April is STD Awareness Month, which means many health providers and medical practitioners are urging sexually active people to regularly get tested. This includes pregnant women, too.
According to health officials, pregnant women are an often overlooked demographic for STD testing, but if they don’t know they are infected and don’t get treatment, they risk passing an STD on to their unborn child.
The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services is taking a proactive approach, announcing that testing pregnant women for HIV, hepatitis B and syphilis multiple times during pregnancy will “lead to better health outcomes for both the pregnant woman and her unborn baby.”
“If a physician is aware of the woman’s infection before the baby is born, they can provide treatment to ensure the baby doesn’t become infected,” says Dr. Eden Wells, chief medical executive for The MDHHS.
Testing is important because people often do not show signs or symptoms of having HIV, hepatitis B or syphilis. High-risk women, those who use drugs or have more than one sex partner, are especially at risk. And in addition to treating women during pregnancy, the baby may also need treatment at birth to protect him/her from getting the infection.
Some people avoid STD Testing because it’s a hassle to get to locations that provide the tests, or they feel embarrassed to get tested.
In an effort to provide testing services to people who might not be able to easily get them, including states like Texas where the HIV rate is rising, Walgreens announced this month that in certain cities, it will be offering STI testing as part of their health services. The company is hoping to destigmatize STD testing by making it so accessible and easy.
Cities offering testing include Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus (Ohio), Dallas, Denver, Houston, Kansas City, Knoxville, Las Vegas, Louisville, Memphis, Nashville, Orlando, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Tucson, Washington D.C., and Wichita.
Nurse practitioners and physician assistants will provide a consultation with the patient first and then conduct the STI testing process. They can then offer treatment or a referral to a specialist, depending on what’s needed. Walgreens’ pharmacy staff and store managers will also take classes to become more informed about HIV and how to treat it.
In addition, Walgreens announced that its Health Clinics can begin directly prescribing PrEP, a daily medication protocol for people who do not have HIV but want to stave off contracting the disease. The PrEP medication can reduce the risk of infection by more than 90 percent when used consistently.