VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – While the world is gripped by the COVID-19 pandemic and officials urge the public to take precautions to mitigate its spread, this is no time to neglect sexual health.
Otherwise, we could see a rise in sexually transmitted infections and unwanted pregnancies in the coming months, said Nicole Pasquino, clinical practice director at Options for Sexual Health.
Options, which operates clinics in 50 B.C. communities, is providing only “essential” services – providing contraceptives, treating STI symptoms and urgent testing for STIs and pregnancies – for the time being as dozens of confirmed novel coronavirus cases in the province are announced every day.
Pasquino, a registered nurse, said most clinics are reducing hours and doing as much assessment over the phone as possible.
“We want to minimize patient contact so we’re not using the vital supplies other health-care workers need,” she said.
While pharmacists can now refill prescriptions without an updated doctor’s note, many British Columbians still cannot afford birth control from a pharmacy, Pasquino said. That’s why Options will still talk with people over the phone before providing contraceptives at the door.
She said some people might stop taking birth control while self isolating and social distancing, thinking they won’t need it while not being sexually active – but that’s a bad idea.
“We really want to get the message out there that you should not stop taking birth control,” he said. “We know that can be the catalyst for unplanned pregnancies.”
And while Options clinics have stopped providing routine STI testing for asymptomatic people, they are still providing referrals to clinics that are better equipped. Pasquino said it’s still important to get tested because people who don’t know they have an STI can still spread them.
Asked whether the pandemic, which is keeping many people couped up in self isolation, could lead to a spike in births nine months from now, Pasquino said it’s possible.
“I know there’s a lot of folk tales and old wives’ tales about when baby booms happen. I think when people are in close proximity more often, sex is a great way to deal with stress. So I’m not saying that it won’t happen, but I don’t really have any statistics to prove it.”