Coalition Calls for Wider Use of Sexual Health Care Services in U.S.

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The National Coalition for Sexual Health -- comprised of nearly 40 organizations focused on HIV, sexually transmitted diseases, and other aspects of sexual health -- last week issued a call-to-action and announced new resources aimed at improving access to and acceptance of sexual health services, which are now more readily available under the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

NCSH has created a new website, www.ncshguide.org, offering tips and tools to improve access to sexual health services. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also recently launched a new web page highlighting HIV, viral hepatitis, STD, and tuberculosis preventive services covered under the ACA.

Below is an edited excerpt from the recent National Coalition for Sexual Healthpress release describing the call-to-action.

Coalition Issues Call-To-Action to Increase Shockingly Low Uptake of Sexual Health Services

Half of Americans are Not Getting Recommended and Potentially Life-Saving Services, Despite ACA Coverage




Washington, DC -- May 6, 2014 -- Today, the National Coalition for Sexual Health (NCSH), which consists of nearly 40 leading health and medical organizations, issued a call-to-action to increase the shockingly low uptake of essential sexual health care services in America, and launched a new guide and website to help Americans get the services they need.

More than half of all Americans are not getting recommended sexual health care services, including HPV [human papillomavirus] vaccination, chlamydia screening, and HIV testing, even though these potentially life-saving services are now available at no cost through the Affordable Care Act (ACA). For example, in 2012, only 34% of adolescent girls and 7% of adolescent boys received all three doses of the HPV vaccine, and less than half of sexually active young women ages 16- 24 were screened for chlamydia.

The consequences of America’s poor sexual health are significant. Each year, there are an estimated 20 million new cases of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and a total of 110 million cases overall. There also are an estimated 3.2 million unintended pregnancies in the U.S. each year, one of the highest rates in the developed world. The eight leading STIs, along with unintended pregnancies, cost the nation $28 billion annually in medical costs alone.

"There are more cases of STIs than diabetes, heart disease, breast cancer, and asthma combined. Despite the fact that we live in a hyper-sexualized world, we are not taking our sexual health as seriously as other health conditions," said Edward W. Hook III, MD, Director, Division of Infectious Diseases and Professor of Medicine and Epidemiology at the University of Alabama, Birmingham. "It’s time to give our sexual health the attention it deserves. Widespread use of these recommended sexual health services is critical since they can prevent serious health problems, lifelong illnesses, and even death."

Sexual health services include HPV and hepatitis vaccines, screenings for STIs and other illnesses, counseling for STI prevention and contraceptive use, and contraceptives. Recommended by the CDC and the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, these important services can help prevent male and female cancers, infertility and sterility, pelvic pain, unintended and ectopic pregnancies, liver disease, fetal illnesses, and other health conditions.

Under the ACA, health plans must now cover specific preventive services without charging a fee, copayment or coinsurance. Individuals should check with their insurer about specific coverage. If they are uninsured, free or low cost services might be available through a local health center or clinic.

"We need to make sexual health part of our health care routine and recognize that good sexual health is essential to our overall health and well-being," said Susan Gilbert, NCSH co- director. "Get informed about the services that are recommended for you, and make sure that you get them. Don’t wait for your provider to bring it up or assume you’re automatically getting what you need. Take charge of your health and ask your provider about testing and other preventive options."

To help Americans get the critical sexual health care services they need, NCSH has released a new, easy-to-use guide and website that features action steps for good sexual health, charts of recommended services for men and women based on age, questions to ask health care providers, and other resources. The guide, "Take Charge of Your Sexual Health: What you need to know about preventive services," is accessible at http://www.ncshguide.org. Tips and tools can be downloaded, and the site is mobile-friendly for easy access on the go.

About the National Coalition for Sexual Health

The National Coalition for Sexual Health (NCSH) is a group of nearly 40 leading national health, medical, and consumer organizations working together to improve sexual health and well-being across the lifespan. The Coalition also includes individuals who are dedicated to improving the state of sexual health in America. NCSH is managed by Partnership for Prevention, a non-profit public health organization that is dedicated to making disease prevention and health promotion a national priority.

NCSH member organizations include:

NCSH individual members include:

 

For more information: www.nationalcoalitionforsexualhealth.org.

5/12/14

Sources

National Coalition for Sexual Health. Coalition Issues Call-To-Action to Increase Shockingly Low Uptake of Sexual Health Services. Press release. May 6, 2014.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Preventive Services Covered Without Cost-Sharing Tables. May 5, 2014.