Five Healthy Ways To Celebrate Pride Month

We’re excited to celebrate National Pride Month with our LGBTQ+ colleagues and patients during the month of June.  Pride Month is also an opportunity to focus on the unique health risks LGBTQ+ patients often face.

Here are five steps patients can take to stay healthy during Pride month -- and beyond!

1. STD screening

           The Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommends that most women have STD screening each year, and that men who have sex with men (MSM) have an STD screening every three months.

2. PrEP

           PrEP (Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis) is a tablet that HIV-negative patients can take once a day to prevent an HIV infection. Currently, the only FDA-approved PrEP medication is called Truvada.  In studies done so far, taking a Truvada tablet every day was 99% effective against HIV!

3. Free condoms

           Even though PrEP can prevent HIV infections, it doesn’t protect against other STD’s, like syphilis, gonorrhea and chlamydia, and it doesn’t prevent pregnancy.  So, regardless of the other precautions you take, it’s always a good idea to use condom if you’re engaging in receptive penile sex. There are lots of places to get condoms for free in the Bay Area, including the San Francisco AIDS Foundation, Out of the Closet, Planned Parenthood and San Francisco City Clinic.

4. Substance abuse help

           LGBTQ+ patients have significantly higher rates of substance use compared to the rest of the population.  They’re three times as likely to abuse recreational drugs and alcohol. And 25% of LGBTQ+ adults smoke cigarettes, compared to 16% of the general population.  If you’re dealing with an addiction to alcohol, cigarettes or recreational drugs, it’s important to get the counseling and support you need to get tobacco-free, clean and sober.

             There are lots of resources to help you get started, but here are a few suggestions:

              For smoking cessation, visit SmokeFree.gov.

              For substance abuse, contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration hotline, available for free 24/7 for a confidential referral to addiction and mental health services, at 1-800-662-HELP.   

5. Mental health counseling

           In addition to being proactive about your physical health, it’s important to care for your mental health as well.  LGBTQ+ patients are three times more likely to suffer from depression and anxiety, and three times as likely to attempt suicide. In fact, suicide is the leading cause of death in LBGTQ+ patients ages 10-24.   If you or someone you know is experiencing anxiety, depression or suicidal thoughts, it’s critical to see a mental health professional as soon as possible. You can also call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline, which is available 24/7, at 1-800-273-8255.

***

At Golden Gate Urgent Care, we offer STD screening and treatment, as well as referrals to mental health and addiction specialists.  You can make an appointment online or simply walk into any of our six Bay Area locations for the care you need.

Author
Sarah Thebarge MMSc, PA-C Sarah Thebarge earned her physician assistant degree at Yale School of Medicine, and then studied journalism at Columbia School of Journalism. She has been a physician assistant and a freelance journalist since 2004. In addition to caring for patients at Golden Gate Urgent Care, Sarah frequently volunteers her medical skills in the developing world. Her writing has appeared in Huffington Post, USA Today and National Geographic, and her blog was featured on MSNBC.com. She is the author of the memoir The Invisible Girls and the upcoming book WELL: Healing our Beautiful, Broken World from a Hospital in West Africa. She currently lives in the Mission District of San Francisco.

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