Here’s why a sexual health clinic ended up in a Las Vegas church
With the increase in sexually transmitted diseases, public health officials in southern Nevada are trying something new: to open a sexual health clinic in a church.
On Wednesday, World AIDS Day, senior officials from the Southern Nevada Health District gathered to mark the grand opening of the All Saints Episcopal Church Clinic in downtown Las Vegas.
The clinic, in a room overlooking a peaceful courtyard with benches and statues of saints, will provide HIV testing and other services related to the prevention, detection and treatment of sexually transmitted diseases.
“We are making HIV testing more accessible to people in our community in a location that offers a safe space and environment,” said Dr Fermin Leguen, district health manager for the County Public Health Agency. Clark, on the district-church partnership.
There is no existing model for a sexual health clinic in a church, health district officials said. However, the church served as a popular site for COVID-19 testing and vaccinations, making this new venture a natural extension. Customers seen during the clinic’s smooth opening gave positive feedback about the environment, said Lourdes Yapjoco, nurse in charge of community health.
Reverend Rafael Pereira, priest in charge of All Saints’ Day, considers the twinning of the church and the clinic to be natural.
“Our principles and core values say we don’t judge, we don’t exclude, we don’t close doors,” Pereira said of his 500-member church on Washington Avenue near Decatur Boulevard.
“We are opening the doors. “
STD on the rise
In Clark County, more than 10,600 people are living with HIV and 325 were newly diagnosed in 2020, Leguen said.
“As we continue to make progress against HIV and AIDS, there are still too many people in the community who don’t know their HIV status,” Leguen said. “It means they don’t have access to the proper care that can keep them healthy.”
Clinic services will include testing for HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases, pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) to prevent HIV infection, telehealth visits with a district health provider, education in sexual health issues and the provision of condoms.
Early diagnosis is essential for people living with HIV so that they can benefit from antiretroviral therapy (ART). ART reduces levels of HIV in the blood and HIV-related illnesses, and reduces the risk of transmitting HIV to intimate partners. With ART, people with HIV can stay healthy for many years, depending on the district.
Although HIV and AIDS were the center of formal remarks on Wednesday, they are not the only concern.
New cases of HIV and AIDS in Clark County declined 4% between 2011 and 2020, according to statistics from the Nevada Department of Health and Human Services.
During the same period, however, cases of chlamydia increased by 60 percent and those of gonorrhea by 214 percent, according to a snapshot provided by the health district. Syphilis cases increased by 259%, with newborn cases increasing by 1,333 percent.
Pereira wants his church to be part of the solution to a community problem.
“As a church, we bring people together, we connect with them,” he said. “We know their needs. and we have to adapt to this changing world.