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WILKES-BARRE, ALZERNE COUNTY (WBRE / WYOU) – It’s not a rare situation, you go out with friends and meet someone special. One thing leads to another and you get caught in the moment, perhaps forgetting to use protection. The night ends and your new friend returns home. A few days or weeks later, you get a response from them, letting you know that they have a sexually transmitted infection (STI) and that you should get tested.

For some, it’s just a matter of going to their doctor and getting tested. For others, however, especially the younger ones, the amount of fear, shame, and anxiety that can come from this kind of situation can be devastating.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in 2018, the year the most recent data is available, nearly one in five Americans has had an STI at some time. While many adults have access to a primary care doctor, those who do not or those who prefer not to see their family doctor when it comes to STI testing have options available to them.

In northeast and central Pennsylvania, one of the options available for STI testing is Caring Communities, where CEO Christopher J. Kupchik and his team are available to provide care to those who may need it. .

“When it comes to STDs, sometimes there is a stigma,” says Kupchik. “They’re in small offices in remote areas or in NEPA where everyone knows everyone, so they don’t want them to know that ‘so and so’ was in an STD panel.”

Based on data obtained in 2018, courtesy of the Centers for Disease Control

Kerri Hajkowski, CRPN nurse practitioner with Caring Communities, recommends that all sexually active people get tested every three months, regardless of their sexual orientation or how they identify themselves. Testing is increasingly important for people aged 15 to 24, where statistics from the CDC show nearly half of new STI infections.

It is within this age group that privacy becomes a major concern for the patient.

“A lot of students don’t want their parents to know or be billed for STI tests,” Hajkowski explains.

Caring Communities will provide testing to anyone of childbearing age, with or without parental supervision, which, as Kupchik says, is important to ensure younger patients get the care they need.

“We don’t want them not to receive care because they are afraid to tell their parents.

While some testing and treatment services offered by Caring Communities are currently free, Kupchick said they will deal with insurance companies more often to help cover costs where they can.

“If someone who is uninsured or underinsured shows up, we have rolling fee schedules, we will work with the person to make sure they can get a service,” Kupchik said. “We don’t want insecurity to be a barrier to their care,” says Kupchik.

For those who might not have access to a vehicle or make it to one of their locations, there are telehealth options as well, although to receive testing an in-person visit would be required.

In addition to testing, Caring Communities also offers free contraception, PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis) services, clinics, and HIV case management.

For more information or to make an appointment, you can visit the Caring Communities website here.

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