates of cervical cancer mortality. The incidence of cervical cancer among Latinas is almost twice that of white non-Latina women, and this health disparity increases along the U.S.-Mexico border.

Of the many barriers Latinas face to preventing and treating cervical cancer, cost can be one of the hardest to overcome. This is especially true for the HPV vaccine, which can run an additional $390.00 (some reported paying $700.00) in co-pays.

Expanding access to services that promote cervical health will also benefit LGBTQ Latin@s including transmen, who face additional barriers to getting the care they need.

Coverage under the ACA is a hugely importance step that will get us closer to the day that NO one dies from cervical cancer, ever again.

For more information about cervical cancer, please visit NLIRH’s Cervical Cancer page.

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This week you have been reading many perspectives on “what will it take to end cervical cancer?” as part of NLIRH’s blog carnival, ¡Acábalo Ya! Working Together to End Cervical Cancer.

All of us here at the  National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health (NLIRH) emphasize the importance of monitoring cervical cancer incidence rates because they serve as indicators of a community’s access to preventive health care services.

Why is this? Because no woman should be diagnosed, let alone die, of cervical cancer. For the first time, we have a comprehensive set of tools to prevent and fight the disease. Cervical cancer is highly preventable with regular Pap tests, the HPV test, and a provider’s monitoring and treatment of precancerous changes to the cells of a cervix. The HPV vaccines (both Gardasil® and Cervarix®) are also effective tools in the prevention of cervical cancer. Furthermore, the disease is also highly treatable when detected early.

Yet Latinas continue to have the highest incidence of cervical cancer among women of all ethnic/racial groups and the second highest mortality rate after African American women. In certain states, particularly along the southern border, Latinas have the highest incidence and mortality rates.

NLIRH recognizes and raises awareness of the myriad barriers Latinas face to preventing cervical cancer: lack of health insurance, stigmas around STIs and sexual health, cultural and linguistic barriers with health care systems and providers, the high cost of health care, fear associated to immigration status, racism and xenophobia.

Thus, while we serve to educate Latinas about the importance of gynecological health and demystify sexual health issues, we also will work year-round to bring down the barriers Latinas face in accessing health care.

This year, we will work to increase federal funding for Title X, the only federally funded family planning program, that provides cervical cancer screening and STI counseling to low-income women. We urge the federal government to support other programs that positively impact Latina health including Medicaid,  Community Health Center grants, funding for immunizations and school-based health programs. We will continue to advocate for access to health care for immigrants, for instance by urging Congress to lift the five-year ban for qualified legal immigrants from accessing means-tested benefits under Medicaid.

In 2012, there will be many opportunities to reduce health disparities and increase Latinas’ access to health services. Beyond January, we hope that our elected officials will not only speak about cervical cancer awareness, but work work us to ensure Latinas live cervical-cancer free.

For more information, please visit NLIRH’s resources on cervical cancer.

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Cecile Richards, President of Planned Parenthood Federation of America stated at a center in San Antonio this past week that abstinence-only education does not serve our youth, but in fact, endangers them. While holding up the current state-approved Health class textbook, Richards said:

There’s absolutely nothing in here about using a condom or anything else that would prevent a sexually transmitted infection.

Texas, for more than five years now, has had the highest teen pregnancy rate in the nation. The prevalence of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) has also increased with abstinence-only education. The evidence that this education (or lack thereof) has lead to countless unintended pregnancies or STIs is difficult to ignore . With recent addendums made by the Texas Board of Education, health classes are no longer even a requirement for students to graduate.

As a graduate from a high school in Houston, lifelong Texas citizen, and intern for NLIRH, I have firsthand experience with teen pregnancy and the lack of medically-accurate education. Five of my childhood friends have had children since gradation, all of which were unintended. If Texas doesn’t reexamine its educational priorities, the future of the state will reflect the carelessness of its curriculum.

By Carlos Blanco, Community Mobilization Intern

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According to the Washington Post, Washington D.C. is planning to expand a sexually transmitted infection (STI) testing program to all of its high school students in the next year. Last year the program targeted 8 high schools, and found a 13% rate of STIs in the roughly 3,000 students tested. The STIs found were predominantly Chlamydia and Gonorrhea, both of which are treatable with antibiotics. This program has already been implemented in other U.S. cities, and not only gives students the chance to get tested confidentially, but also provides them with an informational lecture beforehand.

More cities and school based health centers should follow suit in providing confidential and accessible services to youth. Studies over the past decade have proven that making STI testing services and comprehensive sex education accessible to youth, does not in fact lead to higher rates of disease or earlier sexual debuts, and instead helps those teens decide when they want to have sex and inform them how to do it safely. Therefore it seems like an obvious step that all schools need to take: provide information, in interactive and accessible forms, and testing to students in school!

By Robin Mangini, Research Intern

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As the battle continues on President Obama’s economic stimulus package, the Senate is expected to start debates over the proposed $400 million intended for use on STD prevention. Sen. Tom Harkin, Iowa Democrat and chairman of the Senate Appropriation health subcommittee, stated:

The initiative includes grants to communities for health promotion, immunization programs, health screenings and counseling, smoking-cessation programs, scholarships and loan repayment for health professionals, research, and evidence-based disease-prevention strategies.

 By passing this bill, we can hope to see improvements in the education, prevention, screening and diagnosis of sexually transmitted diseases in the United States.  However, while the bill is contributing to supporting women’s rights, not all the initial steps are being taken.  A separate portion of the economic stimulus package which would have allocated $200 million for providing contraceptive coverage under Medicaid was removed.

 

For Republicans and Democrats that don’t support the stimulus package, their argument is that portions such as STD prevention and providing contraceptives will provide little short-term help in boosting the economy.  But what they fail to see is how economics plays a role on one’s health, and health plays a role in economics?  Dismissing the need for resources and education that can improve women’s health is a failure not only to women, but to children and men, all of whom may be affected by STDs or unintended pregnancy.

 

Contributed by Angela Donadic, Policy and Advocacy Fellow

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In the Center for Disease Control and Preventions’ annual report on sexually transmitted diseases a startling statistic was found—Chlamydia rates are continuing to rise, and now exceed 1.1 million cases in the United States.

 

While raising concerns for both women and men, it is women who often suffer the long term consequences of sexually transmitted diseases.

 

In some cases women may not show symptoms of disease causing them to go undiagnosed, which often increases the likelihood of disease related complications. These can include pelvic inflammatory disease, and can lead to infertility.  However when caught early, medication can help prevent complications, preventing unneeded stress or further medical costs to women.

 

In order to see changes in the rates of Chlamydia and other sexually transmitted diseases, it is important that we use a holistic approach to address the issue.  Income levels, education, insurance and cultural factors can all play a role in disease onset and diagnosis, and it is important that efforts be made at the community level to create positive change.

 

In addition, comprehensive sex education as well as some form of universal health insurance would be beneficial to all women.  Without affordable health insurance, it is unlikely that women can just cough up a few hundred dollars to see a gynecologist and test for a disease that they might or might not have, especially if they have no symptoms.

 

Contributed by Angela Donadic, Policy and Advocacy Fellow

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The media today is awash with the news that a national study found 1 in 4 teenage girls has a sexually transmitted infection.  This statistic is certainly alarming and incredibly unfortunate, and this issue certainly requires media attention.  The study, however, has been covered in problematic ways that serve not to inform but rather create and reinforce stereotypes. 

First, the coverage has been inflammatory and is taking the form of a sex panic; The New York Times’ headline for the news story, Sex Infections Found In Quarter of US Girls, uses non-medical terminology (sex infections?) presumably for curiosity and shock value (the NY Times has been known to do this before), and phrases such as “infections from sexual activity of teens” are clearly used to demonize girls’ choice to engage in sexual activity.  The news stories make little or no distinction between the words “infection” and “disease,” and most don’t even mention boys. 

Most importantly, though, the study has found a huge disparity in the burden of disease, with the rates of infection in African-American girls as high as 50%.  This alarming data is a clear indicator of just how pervasive the obstacles that women of color face in healthcare really are, and this report should be followed by a discussion of these obstacles.  Instead, most articles merely report the statistic and move on without any discussion of the systematic reasons why African-American girls carry such a heavy burden of disease, leaving it up to the reader and the general public to surmise why this might be. 

The result of such carelessness is not trivial, and could contribute to increased discrimination and stigma, in turn increasing the obstacles women of color already face in healthcare and possibly exacerbating this disturbing trend. 

–Veronica Bayetti Flores

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