Gay student shares story of discrimination at Student Health Services

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.  

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  • K

    KristyMar 17, 2017 at 10:39 am

    I looked up their eligibility requirements and it said nothing about sexual orientation, just this: “4. You must have a medical necessity for family planning services”

    To say that gay men do not need family planning services is ridiculous. Are no gay people parents? Both gay men and women are having families, whether biologically or through adoption.

    Also, would bisexual men and women be denied? They could end up in a seemingly straight relationship one day and have kids the way most straight people do.

    Hopefully it was a misinterpretation…

  • P

    PatMar 15, 2017 at 10:48 am

    Family Pact is a California State program it was created for Family Planning in other words “Birth Control.” STD testing is limited since the program focus on “Family Planning Services.”

    • U

      Update #2Mar 20, 2017 at 3:03 pm

      No, STI testing benefits through F-Pact are fairly broad – they pay for HIV (rapid or standard blood draw), chlamydia, gonorrhea, herpes (specimen of liquid in blister during an outbreak, not blood draw), and syphilis.

  • A

    AMar 12, 2017 at 10:04 pm

    did they not refer you to other services in the city that are specifically for gay men such as STRUT or the Alliance Health Care Project?

    FamilyPact was created for people seeking family planning services. obviously gay men do not fall into this category

    • J

      JayMar 14, 2017 at 11:29 pm

      No, sorry, not “obviously” – I fail to see how birth control services (offered by FamilyPact) fall under this description, as well as many of the other services offered, plus not all men who have sex with other men are cisgender or gay.

      A state school that is obligated to protect its students with health services must do so regardless of sexuality, referring him to another service is not what they should be doing. Students pay a lot of money, and the state helps fund these programs too, so it makes no sense at all that certain students are not allowed the same level of health care as other students, especially when it is the same service. I am curious to know how far this discrimination goes – is it just gay men, or gay women and/or trans individuals as well? This is technically illegal and should be pursued further.

  • U

    UpdateMar 12, 2017 at 1:19 pm

    Clearly, this is a misinterpretation of the F-Pact eligibility guidelines. Please contact the California State Office of Family Planning, ask to speak to a supervisor, the people answering the F-Pact phones are generally helping with different types issues, not policy issues like this.

  • L

    Larry RobertsMar 11, 2017 at 11:19 pm

    I found a Family Pact Provider Agreement online (by searching for “Family Pact” and “Sexual Orientation”) and it includes an anti-discrimination clause that includes sexual orientation. So is SF State’s clinic violating the agreement?

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Gay student shares story of discrimination at Student Health Services