Planned Parenthood in South Florida is offering free HIV testing today at four locations.
“Many times people cannot afford the cost of an STD test and since Florida continues to lead the nation in new HIV infections, this is a great opportunity to get tested,” said Christina Noce, spokeswoman for the organization.
Testing is available at three locations until 5 p.m.:
Stuart Health Center at 1322 NW Federal Highway in Stuart.
West Palm Beach Health Center at 931 Village Boulevard, Suite 904 in West Palm Beach.
Wellington Health Center at 10111 Forest Hill Boulevard, Suite 340 in Wellington.
The Boca Raton Health Center at 8177 Glades Road., Suite 25 will offer free testing until 7 p.m.
HIV rates have been on the uptick in South Florida in recent years. Miami has had the second highest new rate of infection in the nation.
One reason, health officials say, is that the disease is no longer a death sentence but manageable through medication.
In a story last year, the Palm Beach Post reported that the increase is a dating landscape dominated by social hookup apps are not helping matters.
“These sites are just meant to hook up and have anonymous sex, and that is very, very risky,” said Dr. Alina Alonso, director of Palm Beach County’s Health Department for the story. “You have no idea what you’re getting or who you are getting, and those are just another component of the risky behavior that is occurring.”
Florida Atlantic University senior Kheyanna Suarez is under pressure.
It is not from upcoming exams.
It’s the worry that her ability to pay for birth control might disappear under new President Donald Trump.
Suarez’s intrauterine device (IUD) expires in about six months, but she doesn’t know whether the Affordable Care Act will still be around to foot the bill. Trump has made it a priority to repeal Obamacare, which made it a right for every woman to obtain affordable birth control.
His new Supreme Court nominee, Neil Gorsuch, a federal appeals judge, is best known for ruling that Hobby Lobby could deny coverage for employees for birth control because of the company’s Constitutional right to religious freedom.
And Trump’s nominee for secretary of Health and Human Services — Georgia Congressman Tom Price — told the Senate during his confirmation hearing month that women should pay for birth control.
“This all puts me in an awkward position,” said Suarez, who is studying exercise science and health promotion at FAU in Boca Raton. “I’m kind of nervous. Should I reach out to the doctor and try to renew the prescription now or I should wait? I don’t know how to go about it.”
Suarez is not alone in her conundrum. Women who rely on Obamacare to make their birth control affordable are making a run on getting IUDs before the coverage becomes a political casualty.
A data set compiled by analysts for the electronic health record AthenaHealth reported intrauterine device prescriptions and procedures increased 19 percent between October and December.
Planned Parenthood Federation of America reports that since the election, the number of women trying to get an appointment for an IUD went up 900 percent.
Without Obamacare, out-of-pocket costs for IUDs can range from $500 to $1,000, the organization reports.
Regionally, Planned Parenthood says the number of patients who had an IUD placement increased and in some cases doubled at eight health centers in South Florida since Trump’s upset win in November.
For women concerned about paying for contraception under Trump, the IUD offers a long-term solution that could outlast his presidency. The T-shaped intrauterine device is inserted into the uterus and — depending on the type chosen — can prevent pregnancy from three to 10 years.
The concern of some women about a Trump presidency was seen in protests in Washington D.C. and throughout the country following the billionaire’s inauguration. With Trump expected to be at his Mar-a-Lago estate on Palm Beach this weekend, woman are planning to march on Saturday in West Palm Beach.
Laura Goodhue, executive director for Florida Planned Parenthood, said 55 million nationally have taken advantage of no-copay birth control under Obamacare. She said Trump’s HHS nominee, Price, is disconcerting.
“He has a long extreme record of opposing no co-pay birth control,” she said.
Goodhue said ACA also protects women’s health by giving women access to pap smears and preventative services. Without Obamacare, insurance companies could reduce coverage by declaring a whole host of conditions as pre-existing, including yeast infections and pregnancies, she said.
For many women, the health care program allowed them to get IUDs. Planned Parenthood in South Florida saw an increase of 517 percent in the use of long-acting reversible contraceptives between 2013 and 2016.
“An IUD is a very effective form of birth control for women,” she said. “Not every birth control method is right for every woman.”
Suarez was one such woman. In high school, she missed weeks of classes because of severe cramps due to her menstruation cycle. The side-effects to contraceptive pills put them out of the question. The IUD was a solution.
“I did not vote for Trump. What he is trying to take on now does worry me,” she said. “I’m hoping our communities and legislators wake up.”
Dr. Maureen Whelihan, an OB-GYN in Greenacres, said she hasn’t seen the IUD trend hit her practice, but she said the increase in the use of the devices under Obamacare should be applauded by Trump and his supporters.
“The number of unplanned pregnancies and abortions was down in the last couple years and I really attributed this to the availability of birth control and well-woman visits,” she said.
“If the conservative movement says ‘We don’t want everybody to have this coverage,’ the end result will be unintended pregnancies and abortions,” the doctor said.
Suarez said she feels that the new President Trump has simply made it harder to be a woman in America.
“I feel I am even more so at a disadvantage now for being a woman,” she said. “And, like we’ve done before, we will have to overcome it — as women. I am confident that in my community the activism we see now will have a positive result.”
The federal government and Florida may be on a collision course over a new state law seeking to ban Medicaid funding for services at clinics that offer abortions, such as those run by Planned Parenthood, according to a News Service of Florida story.
The federal government has prohibited such bans on Medicaid funding when such laws have been put into place in other states, said Elizabeth Nash of the Guttmacher Institute, which researches abortion issues and supports abortion rights.
“You cannot exclude a provider from Medicaid because you don’t like the services they provide,” Nash said.
Florida has already been put on notice by the U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, the News Service reports.
The agency notified Gov. Rick Scott administration, “reminding them of the state’s obligation to ensure Medicaid beneficiaries continue to have access to services provided by any willing provider,” according to a CMS spokeswoman.
While only government-funded abortions can be obtained through extreme circumstances, women can obtain other medical services through Medicaid, the News Service reports. Indiana tried to do the same thing in 2011 and found it could not.
One of the sponsors – Rep. Colleen Burton of Lakeland – said they were aware that the state would have to apply to the federal government for a waiver.
“We knew that,” Burton said. “And we’ve said it in committees — I’ve said it on the floor of the House — that we are aware that this portion of the bill requires a waiver from the federal government.”
Scott spokeswoman Jackie Schutz would not confirm that the administration was considering requesting a waiver.
“The bill doesn’t take effect until July 1, and we’re working with our agencies on it, and looking at our options,” Schutz said.