San Francisco is an amazing place in terms of community. From the fact that the city is as green as it is, we strive as a city to make sure each person is cared for. Health care is a huge issue that the entire country is having a problem with, and having the money to afford it is no small task. Some have the luxury of an employer who is generous enough to cover them, but the majority of us need to figure it out.
Once I became self-employed, health care coverage overwhelmed me. Then I was told about Healthy San Francisco. I checked them out. This is what appears on their website: "Healthy San Francisco is a program created by the City of San Francisco that makes health care services accessible and affordable for uninsured residents. The program offers a new way for San Francisco residents who do not have health insurance to have basic and ongoing medical care."
It is not every city that provides this. So, I went on a search to see what else this great city does for its residents, especially the sex-positive community. My search led me to St. James Infirmary. I had heard about St. James from various sources and I wanted to check them out. It is an amazing institution. I looked up their site and found this: "St. James Infirmary offers free, confidential, non-judgmental medical and social services for sex workers (current or former) of all genders and sexual orientations. We are the first occupational safety and health clinic for sex workers run by and for sex workers!"
Being the responsible sexually active gal that I am, I needed to get my three-month STD check. Waiting for results is always a fun task. No matter how careful you are, there is always that time of reflection. How many people have I slept with in the last three months? For me, that answer is generally more than one and less than 10... on average. I decided to take myself down to St. James and experience first-hand what this place is like. They are located on the corner of 10th and Mission. I went on a Wednesday evening for the walk-in clinic. I have been to many a Planned Parenthood to get tested over the years. Normally, the lines are long, patience is short, and people are rude.
I remember once getting tested at a Planned Parenthood in San Luis Obispo, where the physician's assistant actually said to me, "Perhaps if you didn't sleep with so many people, you wouldn't have to come in here every three months." You would think she would be happy I was responsible. But no, she needed to mix in that little bit of shame to make a point. Granted, I have had many a good experience with Planned Parenthood as well. But, that particular visit stuck out. If the experience of going in and getting tested was a better one, people would probably do it more.
St. James is a nonprofit organization that tests sex workers, even those who cannot pay for it. Being a sex worker is a way of life for many people in this city. I write about sex and I consider myself a sex worker. Having the ability to get tested safely and easily makes a huge amount of difference. We want to believe that everyone is responsible, but the truth of the matter is not everyone does so.
When I went in I found them friendly and very helpful. I filled out my paperwork, got my number, and waited to be called. The woman who got me was very nice and respectful. We went through a questionnaire and she answered all of my questions. Then I went into the back to have my blood drawn, which I truly hate. I have never cared for needles, and this was not fun at all. The experience went by quickly and painlessly. While I waited 20 minutes for my rapid HIV test, I chatted with this nice lady. When she went to get my results and came in to tell me I was HIV negative, we chatted for a bit more about a lot of things.
Instead of shaming me, she said that the fact that I was so responsible was great. It is places like this that do the most good that have the least amount of funding. The St. James Infirmary is a non-profit, 501(c)3, that is supported by many organizations and individuals, but they need help. Give to St. James Infirmary, a wonderful and much-needed place. The people who work there volunteer so much of their lives, time, and energy into helping keep the world and our city a safer, cleaner place. If you are a sex worker and you do not know where to go for medical care, know that you can come to St. James Infirmary.
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