Sexual Health on the Rock

Planned Parenthood Newfoundland and Labrador Sexual Health Centre

Contributed by Karen Berglander

The number of trans patients seeking services has doubled since 2019.

The increase in trans patients seeking out services is exciting given a recent study by Trans PULSE Canada found that only 35% of trans patients have fully accessed gender-affirming care, while another 41% remain on waitlists. The province covers most of the costs for certain affirming surgeries, although but patients must travel outside the province for those services, making access still an issue. The lack of comprehensive Pharmacare in the province also poses a barrier to those seeking HRT (hormone replacement therapy) as the costs can run upwards of $100 a month for those without insurance.

The announcement in 2018 that the province would cover the costs of PReP (pre-exposure prophylaxis) for those without insurance was heartening. At the time of the announcement, the AIDS Council of Newfoundland and Labrador had just reported another annual increase in HIV infections across the province. The continued increase in PReP prescriptions shows how necessary its coverage under the provincial drug plan is. With the introduction of HIV rapid testing kits at key harm reduction sights around the province, it is likely that the number of people referred for PReP prescriptions will continue to grow.

Requests for PrEP increased 113% between April 2019 and March 2021.

With 1 in 6 Canadian couples experiencing infertility and a growing family doctor crisis in the province, it is no surprise that these services have grown during the pandemic. Due to long waitlists at fertility clinics and the need to travel outside the province for IVF, referrals become matters of urgency when the wait to see a family doctor (if you are lucky enough to have one) extends for months. For those who get pregnant without assistance, the lack of family doctors and every-growing waitlists for OBGYNs, along with the stalled expansion of the midwifery program introduced in 2019, often means relying on clinics like ours for all but the highest risk pregnancies, and doing so well past the first trimester.

Clients seeking prenatal care have increased 131% during the pandemic and clients seeking fertility referrals have increased 300%.

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Karen Berglander is a graduate student and researcher at Memorial University in Newfoundland and Labrador who received a 2021 WeavEast seed grant. She works with Planned Parenthood Newfoundland and Labrador Sexual Health Centre.

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