The National Coalition for Sexual Health, which consists of over 50 leading health and medical organizations, issued a call to action to increase the uptake of essential preventive sexual health care services in the African-American community. These vital services can protect and improve sexual health, and even save lives.

With historic levels of insurance coverage, most African-Americans can now access recommended preventive sexual health services for free, including the HPV vaccine, female contraceptives (including the IUD, implant and pill), Pap smears and screening for sexually transmitted diseases, such as chlamydia and HIV. Unfortunately, many African-Americans are not currently benefitting from these important services, which are vital to the overall health and well-being of the community.

“You and your health matter. We know you have a lot on your plate, but we all need to make room for our sexual health. Just like protecting your heart health, managing your blood pressure and exercising regularly, it’s worth your time,” said Christian J. Thrasher, director of the Center of Excellence for Sexual Health at the Morehouse School of Medicine. “We have a tremendous opportunity here. An unprecedented number of people now have access—at no cost—to these safe and effective preventive services that have been endorsed by leading medical organizations nationwide. We need to take advantage of these services.”

Recommended for all Americans by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, these preventive services can help you prevent many male and female cancers, plan your pregnancies, and detect and treat common STDs before they cause serious problems.

“Knowledge is power. It’s important to take charge of your own sexual health and get informed about the services that are recommended for you. Don’t assume that you are automatically getting these services when you go to your health care provider. You need to ask your provider to be sure,” said NCSH Co-Director Susan Gilbert.

To help Americans get the services they need, a free guide and website are available from the NCSH, which features action steps for good sexual health, charts of recommended services for men and women, questions to ask health care providers, and other resources. The guide, “Take Charge of Your Sexual Health: What You Need to Know About Preventive Services,” is accessible at Tips and tools can be downloaded, and the site is mobile-friendly for easy access on the go.

If you have private health insurance, most health plans now cover these services free-of-charge, but check with your health plan before you make an appointment. If you have Medicaid, most plans will also cover these services, but coverage can vary by state; check with your health plan or provider to find out what’s covered.

If there are fees under your plan or you don’t have insurance, check out the cost of services at community health centers, family planning clinics, STD clinics or HIV testing centers. Most clinics offer a sliding fee scale, which means your fees are based on your income. Services could be available at low or no cost.

For teens, you have the right to obtain many confidential sexual health care services without parental permission. For example, all states and the District of Columbia allow teens under age 18 to get confidential STD testing and treatment. For contraceptive services, 21 states and D.C. allow teens to consent to receive these services, and 25 states allow consent under specific circumstances.

However, if you use private health insurance to pay, a statement might come in the mail to your parents that will describe the services you had. So it’s a good idea to ask about privacy policies when you make an appointment. Alternatively, seek services at clinics that can guarantee privacy and confidentiality, such as Planned Parenthood clinics, other Title X family planning clinics and STD testing centers. Go to or to find locations near you. Note: If you use Medicaid, services are kept confidential.

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