Thursday, July 2, 2009

How far reaching is it when our local health agencies aren’t doing their jobs?

Another access to health care story: A 39 year old woman, recently separated from her husband after she found he was having more than one affair needs STD testing--but where is she supposed to get it? She works part-time, she has no health insurance and she is not eligible for Medicaid. She called the health dep’t- and is told there are no appointments this month-call back next month. Again, like other patients, she says she was told the price for STD testing is $150.00.

She came came in to the W.O.R.T.H. clinic for STD testing—but though we likely have the lowest out-of-pocket rates in the Rome area (we charge only what the lab charges us), she can’t afford most STD testing even at our clinic. So here sits this woman, in the heart of a county where health care is the number one industry, picking through our price list trying to decide which screening to get- she decided can get a free HIV test at the AIDS Resource Council. Maybe she can get a syphilis test here- that is just $6.00 and maybe she can afford the Hepatitis B test- that is also $6.00. But, then I told her in order of STD prevalence what she was most likely to have been exposed to: The incidence of the three STDs that she can afford to be tested for is low. The ones she can’t afford to be tested for are chlamydia, gonorrhea and Herpes I/II and she is much more likely to have been exposed to one of those. She can’t even afford her Pap smear ($30.00) so that she can be screened for HPV. So, the gist of this whole story is this: her stated solution to me is "I'm just going to go donate blood. They’ll test me for everything then, right?" I told her that yes, they do screen donors for blood borne STDs, (you can see the list at but my concern is that if tested too early after an exposure, one might have a false negative result. A person who has had risk factors for STDs is not always going to be forthcoming to the Red Cross when they have no other way to get desired STD testing. How far reaching is it when our local health agencies aren’t doing their jobs? Not only will our E.R.s stay flooded with non-medical emergencies which are costing our county a fortune, but must our blood supplies also be threatened? I called the local Red Cross to find out what other testing options were available in our area: she just called me back to let me know there was a new women’s clinic in Rome called “Women of W.O.R.T.H.” Indeed there is.

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