HIV, Hepatitis C, and other forms of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are an ever-growing risk for today’s youth. As pharmacies, it is our responsibility to dispense medication to treat these conditions. However, taking it a step further has the chance to also help the communities in which we serve. Making personal connections with individual clients, organizations that provide care and education, and enabling staff to treat individuals and not just script numbers is the key to success and building relationships.
Training is in place to allow today’s youth in at-risk demographics (whether they are homeless, addicted to substances, LGBTQ, etc.) to assess the risks of another youth of contracting an STI, HIV, or Hepatitis. One of these programs is the Project Heart program, and it allows youth to be candid and open with one another while teaching safer sex practices, treatment management, and allows for community health clinics and initiatives to refer these clients to their practices and pharmacies for further testing or treatment.
In most pharmacies, flu shot clinics are commonplace. This has made flu shots more accessible to low income or at-risk individuals who can’t afford regular physician visits. If we were to reach out to our communities, homeless shelters, LGBT youth centers, and recovery homes – clinics could be started for STI screening, risk assessment, on site referrals, and more. This would enable people who perhaps do not have reliable transportation to get to an off-site clinic or testing center to be able to get to their local pharmacy and get valuable testing and care that they desperately need.
Locating resources for screenings, clinics, and testing is often as simple as conducting a search online or making a call. Chances are, local clinics and at-risk individual direct service organizations have approached your pharmacy before about assessments, shot clinics, and similar services. Now is the time to further these connections. This is something that is vital to communities, and most clinics will be glad to spread the word about your program, if not offer to help in some way. Getting others involved is the key to success.
Offering these services to not just at-risk individuals, but our communities as a whole can help increase our presence and enable our staff and management to connect with clients on a personal level. Bringing in staff from clinics to conduct screenings, risk assessment, referrals, rapid HIV testing, and more on-site can be beneficial to a number of people that might not want to go to a specialized center for fear of judgment or harassment. Opening pharmacy doors for this sort of program will allow people who might shy away from treatment to break down their own mental barriers, and improve or even save their lives in the process.
Does your pharmacy already offer clinics that cater to at-risk youth, or have you considered such a program? If so, have these clinics helped you attract a new customer demographic?