It's been a topsy-turvy year for the sexual health of the city. Back in March, the city took a step back when it quietly cut funding for free routine STD screenings at medical centers, but then last month made strides by implementing a more thorough sex ed curriculum across all public schools. Now, health care providers are feeling the effects of those decisions, as doctors are seeing an influx of patients seeking STD testing across the city. The catch? Many of those patients can't afford it.
"The problem is that testing for STDs is not federally subsidized," Dr. Linda Prine, director of women's health at the Institute for Family Health said. "People have to pay whatever the laboratories set as the prices for the testing." The Institute offers patients a sliding-scale payment plan, but labs can charge high fees, which hurts the most for uninsured patients. "A lot of people just don't come and get health care because they can't even afford the sliding-scale payments," Prine said. "People will come in with an obvious symptom and it sounds like they have gonorrhea and they'll say, 'Can't you just give me the medicine?' It's not ideal, but it's what we need to do."
Some 82,000 people across the city tested positive for some form of STD last year, according to Health Department statistics [pdf]. The city does still offer some testing clinics for patients with "obvious symptoms"—here's where to find them, or check out Planned Parenthood of NYC's STD testing resources here.