You may have heard that Alpha Omega Center is offering free STI testing beginning August 20th. We'll be testing, and treating, for chlamydia and gonorrhea. If a client comes back positive for either of those, we will recommend that they see someone else for a full STI panel covering more diseases.
So, why are we doing this? What does testing for Sexually Transmitted Infections have to do with affirming life or helping young families?
There are a few reasons we're offering this service to our community.
The first, and perhaps the most important, is that affirming life goes far beyond just intervening with a mother who is considering an abortion. To truly affirm life we must teach what it means to build a culture of life to our entire community. If we're only seeing women who are concerned about pregnancy we're not going to reach everyone that needs this message.
What does affirming life look like if someone isn't pregnant? It could be marrying instead of continuing to live together. It could be choosing to abstain from sex until marriage. It could be finding a life affirming way to plan a family. All of these topics can be covered at length when someone comes in for a STI test.
In fact, by teaching people engaging in risky sexual behavior about abstinence, we will be preventing unplanned pregnancies - and abortions. Most importantly, it means sharing the love of Christ with every person who walks through our doors. By offering the Gospel to individuals concerned about an STI, we will be offering them the true cure to the sickness of sin.
Second, we will be catching pregnancies even earlier and protecting unborn babies from these sexually transmitted infections. Every young woman that comes to us for an STI test will also receive a pregnancy test - we may find out young women are pregnant before they even begin to suspect something is going on. We will also offer STI tests to young women coming for pregnancy tests. By catching STIs early on in pregnancy, they can be treated before they harm the developing child.
Third, we will be screening for and intervening in domestic violence and sex trafficking cases. Every individual that comes in for STI testing will be asked gently about whether they're in a dangerous or coercive environment. If they're willing to open up to us, we can help them find safety from whatever situation they are trapped in.
Finally, by offering a service like STI testing, we're going to get our name out into the community and truly become the "place to go" when someone is facing a crisis. We want to be the first place young women think of when facing an unplanned pregnancy.
So, what does all of this cost?
Like all of our services, this is free to our clients. Of course, we all know that "free" doesn't mean it is without cost!
The Pennsylvania Department of Health is aware of the STI epidemic in our country. According to the CDC, there will be 20 million new STI cases this year. Because of these extremely high rates, the state has an interest in testing for and treating these infections in a way that minimizes costs to taxpayers. That's where we come in.
Many programs, programs that wouldn't agree with our focus on finding value in Christ and choosing abstinence until marriage, have been forced to cut their services. While their funding has decreased, ours has increased. God has blessed us, through our faithful donors, to be able to step into this gap and offer services that honor God.
The Department of Health will be providing the tests and treatment to us free of charge. They have no interest in controlling or influencing the education that surrounds it, they just want to know that people are being tested and treated. We already have everything we need to collect the samples and send them to be tested, and we have the staffing in place to educate clients.
Will we soften or change our message of abstinence and faith in Christ to receive these tests and treatments? ABSOLUTELY NOT. Our message will not change. I am, with the support of our Board of Directors, invested in spreading the message of abstinence and salvation to our community. No amount of funding is worth watering down or changing that message.
What this means is that we will be testing and treating individuals in our community and able to educate them about boundaries, healthy relationships, abstinence, and the love of Christ.
Do you have questions or concerns about this? Please let me know! My goal is to be as transparent, open, and honest as possible with our donors and our clients.
Is this our last expansion? Certainly not! Stay tuned for new developments. God is moving!
Changing Lives Together,
Sarah M. Bowen