Metro Weekly

Local health providers scale back non-essential services in response to COVID-19 pandemic

Community events, HIV/STI testing, and nonessential appointments are among those services affected

covid-19, coronavirus

Photo courtesy of Whitman-Walker

As the threat of COVID-19 infection leads states to shut down all non-essential services, local health care centers are also scaling back services in order to deal with the most serious cases and ensure that patients aren’t unnecessarily exposed to the virus.

As of March 17, Whitman-Walker Health has canceled all community events, walk-in HIV/STI testings, and non-essential medical appointments. It has closed its Youth Services location in Eastern Market and Whitman-Walker at LIZ (formerly the Elizabeth Taylor Medical Center), and has closed down its weekly Gay Men’s Health and Wellness Sexual Health and PrEP clinic through March 31.

The health center’s PEP services for post-exposure prophylaxis — a 28-day medication which must be started within 72 hours of exposure to HIV in order to be effective — will continue to operate, however they are closing at noon on Thursday, March 19 and will reopen at 8 a.m. on Friday, March 20. But legal services, insurance navigation support, and wellness visits will be switched over to phone or digital appointments.

Whitman-Walker’s pharmacies remain open, but patients are encouraged to utilize delivery services instead of showing up in person. The pharmacies provide same-day prescription delivery for District residents, and next-day delivery for those in Maryland or Virginia.

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Patients of Whitman-Walker who need urgent care are being asked to call 202-745-7000 before showing up in person, as staff may be able to treat them over the phone or virtually, thus lessening their own potential exposure to COVID-19.

For patients and clients who may have been exposed to COVID-19 or are showing symptoms of the virus, Whitman-Walker has also set up a cough evaluation sick clinic. However, people are urged to call 202-745-7000 before showing up so that the remaining medical staff can triage care needs and determine whether an in-person visit is absolutely necessary.

Given that services will change in response to the severity of the COVID-19 pandemic, patients or clients are encouraged to check Whitman-Walker’s website for updates and call before arriving in person for urgent medical care.

In a similar vein, the Alexandria Health Department’s Rainbow Tuesdays clinic, geared towards gay and bisexual men, has scaled back services, and will no longer provide STI screening or rapid HIV testing for asymptomatic persons.

Those who have been notified that they are sexual contacts of people who have tested positive for HIV or STIs, have symptoms, or have positive lab tests are being seen, but walk-ins are not accepted. Appointments must be scheduled by calling 703-746-4863 or 703-746-4976, and will take place on Tuesday between 4:30-6:30 p.m. The clinic is open to non-Virginia residents.

However, the department’s Rapid Monday Clinic HIV rapid testing and STI clinic, and its Wednesday HIV Rapid Testing, have been temporarily suspended. According to Deborah Dimon, a registered nurse and public health nursing supervisor at the Alexandria Health Department, much of the department’s workforce is being reassigned to COVID-19 surveillance activities.

The department will continue to hold STI testing and treatment, including HPV, and Hepatitis A & B immunizations, for the general population — by appointment only — on Monday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Tuesday from 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

NOVASalud, a program geared towards Spanish-speaking populations that provides free walk-in HIV rapid testing, gynecological screenings, Hepatitis C rapid testing and rapid syphilis testing, will continue to operate on Monday from 9 a.m.-7 p.m., Tuesday from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. and Wednesday from 9 a.m.-7 p.m.

For the most up-to-date information from Whitman-Walker Health, visit their website at www.whitman-walker.org.

For the Rainbow Tuesdays clinic or other services provided by the Alexandria Health Department, visit www.alexandria.gov/Health.

Read more:

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John Riley is the local news reporter for Metro Weekly. He can be reached at jriley@metroweekly.com

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