Planned Parenthood urges people in South LA to use free clinics

imageCommunity health clinics have been invaluable to people who are finding themselves unemployed and without health insurance. Planned Parenthood has been providing healthcare services 1916. Today, Planned Parenthood provides affordable access to reproductive health care and sexual health education to more than 125,000 people in Los Angeles County.

According to the most recent STD Morbidity Report for Los Angeles County, South Los Angeles has the highest rates of chlamydia and gonorrhea in the county. Approximately a quarter of all chlamydia and gonorrhea infections in LA County were diagnosed in South Los Angeles.

“That is a really disturbing statistic,” said Serena Josel, Director of Public Affairs for Planned Parenthood Los Angeles (PPLA). Black and Latina women aged 15-24 are the most affected. Josel says that public health data shows that often women of color don’t have adequate insurance, making healthcare a real issue. Those living from paycheck to paycheck “might not realize the expense of going to the doctor for an annual exam is an important expense,” said Josel.

Reproductive health does not always need to be an expense, either. Planned Parenthood and other health centers provide free services. The Los Angeles County STD Program provides free gonorrhea and chlamydia at-home testing kits for women. Patients can order the test kits online, mail them back to the clinic, and receive their results with in a week. The STD program hopes this will help diagnose those who may be too embarrassed to come into a clinic in-person. Chlamydia and gonorrhea, which accounts for more than 95% of the STDs in LA County, are treatable diseases. If left untreated, they “can lead to much more serious health complications–including infertility,” said Josel.

Planned Parenthood also provides preventive education at local schools and community centers. Josel says their education department helps educate over 75,000 teens and their families each year.

“We aren’t just focused on teens, but we also work with parents to make sure they have the tools to start those difficult conversations with their children,” she said.
Josel hopes that grassroots outreach and simple word-of-mouth will also help inform people.

“I think its really important for people to talk about their experience with Planned Parenthood and with health care overall,” said Josel. “We have a long way to go in reducing the shame and stigma that’s attached to basically just taking care of yourself.”

To find out more about the free at-home STD Kit and how to get one, click here.

Planned Parenthood Centers in South Los Angeles:

3637 S. La Brea Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90016
400 W. 30th Street, Los Angeles, CA 90007
8520 So. Broadway, Los Angeles, CA 90003

To request an appointment at any Planned Parenthood Los Angeles health center please visit or call 1-800-576-5544.

New technology brings more convenient, confidential STD testing to South LA

The 2010 stats on STDs in Los Angeles are in, and while it’s not good news for South LA, Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas says he’s determined to do something about the high numbers in his district.

The Second Supervisorial District, which includes South LA, has the highest number of cases of chlamydia and gonorrhea in the county. Last year, a total of 14,999 chlamydia cases and 3,646 gonorrhea cases were reported for residents of the Second District—that’s more than 30 percent of all chlamydia cases and 38 percent of all the gonorrhea cases in the county.

It was against these grim statistics that Ridley-Thomas addressed an audience of community and faith leaders, healthcare providers and educators outside the new Martin Luther King Jr. Public Health Center to share his district’s STD Control Plan.

imageThe plan, which seeks to help women overcome the barriers to the diagnosis and treatment of STDs, revolves around an expansion of the county’s “I Know” home STD testing program. The county is emphasizing the technology behind the “I Know” campaign—both in the test itself and in the way women can obtain the free testing kits.

The test, which can be done at home in a few minutes, is a nucleic acid amplification test, which the Department of Public Health identifies as the most accurate type of test for either chlamydia or gonorrhea. It’s the same type of test that would be done at a clinic, but now women can get tested on their own time without having to arrange transportation or face the embarrassment or stigma that may exist with going to a clinic.

Testing kits can be ordered for free through the website or by calling a toll-free hotline (800-758-0880). The kit arrives by mail within a week. And starting this year, outreach workers will be attending community events who can register women for a kit on-the-fly with mobile devices. The Second District will also be placing kiosks around South LA that allow women to sign up to have a kit delivered. Ridley-Thomas said the kiosks were movable and that they would be experimenting with locations to find the most high-traffic areas.

Results can then be checked online or through a toll free number. Women can have confidential access to their results at a time that works for them, without having to worry about a nurse calling them at home or work or somewhere else that lacks privacy.

The hope is that the increased options for testing, along with education, will help overcome feelings of shame tied to going to a public clinic to get tested. As Ridley-Thomas had his audience repeat several times, “Shame is not a cure.”

Mobile testing units offer another alternative to visiting a clinic or performing the test at home. Health workers can run tests for common STDs as well as HIV. Each RV contains two private examination rooms.

Dr. Jonathan Fielding, the director of the LA County Department of Public Health emphasized that it’s especially important for young women to get tested for these two diseases because they can be asymptomatic, and if left untreated, can lead to more serious complications like pelvic inflammatory disease, which can cause infertility in some cases. With increased testing, Dr. Fielding hopes the county can identify instances of chlamydia and gonorrhea early on, when they are easily treatable.

Reverend Clyde Oden, the senior pastor of Byant Temple AME Church Oden said the options for increased health awareness are much needed in “a community that has been overlooked and underserved.”

In addition to the new technology, Oden also encouraged a new kind of education for faith leaders in South LA so that they can actually talk knowledgeably about sexual health to the young people in their faith communities.

The question remains though, will the increased accessibility to testing reduce the number of cases of chlamydia and gonorrhea?

Angelica Woodard and Andreina Cordova, two peer counselors and volunteers with the “I Know” street team, think the kits will make a difference. While education about STDs continues to be a challenge, the kits, they explained, remove another barrier to getting tested that women in South LA were facing—transportation to a clinic.

“You get out there and realize that there’s just a huge knowledge gap for people in this area of their lives,” Cordova said. “We need to get people talking.”

And they’re hoping to do just that. Recently, they’ve been hitting the streets, passing out information on the kits and answering questions.

“We held up a banner at the Lakers’ parade that said ‘LA: Number One in basketball and Number One in chlamydia.’” Cordova said. “That got their attention.”