You might have heard of by now rightwing activist Lila Rose’s attempted sting operation of Planned Parenthood, which resulted in the shocking finding that Planned Parenthood workers follow the law (and don’t endanger themselves or their patients by physically confronting potentially dangerous people). Suffice it to say, it was a bullshit smear, but that’s not stopping Planned Parenthood from catching flak. I have a personal reason for supporting Planned Parenthood (no, I’m not coming out of the closet or announcing that I am HIV-positive)–but, first, here’s the breakdown of what Planned Parenthood actually does (data from 2008; pdf):
I want to talk about that yellow-green sector, STD testing.
For the younger readers–and by younger, I mean those in their twenties–it’s hard to describe the AIDS-related paranoia of the late eighties and early nineties; the discrimination and hysteria towards Ryan White was still very fresh (kids, read this, then come on back). I’ll also throw into the mix that insurance companies have always been cheapskate bastards. So, if you were sexually active and did the responsible thing by getting regularly tested for STDs, you definitely didn’t want your insurance company knowing about it, especially if you were an unmarried male with a college degree and a low BMI in the Northeast*. Healthcare isn’t cheap to begin with, especially when you’re a graduate student or post-doc.
Thankfully, Planned Parenthood provided–and still provides–cheap (or, if you need it, often free) STD testing. And it’s very confidential: to get your results, you went to the office and got them. You received a version of the results to take with you; literally, a clean bill of health to show your partner if you desired. No messages left on the answering machine for roommates to intercept (back then, that’s what we used. And they had cassette tapes too!).
As I’ve often said around these parts, the best way to deal with an infectious disease is to not get it in the first place. STD testing is critical.
*Stereotyping? Absolutely. But the political climate surrounding HIV and gay rights was insane back then in all but the most liberal strongholds.