Note: This article is special to Xpress.
UPDATE: A previous version of this submitted opinion article included a portrait of the author. Per his request, we have removed his picture due to safety concerns.
Being a health educator for freshmen at Gateway High School means I must walk my talk, and I do — especially when being mindful about my own health. Recently, I got my routine HIV and STI test at SF State’s clinic. This was the first time I was denied equal access to such services.
Growing up I always felt different, particularly among other boys. I remember in elementary school how I was tormented by a bully who would call me gay in front of other kids. I had no idea how he knew, or how he could see this part of me that even I did not fully understand.
Now, while sitting in the clinic, I was told by the nurse I would not be allowed free access to the same health care services as my heterosexual counterparts would.
As a health educator, I understand the importance of being honest with my doctor and other health care providers, especially when questioned about my sexual health. I disclosed to my nurse that I identified as gay, which ultimately resulted in me being denied access to our school’s free HIV and STI testing program.
SF State’s clinic is part of the government funded Family PACT program, which allows free HIV and STI testing for heterosexual men and women concerned about reproductive health. This means straight men and women can access these services for free. While I, on the other hand, had to pay $217 (for the exact same services), and was subject to bigotry from my counseling nurse.
I felt the same torment of my bully in 5th grade while I was inside SF State’s clinic that day. But this time, I was being oppressed by a larger institution, one that should have provided equal access to adequate care, regardless of my sexual orientation.
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2014 “gay and bisexual men accounted for 83 percent of new HIV diagnosis among all males age 13 and older.” If gay men are most at risk for contracting HIV, why am I denied HIV and STI testing that my heterosexual peers would otherwise get for free?
SF State must stop this discriminatory practice against the LGBTQ+ community. The University must provide HIV and STI testing services free of all cost, regardless of one’s sexual orientation, since there is already a program allowing this for straight men and women.
Furthermore, government funding must place greater emphasis in providing affordable, adequate and non-discriminatory health care services and programs for the LGBTQ+ — especially with health issues leaving my community at risk.
I presented my concerns not only to my peers, but to the health clinic the following week.
My phone calls were thrown around and I was left clueless. So, I continued my questioning and contacted the California representative of Family PACT. In our phone conversation, I explicitly asked, “Am I not allowed this service because I am a male who happens to have sex with other males?” She replied, “Accurate,” and asked if I had any further questions.
Appalled, I hung up on her. Again, I felt the same torment I had experienced from my bully in elementary school. But in this instance, there was no school bell to alleviate my powerlessness and my bully’s abuse.