It’s that time of year we focus on giving back to those less fortunate than us. It’s when we come together in our families and communities and give thanks for all that we have, from a roof over our head to enough food to awesome friends and a demented cat (just me?). It’s also “cuffing season” (or did I miss it with my chronically-single life?), meaning that people move from casually hooking up to locking it down before the weather gets too bad to wait in line for clubs.
So, in honor of all these things, I’m writing about NYC’s FREE sexual health resources for those who need them — to prevent pregnancy, to support pregnant women, and to prevent/check for STD’s or more serious issues like cancer.
There are plenty of private resources for these things (like Planned Parenthood, which provides everything from prenatal screenings to mammograms to vasectomies), but I am focusing on what is offered by the city itself. Because, as I frequently harp on in these posts, NYC may charge higher taxes than where I’m from in VA, but it is also very clear how that money is put back into aiding the city’s population.
Condoms - NYC Health supplies free condoms, dental dams, and lubricant to over 3,500 different bars, clubs, restaurants, salons, barber shops, clinics, community based organizations, and hospitals. In 2015 they distributed over 37.2 million male condoms, 1.2 million “female condoms,” and 7.2 million packets of lubricant. You can actually search for these places on their website, or there’s even an app for that. How many other cities do you know of that have an app to search for free condoms?
Promoting safe sex is important, as is providing services for people who had unsafe sex for whatever reason, and for women who are pregnant. NYC does that stuff too.
Clinics - NYC Health runs clinics in each borough except for Staten Island (one in the Bronx, two in Brooklyn, four in Manhattan, two in Queens) that supply free STD testing, PrEP medication to reduce the risk of contracting HIV, vaccines against Hepatitis and HPV, and even HIV treatment initiation for those who find out they are positive.
These clinics do not provide prenatal care, but 311 has a search function that lists hospitals and clinics that will. I ran a quick search and found seven places in Manhattan that would provide these services were I pregnant and in a financial bind.
The city also offers free cancer screenings for those without insurance or those who cannot pay the required copays for these services. Again, although they are not offered at the clinics run by the city, there is a hotline you can call and be placed somewhere that accepts the government program. The screenings covered are breast and cervical cancer screenings for women over 40, as well as colorectal cancer screenings for both men and women 50 and older. Unfortunately the city does not provide prostate cancer screenings, but the private resources I referenced, like Planned Parenthood, do.
So, how is this real estate related? Again, this is a time of year many of us are spending time at home, with family. Residential real estate is, at its core, about putting people in homes where they can feel safe and comfortable. A lot of pregnant women find themselves in bad situations for whatever reason and lack both support and shelter. Maybe the father of her child is abusive and she needs to move out, or the family member(s) she lives with don’t support her pregnancy, or she lost her housing for another reason. So on top of the services I’ve listed above, she is looking for a roof over her head.
Not only will NYC organizations help these women apply for reduced-cost housing (which I’ve written a little about before), they also have options for those who will need to remain in a shelter for the duration of their pregnancy and beyond. Rather than house them with the general population or give them only short-term support, some of these places will allow women to stay for multiple years while they get back on their feet, allowing them to give birth knowing they have somewhere safe to bring the newborn.
Women’s and children’s only shelters, and those specifically for at-risk pregnant women, are extremely important because they add a level of security that cannot be found in a general population shelter. Some of these mothers are coming from abusive situations and need the added safety that these places can provide, while others benefit from knowing the shelter will focus specifically on their needs and those of their children.
Like in the section above, there are also plenty of private companies that provide shelter and resources for pregnant women, many of them religious/church-based. But having worked in reproductive justice I believe that government involvement is imperative to ensure equal access to these resources for all at-risk pregnant women and mothers, and am grateful that I live in a place that does offer these things.
Have a beautiful week, stay warm, and take a minute to think about and help those who are having a tough time this holiday season. Your value is determined by how much you give, not by what you receive in payment. <3