Late last year, the Department of Public Health moved its Health Center #1 – the clinic for walk-in treatment of sexually-transmitted diseases – from the old facility at 500 S. Broad St. to Constitution Plaza. Since then, our STD Control Program staff have been thoroughly enjoying the new digs and the chance to freshen up our approach to an old public health problem.

The key to preventing STDs is this: if we cure people of their sexually transmitted diseases, they won’t spread them to others. That means we must make it easy – really easy – for people to get checked and treated. So the STD clinics run with no barriers. The clinic opens daily at 7:45 AM and twice a week closes at 7:00 PM. Walk in without an appointment. No fees. Testing done immediately. Treatment provided immediately, free of charge. All with a smile.

The people coming into our clinic often have problems behind their diseases, like drug addiction, homelessness, or commercial sex work. So the clinic goes beyond the medical treatment to help with those. This one clinic has three social workers to help.

Although we provide everything in the clinic for free, our services are as sophisticated as in any fancy medical center’s specialty clinic. The clinic has its own laboratory, which runs rapid tests for HIV, syphilis, and gonorrhea. It has its own locally-designed electronic medical record, which works on both computers and tablets. The doctors, nurse-practitioners and CDC-trained nurse specialists together see some 70 patients a day, so they get to know more about STDs than most doctors ever will. (When asked how often they see certain unusual STDs, the most common answer is “we saw one last week.”)  To tap into that knowledge, medical residents spend time during their training in our clinic to learn from our team.  And because STDs overlap with skin diseases, the clinic operates a special dermatology session one half day a week.

When asked how the new facility is working out, the STD Program staff will likely burst into laughter. It is SO MUCH better than the old site at 500 South Broad. Everything’s bright and clean. The waiting room offers the patients more privacy, cutting down on embarrassment and conflicts. And the patients very much notice the change for the better.

And that’s part of it, too. Patients shouldn’t feel embarrassed or ashamed to go to an STD clinic. They should feel valued and respected. If they do, they’ll come in for treatment more readily, get treated earlier, reduce the spread of diseases to others, and get a helping hand in solving the problems that got them there in the first place. For a long time, we’ve offered the high-quality skills and support that people needed. It’s great to have a beautiful new facility to match.