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Stigma of STDs

STDs: Are Patients Seeking Proper Treatment and Testing?

Patients’ embarrassment and stigma about sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) may prevent them from seeking treatment and testing. The combination of patients’ reluctance to use insurance and the corresponding inability to pay for services without insurance may lead to barriers for getting tested or treated for STDs. STDs are the most frequently reported of all reportable diseases in the United States, resulting in direct medical costs estimated to be nearly $16 billion annually. Issues of stigma and privacy associated with receiving STD care have been noted consistently as impediments to seeking care.

A recent study surveyed patients at STD clinics in areas of the U.S. with the highest rates of chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis. The respondents were largely teens or young adults, more than half were female and about half were non-Hispanic Black. Among the insured patients, only half indicated that they would be willing to use their health insurance at the visit. Patients who indicated that they were covered by private insurance or covered by their parents’ insurance were less willing to use their insurance at the visit. However, two thirds of those with government insurance indicated that they would be willing to use their insurance at the visit. Of the patients who indicated that they would not be willing to use insurance, most cited privacy concerns, and approximately one third were related to cost concerns such as ability to afford the copayment/deductible, or that insurance would not cover the visit. Privacy concerns included: patients did not want their insurance company to know; worries that insurance might send records home; or that the patient did not want parents, spouse, or significant other to know. Privacy was an especially important concern of youths who were covered by their parents’ health insurance.

The authors conclude that people are willing to use health insurance for STD care, but concerns about privacy and costs associated with health insurance use remain. They state that these issues could be addressed through interventions targeting negative social norms associated with STD care and health system change that would allow for the subsidization of STD care.

Byline: Martha L. Sikes, MS, RPh, PA-C

Posted: July 26, 2016

Source: AJPH (American Journal of Public Health)
Adapted from the original article.

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