The COVID-19 pandemic has had a profound impact on our lives, as well as our collective health and wellbeing. Since March, communities across the world have been asked to make drastic changes to daily life in order to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. And here in the United States, folks are facing a new round of stay at home orders and restrictions as the nation rides out a second wave of the virus. Bexar County’s recently updated Emergency Declaration has ushered in stricter measures to protect Texans across the San Antonio area.
While the impact of COVID-19 on health and wellbeing has been widely experienced and documented, this new wave of cases and shutdowns reminds us of the importance of taking care of ourselves. Hand washing, mask-wearing, and social distancing are practices that have allowed us to protect ourselves from the coronavirus. However, one area of health that is receiving little attention these days is sexual health.
Adolescent sexual and reproductive health is more important now than ever, especially considering the strain that COVID-19 has put on sexual health services. Many adolescents find themselves sheltering in place during the pandemic, unable to access affordable and confidential health care resources. Within the confines of a family home, teens may struggle to talk about their sexual health with loved ones or reach out to providers. Young people are less likely to use sexual reproductive health services and contraception when there are concerns of confidentiality, which presents a major barrier to taking care of one’s sexual health during the pandemic.
Similarly, the loss of a teen’s or a parent’s job may mean that sexual health care appointments are simply out of reach. The cost of appointments and contraception may prevent young people from accessing the sexual health care they need. And most importantly, limitations placed on in-person care may mean that young people overall are unable to access health care in the ways they are used to.
Overall, these barriers may lead young people to think that their sexual health and wellbeing will need to take the backseat as we ride out the pandemic. But our collective health and wellbeing is just as important now as it was nine months ago. Despite some of the barriers to traditional, in-person sexual health care, there are options available to young people during the pandemic:
Many physicians are still working and holding in-person appointments, as medical care is considered an essential service. If you have a primary care provider (PCP) or other physician, call their office or have a trusted adult call to see what care options are available to you. Some providers have switched to telehealth appointments (phone/video) and those appointments may be an option for you.
Many health clinics are still open and offering services, but there might be restrictions on walk-in appointments. You can always call your local clinic to see if you need an appointment for sexual health care or other services.
Prescriptions can often be renewed by your provider over the phone, without having to visit your provider in person. Consult with your healthcare provider to see if they can request a refill or even have your medication shipped to your home. You can also request multiple refills at once to reduce the number of trips to the pharmacy.
And finally, for those who are looking to access sexual health care, there are a number of resources available to teens in the San Antonio area:
The University Health Systems Teen Health Clinic offers integrative health care for pre-teens, teens, and young adults ages 10-24.
Phone: 210-358-TALK (8255)
The Kind Clinic San Antonio offers PrEP, PEP, HIV testing and care, STI testing and treatment, and gender-affirming care. All clinical services are free and there are options for low cost and no-cost medications. Telehealth (phone/video) appointments are available.
Phone: 833-937-5463 (833-WE-R-KIND)
San Antonio AIDS Foundation offers free and confidential HIV and syphilis testing; minors ages 13 and up can get tested without parental consent.
San Antonio Metro Health STD/HIV Clinic offers affordable STI testing on a walk-in basis.
Phone: 210-207-8830 or 210-207-8831
The UT Teen Health Resource List provides local clinic information regarding youth-friendly resources in the areas of primary care, reproductive health, mental health, substance abuse, and community-based services. The UT Teen Health Resource List highlights establishments within Greater San Antonio and Bexar County.
Access to affordable and comprehensive health care matters, even during a pandemic. You matter. Join us on Instagram @hftexas for more information about sex education, healthcare and so much more!