Advocates welcome sexual health clinics, but say more needed
Concerns about sporadic clinics, lack of rural access
The leaders of two Island wellness organizations are applauding the province's move to offer sexual health walk-in clinics, but say there need to be more of them.
The clinics will be held once a month on Tuesdays, alternating between Summerside and Charlottetown.
Cybelle Rieber, executive director of Peers Alliance, says it's a good start.
"I think it's a great step in the right direction. I think more access to sexual health testing is needed on the Island," Rieber said.
'We don't always talk about sex'
"My concern is people will forget about it because it's so sporadic. Hopefully there will be extensive promotion."
She would like to see the clinics expand to at least once a month in each city, as well as in rural areas.
"We know that people need to get tested and we know people are often reticent. Here on the Island, we don't always talk about sex, so we don't always get tested for the things we need to be tested about."
No names attached
The ability to be tested without having your name attached to your results is a positive step, Rieber said.
"I think it's really wonderful that they're offering non-nominal testing. So less people actually see your name, which I think in a place like P.E.I. is very important."
If a person tests positive, their name will be passed on to public health. Rieber said that's standard protocol for any infectious disease.
"Health care providers are sworn to confidentiality and I know the Department of Health and Wellness in P.E.I. goes to great lengths to ensure that."
'Party and play'
One benefit of testing more people is statistical analysis, she said.
"Then we have better access to better statistics about what's actually happening on P.E.I. We have a transient population in the summer ... lots of people come here to party and play. And that includes having sex."
Jillian Kilfoil, executive director of Women's Network P.E.I., says her organization welcomes any expansion of sexual health services.
'Difficult to have discretion'
"There's a lot of barriers, both internalized and externalized, for accessing sexual health services anywhere, but particularly here in P.E.I. because we're such small communities," Kilfoil said.
"Sometimes just going into a certain building or office can maybe signal something to another community member. It can be very, very difficult to have discretion and to have privacy, so anything we can do to support or enhance Islanders in that, the better."
Many people feel stigma or shame about their sexual health needs, Kilfoil said.
"Having dedicated services helps break down those barriers. We all are in need of sexual health services at different times in our lives, for different reasons."
'Meets people where they're at'
The clinics are especially important in an age when many don't have a family doctor, she said.
"Having these more modular and mobile approaches to offering health care is really important. It meets people where they're at, instead of everyone always having to go through these more rigorous procedures."
Kilfoil stressed it's important to expand the service to rural P.E.I., especially because transportation can be an issue.
'Summerside is a long way away'
"As somebody who grew up in the western end of the province, Summerside is a long way away for many people, and Charlottetown can be for eastern counterparts as well."
She would also like to see clinics held more often.
"It's not always easy to schedule when you might be in need of a certain service or when you may require testing."
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With files from Nicole Williams