Today, the Los Angeles LGBT Center calls on the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors to demand that the County’s Department of Public Health (DPH) and its director, Dr. Barbara Ferrer, restore vital care for LGBT people and other communities most at-risk during the County’s current sexually transmitted disease (STD) epidemics.
“At a time when all of us should be redoubling efforts to end these epidemics, the Department of Public Health and Dr. Ferrer are turning their backs on the LGBT community and their duty to protect the public health of all Angelenos,” said Los Angeles LGBT Center CEO Lorri L. Jean. “We demand the Board of Supervisors take immediate action to restore care to those who need it most.”
After the Board of Supervisors voted last year to maintain and even expand STD services to at-risk communities, DPH, under the leadership of Dr. Ferrer, now has eliminated funding for one of the largest providers of free STD testing in the County. With this changed funding approach, it fails to meet its promises and is arbitrarily transferring millions in County costs to community providers like the Center.
“As a result, starting tomorrow, the County will be responsible for ending almost all free STD testing at the Center, causing tens of thousands to go untested, undiagnosed, and untreated. This includes eliminating thousands of free HIV tests funded by DPH. At a time when we’ve made so much progress in the fight against HIV, this represents a direct assault on the LGBT community by DPH and Dr. Ferrer,” said Jean.
From 2019 to 2020, DPH’s funding to the Center for core STD testing and treatment services dropped more than $1 million. This includes completely defunding STD testing and treatment at the Center’s Jeffrey Goodman Special Care Clinic, which has been providing these services for 27 years.
Moreover, as a sign of unprecedented recklessness during a public health epidemic, DPH will now charge its community health partners for the County’s own lab costs. For the Center, this means an additional $1.5 million of unfunded care that decimates almost the entire amount of funding provided by DPH. This means the end of almost all free testing for gonorrhea, chlamydia, and syphilis at the Center, impacting an estimated 15,000 people.
“Access to testing and treatment is essential for combating the growing STD crisis. The Center is one of the most trusted and cost-effective STD testing providers in the County, specifically because of our success ensuring that the LGBT community gets the care it needs and deserves. The ripple effect of the thousands of people who will now go untested and untreated will have dangerous repercussions for the LGBT community and all of Los Angeles,” said Dr. Ward Carpenter, the Center’s co-director of Health Services. “As funding cuts choke off these services, STD cases in Los Angeles will soar and it will cost millions of additional dollars in testing and treatment. These changes are short-sighted, dangerous to the public health, and bad for the taxpayers of Los Angeles County.”
Over the last five years, there has been a 98 percent increase in primary and secondary syphilis; 81 percent increase in gonorrhea; and 25 percent increase in chlamydia cases in Los Angeles County. Alarmingly, the epidemic disproportionately impacts communities hardest hit by health inequities and stigma, including young gay and bisexual men, women, people of color, and transgender people.
“We have been trying to work with Dr. Ferrer and DPH for more than a year to find strategic solutions to these issues. We have been sounding the alarm, yet, even as the devastating impacts of these funding changes became apparent, Dr. Ferrer has refused to meet with us directly. The Board of Supervisors needs to act immediately and take responsibility where Dr. Ferrer has failed,” said Jean.
The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors has direct oversight of DPH and Dr. Ferrer. Contact your Supervisor now and demand that DPH and Dr. Ferrer restore this vital STD care for the LGBT community.
At the Center, funding for core HIV care and treatment as well as PrEP and PEP services remains intact as does STD and HIV testing covered by insurance.