I strolled into my local pharmacy on January 11, 2013, with my wallet tucked into the depths of my backpack, confidently out of reach: I was picking up my first pack of free birth control (that is, birth control that’s covered by my insurance without a co-pay).
With a smile I turned on my heel from the pharmacy counter—birth control in hand and wallet still untouched—and anxiously shuffled outside to find an isolated square foot of NYC sidewalk and tweet my glory to the world.
I repeated this victorious experience in February, March, April, and May. It wasn’t until June that I left the pharmacy with no smile or glory: For some reason, my “free” birth control now cost me $85.
edited to add - the link includes a PDF with practical suggestions for hospitals to provide better care for trans* patients. these hospital policies are important. but also, health care providers have to not be assholes.
Many people — and probably most — don’t grow up knowing how to arrange for or manage their own healthcare. For some, that’s because our parents, guardians, or other family members did it for us. For others, it’s because we never got regular healthcare so we could learn how it works. Some of us only went to the doctor, clinic, or emergency room when something was very very wrong; some of us had yearly check-ups with the same doctor, in the same place and knew we (or more likely our parents or guardians) could call the doctor’s office any time we were sick.
Whatever your healthcare was like growing up, you may be responsible for it now or very soon. Sexual healthcare is a kind of care that people don’t want parents or guardians involved in, so it may be that seeking out sexual healthcare is where you find you first need to navigate your healthcare on your own.
We know that can be daunting or intimidating. But managing your healthcare mostly just comes down to the following things:
- Doing some research.
- Being and staying organized.
- Communicating clearly and respectfully, asking questions and taking responsibility for gathering and keeping the information you’re given.
- Recognizing that your health matters and is very important, and keeping that strongly in mind, and in practice, in all your interactions with healthcare providers.
Those are the barest of basics. What follows are specifics so that you can hopefully feel more capable and less frazzled as you start managing your own healthcare, or find some helps to troubleshoot care that’s not working out for you in any way. What the healthcare you get, of any kind, is like, and how it’ll go, will depend on your own health, the kind of healthcare you have access to, and your personal preferences about the kind and frequency of healthcare you get. How it all goes will also often have just as much to do with you as it does a provider.
This is the well-being of your own body and mind we’re talking about here: being able to navigate the healthcare system, to whatever extent you choose to do so and are able to do so, is a crucial skill for maintaining or improving that well-being. So, have a read about choosing a doctor, calling to get an appointment, preparing for an appointment and getting the most out of your interactions with healthcare providers and healthcare support staff.
Have a read at Scarleteen here!
I am 15 and I just had sex for the first time last Friday. It was unprotected but he did not cum. The next morning I had pain. The pain continued through Saturday and Sunday. I thought the pain was from having sex for the first time, but it’s now Monday and I realized stinging while I pee, cloudy with some blood in it too, in addition to constantly having to pee and never feeling empty. I have had chills, too. I am almost 100% positive I have a UTI, but there is no way I’m telling my mom and getting medical attention for it, she can’t know I had sex. I’ve read into it in depth, and the more I read the more scared I get. I’m on a vitamin regimen and I am able to get a z-pack, which treats bacterial infections but I’m unsure if it’ll help me. Will it? are there anything I can do besides drink water and wait it out? How long will it last untreated? HELP!Heather Corinna replies:
I have to give you an answer I know you won’t like, but there really isn’t any other right answer.
It very much sounds like you need to get this evaluated, ASAP, by a healthcare provider. Right now.
A Z-pack may or may not treat your infection, especially since that class of antibiotics isn’t always what’s prescribed for urinary tract infections. (I also cannot ethically advise you to use any medications off-label or to use them besides as you have been directed to by your prescribing physician.) We also really don’t want to self-prescribe antibiotics, nor try and self-diagnose what sounds like something other than a very mild infection. Especially when you don’t have medical training or access to clinical tests to even see what’s wrong with you in the first place. Google can’t make any of us into doctors.
If you’re starting to get chills, and you’re seeing blood in your urine, it may be this UTI, if that’s what it is, is getting worse or spreading to your kidneys, and that’s very serious business. It is also what will often happen with untreated UTIs. Those infections don’t just stay put forever in your urinary tract or bladder, they keep moving, spreading to other organs. To boot, since the sex you had was unprotected, you’d also want to make sure this isn’t some other kind of infection entirely or a UTI and an STI.
Drinking more and more water isn’t going to treat your infection: that’s one way we can prevent these kinds of infections in the first place, and sometimes if we are just starting to get one, something like water or cranberry can nip them in the bud before they start. But it sounds like you’re way, way past that at this point. And infections don’t just go away: they have to be treated.
You need healthcare, and I’d say that really is all there is to it.
Read the rest at Scarleteen here.
A tough situation we deal with in now and then in direct service is this: a user comes in, and reports having contracted an STI; a user who also isn’t a first-time user of our site or services, and who, in a previous conversation with us about pregnancy risks, blew off also talking about STIs and safer sex and turned down help we offered to them to reduce their STI risks, not just pregnancy risks.
When this happens, a person like this will usually be very upset about having contracted an STI, often angry, and even mystified about how this happened to them. Of course, we’re rarely mystified and also are not usually surprised this happened, since we already identified risks of STIs when we were talking with them in the past, which is why we brought the importance of safer sex up with them in the first place.
This is one of those things where there’s no joy or pride in being right: it stinks to be right about someone getting any kind of illness and being unhappy. Even though the majority of STIs are treatable, many of our users are not contracting HIV, but the other, less deadly STIs, and have access to healthcare and treatment, and even though most feelings of upset with an STI are happening based more on social stigma than from serious, long-term health outcomes, we would greatly prefer our users didn’t have to suffer needless distress and fear, and that they avoid any kind of illness that can be avoided.
It’s frustrating for us when we know a user had an opportunity they refused to get more information about and help with safer sex; when they could have changed their habits before so they would’ve most likely avoided an STI entirely, since most of the time with most STIs, safer sex practices are highly effective at preventing STI transmission.
Even more frustrating is that sometimes, some of the users in situations like these still aren’t interested in prevention help, and clearly still aren’t going to rethink and change their habits. So then we have to know they’ll probably transmit or contract the same STI or another in the future. Even with treatment, that really can, and often does, take a toll on our personal health and well-being, and certainly takes a big toll on the public health.
Like most public health organizations and people who work in sexual health and aim to try and improve it for everyone, we really want to change this pattern. We also know this is an ongoing challenge, and something where we all just have to keep talking, keep trying, and keep seeing if we can’t come up with new or adjusted approaches in order to help people do better with safer sex. That’s what I’m trying to do today. This isn’t a finger-wag, a scold or an I-told-you-so, but an attempt to, together with you, I hope, just work on doing this better.
Today, before I suggest some things that might help you improve your safer sex practices, I want to specifically address two of the biggest players I often see in these situations: either when someone has been in a relationship for a while, and/or when condoms, which were often once used as contraception as well as safer sex, are replaced as a contraception method by other methods, like the pill or a Depo shot.
Read the rest at Scarleteen here.