COVID's Effect on Accessing Sexual Health Care
Since the start of the pandemic in 2020, sexual and reproductive health care has become harder to access, sadly making it harder for women to physically take care of themselves. Issues such as staffing shortages, delayed in-visit appointments, requirements of isolation and testing, as well as a large switch to virtual appointments all have contributed to this problem.
Asian Womens' Sexual and Reproductive Health Barriers
Sexual and Reproductive health is extremely important to the overall physical health of women. Let’s take a look at an example. Hepatitis B is a virus that is commonly spread by exposure to infected body fluids. This can occur through sex. Out of the 1,649 Hepatitis B-related deaths in 2018, 46.1% were Asians/Pacific Islanders, resulting in the highest death rate among race/ethnic groups. This can be caused by a multitude of reasons, but it is important to realize that Asian American women are in a unique position where oftentimes they face more barriers to sexual and reproductive health care.
These barriers include:
● Access to Service
● Quality of Services
● Personal Factors
Accessing services that are available outside of work or school hours can be limited which make it difficult to attend appointments. This can also be caused by long commute times and difficulty accessing these health care clinics in a timely and convenient manner. Furthermore, many women do not have access to education and information on sexual health services being offered in an accessible way.
Quality of services such as if translators are available or lack of cultural understanding of one’s viewpoints and opinions on sexual health can discourage Asian women from attending sexual healthcare appointments. Many Asian women would prefer to have these visits confidential and that is difficult when cultural aspects such as living with family, insurance dependability and being seen by others in their community can happen.
Personal factors such as shame, stigma and stress can also play a huge role in not seeking care in fear of these negative feelings occurring. Health care professionals are often strangers and sharing deeply personal information on personal health and sexual intimacy can be scary and difficult.
How to Fight These Barriers
For women who have experienced barriers to getting healthcare for their sexual and reproductive health, one way to fight this barrier is to attend educational groups at community based organizations. There are community based organizations that include religious leaders and members of Asian communities as well as Asian healthcare workers that understand the barriers being faced. These organizations and education groups are listed here and are a great way to participate for your own health and wellbeing.
Another effective way to gain information and knowledge on sexual and reproductive health care available that is accessible is social media. Social media advocacy groups on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and TikTok provide a large amount of resources that can be educational and culturally inclusive because they often are coming from a community member's own personal experiences and research.
By Allison Tamburrano, Northeastern University Student