Frequently Asked Questions
Anyone can use Pocket Guide LA. All the clinics provide youth-friendly services that are free or low cost to youth.
You have the right to access confidential sexual and reproductive health services.
Minors of any age can access:
Minors 12 & over can access more without anyone’s permission:
Find more information on our page YOUR RIGHTS.
What you tell your doctor is between YOU and THEM. They are not allowed to tell anyone—even your parents—unless you say so! HOWEVER, there are a few exceptions:
If you say…
…then your doctor may need to tell someone to help keep you safe.
Have more questions? Your doctor will be happy to answer them.
Find more information on our page YOUR RIGHTS.
Yes, you can still get care. And, you can still get Family PACT or Medi-Cal — no one should ask about your immigration status.
No problem! All clinics on Pocket Guide LA will see you at no cost. All clinics on this guide accept Family PACT or Medi-Cal (two government programs), so services will not cost you anything. All County STD clinics also offer care at no charge. Find more information on our page Free Services.
At any age, you do NOT need anyone’s permission to get birth control, abortion services, pre-natal care, and treatment for rape. If you are 12 or older, you do NOT need anyone’s permission to get MOST sexual health services, also including STD and HIV testing and treatment, HPV and Hep B vaccines, and PEP and PrEP. It’s the law.
As a youth in California, you have the right to privacy. By law, if you’re at least 12 years old, a doctor CANNOT tell your parents about your sexual health, or other care you receive without YOUR permission.
To learn more about your rights and how to protect them, go to: www.yourhealthyourrights.org.
If you feel your rights have been violated, contact the ACLU of Southern California at (213) 977-5253.
To help protect you and your partner (or future partner) from STDs, HIV, and an unplanned pregnancy. Even if you don’t have any symptoms, getting tested will tell you if you have something that you might not see on your body. Remember the most common symptom of an STD is NO SYMPTOM AT ALL!
To help give you the right care, your doctor will ask questions. What you tell them is PRIVATE. The doctor has heard it all and can best help you when you tell the truth.
They might ask things like:
If you’re female:
You will have to fill out some forms so you can get free services. Ask for any help you need.
You may have to wait. If the wait is long, you can ask to wait in a separate waiting room for privacy. Some clinics will see you faster if they know you’re a student. If you are visiting during school hours, let them know you have to get back to school soon.
You can ask for a male or female doctor.
You can ask questions, like:
YES! Go to www.lacondom.com/find-free-condoms to order free condoms.
Abortion is ending a pregnancy after it has started, either by using pills (which can be used up to 10 weeks after the pregnancy starts) or by a medical procedure in a clinic. In California, you do NOT need anyone’s permission to get an abortion, no matter how old you are.
AIDS – Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome, is a condition caused by HIV in which the immune system is so damaged that it is easy to get fatal infections and cancers. Newer medicines can protect the immune system and prevent AIDS.
Birth control helps someone prevent pregnancy before it begins. There are many different methods to choose from — check out www.teensource.org for more information.
A tiny plastic rod about the size of a matchstick that is placed under the skin of your upper arm by a doctor. Implants can keep you from getting pregnant for 3 years. A doctor can also take the implant out anytime, if you decide you want to become pregnant or use another birth control method. Implants do not prevent STDs.
The birth control patch is a thin piece of plastic that looks like a square bandage. Females can wear the patch on the skin of their belly, upper arm, butt, or back, to keep from getting pregnant. You put on a new patch once every week for 3 weeks, then stop for a week before starting again. The birth control patch does not prevent STDs.
Also called oral contraception, pills that females can take to keep from getting pregnant. You usually have to take a pill every day for the pills to work correctly. There are many different kinds – ask your doctor or use the resources in this Guide to get more information. Birth control pills do not prevent STDs.
Also called the NuvaRing, a birth control ring is a small flexible ring females can put inside the vagina to keep from getting pregnant. You need to put in a new ring once a month. The birth control ring does not prevent STDs.
Sometimes called Depo-Provera, the Depo shot, or DMPA, this is a shot (injection) females can get at a clinic to keep from getting pregnant. The shot works for 3 months at a time. The birth control shot does not prevent STDs.
Chlamydia is a very common STD that often has no symptoms, but can cause a discharge from the penis or vagina. Chlamydia can also cause infertility (make you unable to have babies). Chlamydia is easy to test for and easy to cure with the right antibiotics.
A condom is a pouch of thin rubber (latex), synthetic rubber, or plastic that is used to prevent both pregnancy and STDs (including HIV). There are two types of condoms, the MALE or external condom, which is rolled over the penis, and FEMALE or internal condom, which is placed inside the vagina or (for anal sex) inside the anus. All the clinics in this Guide either have condoms at the clinic, or should be able to give you a prescription to get male or female condoms for free at a pharmacy.
Also called a “CCR,” this is a form you can file with your family’s insurance or health plan so that they won’t send any information about your medical visit to your parents or anyone else. See our Free Services page for more information.
EC: also called Emergency Contraception, emergency birth control, or “the morning after pill” is medicine females can take AFTER having unprotected sex to keep from getting pregnant. There are different kinds of emergency birth control – talk to your doctor about which is best for you. Clinics in this Guide can give you the medicine for free. EC should be taken as soon as possible after having unprotected sex – in 3 to 5 days depending on what type. EC is NOT an abortion pill – it works before the pregnancy has started. EC does not prevent STDs.
Family PACT is a California program that helps provide birth control and related services (including STD testing and treatment) at no cost to people with lower incomes. Most youth can use this program to get free services because your parents’ income is not counted.
Gonorrhea is a common STD that often causes no symptoms, but can cause discharge from the penis or vagina. Gonorrhea can also cause infertility (make you unable to have babies). Gonorrhea is easy to test for and easy to cure with the right antibiotics.
HBV is the Hepatitis B Virus, also called Hep B, which can cause chronic hepatitis (liver inflammation) and liver cancer. HBV cannot be cured, but it will usually go away on its own after a few months, and there are treatments to help you recover.
Herpes is an STD that can cause painful skin blisters. Herpes cannot be cured, and the blisters can come back more than once. But there are very good medicines that can make the blisters less painful, make them go away faster, and keep them from coming back very often.
HIV is an STD that damages the immune system and can cause AIDS. HIV cannot be cured. However, very good medicines can help people with HIV stay healthy. HIV is easy to test for.
HPV is the Human Papilloma Virus, which can cause genital warts and several types of cancer. HPV cannot be cured, but it can eventually go away on its own, and warts can be removed. There is a very effective vaccine now for the most common and serious forms of HPV.
IUD, or Intrauterine Device, is a tiny t-shaped device that is placed inside the uterus by a doctor. IUDs can keep females from getting pregnant for 3-12 years, depending on which type is used, and can always be taken out any time. There are different types of IUDs – ask your doctor for more information. IUDs do not prevent STDs.
Minor Consent Medi-Cal is a California program that can provide certain services for free to people under 21 who live at home with their parents or guardian (foster youth can use this program until age 26). Services that you can get through this program include sexual health, mental health, and drug and alcohol treatment. Regular Medi-Cal can also provide these services to people with lower incomes, but most youth can use Minor Consent Medi-Cal, because your parents’ income is not counted.
Options counseling is information given to you at the clinic about your options if you are pregnant. In California, you generally have four basic options: 1) continue the pregnancy and become a parent, 2) continue the pregnancy and make an adoption plan, 3) ending the pregnancy by getting an abortion, and 4) continue the pregnancy and within 72 hours of birth, bringing the newborn to a safe surrender site anonymously without fear of prosecution. Whatever option you choose, it is YOUR decision. You of course can ask anyone you want for advice, counseling, and support. But in the state of California, NO ONE else (including your parents, the clinic, or anyone else) has the legal right to tell you what to do about your pregnancy – only YOU get to decide. If you are pregnant, clinics in this Guide should talk to you about ALL 4 of your options!
PEP, or Post-Exposure Prophylaxis, is medicine you can take AFTER you may have been exposed to HIV (like from unprotected sex, or getting stuck by a needle someone else has used) to keep from getting HIV. But it only works if you take it within 3 days (72 hours) of the exposure. If you think you need PEP, call (844) Yea-PrEP or click here RIGHT NOW.
PrEP, or Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis, is medicine you can take to prevent getting HIV. But for PrEP to work, you need to take it every day. And you need to start taking it at least 7 days before having anal sex, and 20 days before having vaginal sex, for it to work properly. PrEP does not prevent other STDs, just HIV. For more info, see Get PrEP LA in Hotlines & Websites.
An STD, or Sexually Transmitted Disease, also called Sexually Transmitted Infection, STI, VD, is any disease or infection which can be caught by having sex – including oral, vaginal, and anal sex. There are more than 25 STDs, though the most common types are chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis, HPV, herpes, trichomoniasis (“trich”), hepatitis B, bacterial vaginosis, and HIV.
STDs are not all the same; different STDs can be caught in different ways and cause different health problems. Also, there are many different tests and DIFFERENT TREATMENTS for STDs – there is no one test that tests for all STDs, and you generally cannot use the same medicine to treat different STDs. So it’s important to talk to your doctor about what STDs you should be tested for. And if you have an STD, it’s important to take the medicine your doctor gives you for that STD. Some STDs, like HIV, herpes and HPV, can be treated very effectively but not cured. For a few STDs, like HPV and hepatitis B, we have very effective vaccines that can prevent you from getting these STDs.
Syphilis is an STD that can cause a wide range of health problems, including serious damage to your brain, vision, and hearing. Syphilis is easy to test for and can be cured with the right antibiotics.