Sexual health clinics are hitting the streets in South Los Angeles, where women can now pick up home tests for chlamydia and gonorrhea from kiosks and a mobile health van.
The program, launched Monday by L.A. County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, aims to curb the city’s troubling rise in sexually transmitted diseases. L.A. leads the nation in the number chlamydia cases, and has the second-highest number of gonorrhea cases, most of them centered in the city’s south end.
“Unfortunately, these infectious diseases are at unacceptable levels and are increasing, particularly among young African-American women,” Ridley-Thomas said in a statement. “These are our mothers, our sisters, our daughters who are suffering from the health consequences of these STDs, and we cannot let them go untreated. Families depend upon them, communities depend upon them, but you can’t treat what you don’t know exists.”
The kiosks and van are an extension of the ongoing “I Know” initiative to raise STD awareness and increase testing. Until now, “I Know” provided free testing kits that could be ordered via mobile phones and the Web. In its first year, 2,927 kits were ordered and 1,543 testable swabs were returned — 131 came back positive for chlamydia or gonorrhea.
“The ‘I Know’ program will now be everywhere that we can put a kiosk, everywhere any partnering community agency can send an outreach worker with a tablet, and anywhere a woman has access to a computer or any phone,” Dr. Peter Kerndt, director of L.A. County’s STD program, said in a statement.
There are only 12 sexually transmitted disease testing clinics in L.A. County, down from 36 in 1996, the Associated Press reported. And as budget cuts continue to close clinics nationwide, self-testing kits could provide a solution.
Chlamydia and gonorrhea are the most common infectious diseases in the U.S., affecting more than 1.5 million people — mostly women. When detected, the diseases are curable. But they can cause serious health complications, including sterility, if left untreated.
“Easy diagnostic testing and effective single-dose treatments mean there is no reason for anyone now to suffer infertility, tubal pregnancy, complications for newborns, or other serious long-term consequences of these unnecessarily common STDs,” L.A. County health officer Dr. Jonathan Fielding said in a statement.
Fielding added that most cases of chlamydia and gonorrhea are symptomless, and that regular screening is the only effective way to stop their spread.
The “I Know” kit and subsequent lab tests cost $26. But L.A. women will get it for free.