by Photo courtesy of The San Diego LGBT Community Center

The San Diego LGBT Community Center (The Center) launched free sexually transmitted infection (STI) screening services to help San Diego County residents obtain a people-centered, judgment-free, and sex-positive environment. 

The Center will launch this new service starting March 1 as a part of an expansion of its sexual health and wellness program. According to the Center, the program aligns with the nonprofit’s mission to enhance and sustain the health and well-being of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, queer, transgender, nonbinary, immigrant, and HIV communities.m 

According to the Centers for Disease Prevention and Control, there were more than 2.5 million reported cases of chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis – the most reported STIs – in 2019, which is a 30 percent increase from 2015. Rates were especially high among gay and bisexual men, youth, and in the Black and Latinx communities. 

While the COVID-19 pandemic caused a decrease in sexual encounters, it also reduced the availability and utilization of sexual health services. There is a major concern from medical experts that STIs are now going undetected due to decreased testing. 

According to CEO of the San Diego LGBT Community Center, Cara Dessert, there has been consistent increases in STIs in the U.S., and in San Diego since 2010.  

“The decrease in STI rates we saw during the pandemic was partly due to decreased access to STI testing and screening as clinics closed during stay-at-home orders. We want to address that by adding a free STI clinic option for those in our community who need this resource. We all deserve access to sexual health services,” says Dessert.

Testing for HIV and Hepatitis C (HCV) is already provided at the Center, which will now offer free STI screenings for chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis. 

This is a part of the Center’s #BeTheGeneration Sexual Health and Wellness program. According to the Center, sexual health does not begin and end with HIV testing.

The CDC recommends regular STI testing at least every six months for people who are on PrEP, a once-daily pill that prevents HIV transmission.

 “Our dedicated and knowledgeable staff are experts on LGBTQ+ health and wellness and provide education, support and resources in a stigma-free environment. Our team is here to help answer your questions and support you through the process,” says Gus Hernandez, Senior Director of Communications and Marketing at The Center.

Anyone who needs access to this free service can make an appointment by calling 619-800-4252, or by sending an email to English and Spanish translators are available.

The Center is currently open for limited in person services, Monday-Wednesday, 10 a.m. through 7 p.m., and walk-ins for STI screening and HIV/HCV testing will be available based on staff availability. Those seeking services can contact the Center's Welcome Desk during these hours at 619-692-2077. 

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