Care Resource addresses a woman’s overall wellness as an issue of holistic healthcare, acknowledging the link between social determinants of health and physical well-being. Providers create a judgment-free and welcoming environment, empowering women and girls to make the best choices concerning their sexual health in light of the challenges they experience.
Women often struggle with the shame surrounding female sexuality, which further affects their ability to advocate on behalf of their own sexual health. This shame coincides with limited disclosure between women and their health providers, potentially leading to adverse health effects. Providers serve as an indispensable source of information about sexual health, and a lack of communication means a missed opportunity for essential screenings and intervention. Additionally, some providers assume that a young woman is not sexually active or has not been exposed to HIV, thus limiting the knowledge they can share. Lesbian and bisexual women may encounter barriers to quality care when providers possess a limited understanding of their sexual health risks.
“Many people have grown up in homes where sex wasn’t discussed. They receive misinformation from friends or the internet. Patients should be able to open up to a provider, disclose information, and ask questions. It’s important for all patients to have a provider who will listen. Often, my first meetings are mainly a conversation because I want my patients to feel comfortable with me. When a patient is comfortable, they will speak about their concerns, and the provider can make the appropriate recommendations. If they exhibit any symptoms, then we can proceed with exams. If not, we can just talk about birth control, the HPV vaccine, and more.”–Dr. Lauren Abern, Gynecologist at
The stigma around sex follows women throughout their lives. Sanique Olkuch, DNP, APRN, Nurse Practitioner at Care Resource, provides primary care to adult cisgender and transgender women living with HIV. Olkuch cites her experience working with cis heterosexual women who suffer from shame if they were given HIV due to a partner’s infidelity. Additionally, Olkuch counsels patients who are concerned about pregnancy, advising them to continue antiretroviral therapy (ART) and maintain an undetectable status. When an individual living with HIV adheres to a daily medication regimen, they suppress the virus and become undetectable. Once undetectable, they cannot transmit the virus to their partners and have an extremely low risk of transmitting to their children.
Olkuch recommends pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), to women throughout the age continuum. PrEP is a biomedical HIV prevention strategy for those at high-risk of acquring HIV. Although Black/African American and Latina women are disproportionately affected by HIV, every woman, regardless of socio-economic status, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or religion, is vulnerable. Therefore, everyone — women, men, community organizations, health care professionals, those who are HIV-negative, and those living with HIV — has a role to play in HIV prevention.
Olkuch adamantly reminds her patients that HIV is just one part of their lives, reminding them that they can still have a full and healthy life. She advocates vaccination as assurance for those whose immune systems are compromised, suggests smoking cessation, and regular screenings.
These issues do not affect only cis-heterosexual women, and inclusive care recognizes the distinct needs and experiences within the transgender community. Often, transgender women who visit the health center for essential wellness services are simultaneously facing housing insecurity.
Care Resource offers housing services to further address the social determinants of health that affect the lives of trans women.
In creating safe spaces for women and girls to speak about sexual health and providing compassionate and competent HIV/AIDS care, Care Resource supports women. This March, Care Resource encourages the local community to observe National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day (NWGHAAD) on March 10.
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About Care Resource:
Care Resource is a 501(c) (3) nonprofit organization and a Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC) with four locations in Midtown Miami, Little Havana, Miami Beach, and Fort Lauderdale. The health center provides comprehensive health and support services to address the full health care needs of South Florida’s pediatric, adolescent, and adult populations.