Caring Communities aims to remove fear and shame as barriers to sexual health

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Logo provided by Caring Communities

WILKES-BARRE, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — It’s not an uncommon situation, you go out with some friends and meet someone special. One thing leads to another and you get caught up in the moment, perhaps forgetting to use protection. The night ends and your new friend heads home. A few days or weeks later, you hear back from them, informing you that they have a Sexually Transmitted Infection (STI) and that you should get tested.

For some, it’s a simple matter to go to their doctor and get tested. For others, however, especially younger people, the amount of fear, shame, and anxiety that can come from this kind of situation can be devastating.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in 2018, the year most recent data is available, nearly 1 in 5 Americans had an STI at some point. While many adults have access to a primary care physician, those who don’t, or those who would rather not deal with their family doctor when it comes to STI testing have options available to them.  

In Northeast and Central Pennsylvania, one of the options available for STI testing is Caring Communities where CEO Christopher J. Kupchik and his staff are available to provide care to those who might need it. 

“When it comes to STDs, sometimes there’s a stigma there,” says Kupchik. “They’re in small offices in remote parts or NEPA where everyone knows everyone, so they don’t want them to know that ‘so-and-so’ was in for an STD panel.” 

Based on data obtained in 2018, courtesy of the Centers for Disease Control

Kerri Hajkowski, a CRPN Nurse Practitioner with Caring Communities, recommends all sexually active individuals get tested every three months, regardless of sexual orientation or how they identify. Testing is increasingly important for those in the 15 to 24 age range, where CDC statistics show almost half of new STI infections. 

It is within that age group that privacy becomes a major concern for the patient.

“A lot of college kids don’t want their parents knowing or getting a bill for STI testing,” says Hajkowski.

Caring Communities will provide testing for anyone of reproductive age, with or without parental supervision, which, as Kupchik says, is important to make sure younger patients receive the care they need.

“We don’t want them to not get the care because they are afraid to tell their parents.”

While some testing and treatment services offered by Caring Communities are currently free, Kupchick did say that they would be dealing with insurance companies more often in order to help cover costs where they could.  

“If anyone comes in who is uninsured or underinsured we have sliding fee scales, we will work with the person to make sure they can get service,” Kupchik says. “We don’t want to let a lack of insurance to be a barrier to their care,” says Kupchik. 

For those who might not have access to a vehicle or ride to one of their locations, there are telehealth options available as well, though to receive testing, an in-person visit would be required.

In addition to testing, Caring Communities also offers free contraception, PrEP (Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis) services, clinics, and HIV case management.

For more information or to schedule an appointment, you can visit Caring Communities website here

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