Right now your online feeds are filled with headlines about the best and worst songs, TV episodes, restaurants, fashion moments and more from the year that’s about to wrap up. But you might wonder, “Where can I get a recap of the best and worst sexual health headlines of 2019?” Not to worry — Nurx has you covered, with our summary of news you may have missed (the great, good, bad, and downright ugly) but should definitely know about.
The great: A study published in the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine concluded that getting birth control through Nurx and other telehealth providers is not only safe but “adherence to guidelines among telecontraception vendors may be higher than it is among clinics that provide in-person visits.”
The good: Researchers may be close to creating a birth control pill you only have to take once a month, political leaders from both sides of the aisle called for the pill to be available over the counter, and there are not one but two new male birth control options being in the works: A male birth control pill and a shot that could last 13 years.
The really bad: In response to a federal “gag rule” that providers receiving Title X funding cannot discuss abortion with patients, Planned Parenthood and other clinics that serve women in need pulled out of the federal family planning program, leading to clinic closures in areas where women already have too little contraception access — closures that will result in less cervical cancer screening and more women dying from cervical cancer. Meanwhile, the Trump administration granted $1.7 million to a chain of crisis pregnancy centers that do not prescribe birth control.
HIV Prevention and Treatment
The good: A major study confirmed that HIV positive men won’t transmit the virus to their HIV negative partners if the HIV positive partner is on antiretroviral therapy and the virus is undetectable in lab tests. Use of the medication PrEP for HIV prevention rose 500%, as a prestigious medical group recommended it, the Trump administration announced it would provide PrEP for free to uninsured people, and California passed a law allowing pharmacists to prescribe it.
The bad: Despite those advances in PrEP awareness, 1 in 8 eligible men live in a “PrEP desert,” where they are more than 30 minutes away from a PrEP provider (and PrEP deserts are concentrated in the South, where the most new HIV infections occur).
The ugly: Fewer than 40% of Americans have been tested for HIV, and a survey of members of the Millenial and Gen Z generations found that they’re shockingly misinformed about HIV and “more than a quarter (28 percent) of HIV-negative millennials have avoided hugging, talking to or being friends with someone with the virus.”
Sexually Transmitted Infections
The great: Data confirms that routine vaccination against the HPV virus leads to a dramatic drop in cervical pre-cancer.
The also pretty great: Nurx made STI testing more private and convenient, with the launch of our STI Home Test Kits. Now people can collect samples at home, mail them to our partner lab, then get their results via a remote consult with our medical team — no office or lab visits required. If a patient tests positive for an STI, a Nurx provider will prescribe medication when appropriate, or refer to in-person treatment.
The disturbing: The US faces an STI epidemic, as cases of chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis reach an all-time high, and public health experts raise alarms about a rise in newborn deaths linked to congenital syphilis (problems that could worsen as clinics lose federal Title X funds). And every day more than 1 million people worldwide are infected with chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis, or trichomoniasis.
The good: To make reliable sex information easier to access, Planned Parenthood created an online chatbot to answer any questions you’re hesitant to say out loud. While the Sex Ed you learned in school may have been insufficient (see below), some states made moves this year to ensure that the next generation knows what’s up down below. Laws enacted in nine states and DC focused on expanding the scope of the sex education curriculum taught in their schools. Some of the new topics being introduced include information specifically for LGBTQ students and lessons that promote healthy and violence-free relationships.
The not great: In a survey of more than 1000 Nurx patients we learned that more than 1 in 4 attended a Sex Ed class that was “abstinence-only” and 10% never received Sex Ed at all. And the situation isn’t much better for today’s students: Despite the advances reported above, almost half of states don’t require both sex and HIV education in schools, and of those that do only 17 states mandate that information taught be medically accurate.
The bottom line on the last year of the decade? Too many people still face barriers — of financial inequality, geography, politics, or stigma — between them and the sexual healthcare they need. But technology and science made some big progress toward leveling those barriers, and we’re optimistic about what Nurx and like-minded organizations will do to make healthcare more accessible in the year and decade ahead!
This blog provides information about telemedicine, health and related subjects. The blog content and any linked materials herein are not intended to be, and should not be construed as a substitute for, medical or healthcare advice, diagnosis or treatment. Any reader or person with a medical concern should consult with an appropriately-licensed physician or other healthcare provider. This blog is provided purely for informational purposes. The views expressed herein are not sponsored by and do not represent the opinions of Nurx™.