We all know that Planned Parenthood provides a range of reproductive health services such as Pap smears, birth control and pregnancy terminations. But did you know that it is a place for affordable and rapid HIV testing?
Here are some quick facts:
— One-third of all women are tested at health centers around the country including Planned Parenthood.
— According to the Guttmacher Institute [PDF], Planned Parenthood is the largest family planning provider in the country.
— In 2011, they tested more than 680,000 people, an increase of 16 percent from 2010.
Emily Stewart, the director of public policy for Planned Parenthood Federation of America told BET.com that they hope that these numbers will increase even more because of the Affordable Health Care Act and provisions that make preventative tests, such as HIV, co-pay free.
“This Medicaid expansion [if states accept it] could mean that millions of more Americans, including African-Americans, would be newly eligible for health care and would have more access to HIV testing,” Stewart said. “This is really important given that currently, more than 50 percent of all Planned Parenthood clients are on Medicaid.”
But health care expansion is only one important piece of the puzzle in ensuring that more people are getting tested for HIV. Another piece is making sure that the communities most at risk for HIV are being reached.
Young people — 15-29 — account for 21 percent of the U.S. population, yet they account for 39 percent of all HIV infections annually. This demographic — teens and patients in their 20s — that account for 75 percent of the patients that come into PP health centers around the country. When it comes to African-American women, who are disproportionately impacted by HIV, each year more than 400,000 of us access these clinics. Don’t worry, fellas, Planned Parenthood isn’t just for the ladies: there are a growing number of men accessing HIV tests and other care at these clinics, too.
Dr. Vanessa Cullins, the vice president for medical affairs at Planned Parenthood Federation of America, told BET.com that she wants young people to understand that no shame should be attached to HIV and STD testing.
“There is nothing to be embarrassed about,” she said. “You want to protect your future health and fertility by getting tested regularly because you cannot tell by looking at someone if someone has an infectious sexual infection.”
Learn more about the Get Yourself Test (GYT) campaign.
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(Photo: Courtesy of Planned Parenthood)