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CMU partners with county health for free monthly STI testing


Devin Lagasse, community outreach educator for Planned Parenthood Michigan, exhibits the elasticity of a dental dam— a piece of latex that protects against STDs during oral sex Feb. 21 at Anspach Hall.

When students come to university, they’re free of parents. It can be easier to do things parents might not approve of, including parties, drugs, drinks and the hookup culture.

As students explore different parts of themselves and their sexualities, they may not realize the resources that can help them take control of their health.

One resource CMU students have at their disposal is Student Health Services’ STI testing. 

The center offers testing to students throughout the month. Once a month, the center also partners with Central Michigan District Health Department to provide free testing for students who don’t have insurance, are unable to pay or have concerns about discretion in using insurance.

All CMU students are eligible for free confidential monthly testing in Foust Hall, CMU health educator and HIV counselor Lori Wangberg said. 

To schedule an appointment, call the district health department at (989) 773-5921 ext. 1409.

Life Choices of Central Michigan also provides free testing. 

Evidence suggests people aged 15-24 years old make half of all newly diagnosed STIs, according to a CDC report. The CDC found “steep, sustained” increases in gonorrhea, syphilis and chlamydia from 2013 to 2017, with 45 percent of 2017 chlamydia cases being 15- to 24-year-old women.

There are no clear answers on how common STIs are at CMU or if CMU students have also experienced an STI uptick. This is because there are multiple local STI testing and treatment locations in the area, and students may seek help in other cities, Wangberg said. 

Young people are at a higher risk of STIs for biological, cultural and behavioral reasons, according to the CDC. The findings may reflect difficulties in accessing preventative and treatment services, the CDC reports.

The CDC recommends that the following groups be tested:

  • All people from ages 13-64 should be tested at least once for HIV.
  • All sexually active women younger than 25 should get annual chlamydia and gonorrhea testing.
  • All pregnant women should get tested for syphilis, HIV and hepatitis B.
  • All men who have sex with men should get tested for syphilis, chlamydia and gonorrhea annually. Men who have sex with men may benefit from more frequent HIV testing than other groups.
  • Anyone who shares needles or has unsafe sex should get tested for HIV at least once a year.

The CDC also notes that unique risk factors should be considered, such as people who have sexual partners with STI’s or people who have multiple sexual partners.

CMU Voices for Planned Parenthood president and Cari, Illinois senior Emily Seybold said society needs to normalize talking about STI’s and sexual health.

“People who get (STI’s) are not dirty people,” Seybold said. “They’re just normal people.”

“With STIs you think that it’s gonna be a specific type of person, but really it’s affected many people who don’t fit that kind of stereotype of the kind of person who sleeps around,” Seybold said. “That would be the common theme is that it’s affecting everybody.”

When people with STIs are seen as dirty, someone who has an STI becomes a “pariah” and is less likely to seek help, Seybold said.

Seybold has had many conversations with fellow students about sexual health while tabling for her organization. One misconception she’s heard from students is that they don’t need to get tested if they’re not promiscuous.

Anybody can get an STI, Student Health Services registered nurse Jodi Shoebottom said.

“Use caution,” Shoebottom said.

Another issue that students are often uneducated about is HPV, Seybold said. Female students have told her they don’t have to get tested since their boyfriend doesn’t have any STIs. 

What these students don’t realize is that most men who contract HPV will never develop symptoms. These men can still give their partners the infection, which can cause health problems like genital warts and even cervical cancer.

Similarly, Seybold has heard students estimate the pull-out method is 99 percent effective; in reality, about one in every five women who uses the pull-out method gets pregnant every year, according to Planned Parenthood.

Seybold attributes some of the misconceptions to Michigan’s sexual education system. Michigan schools are not required to teach sex ed, and when they do teach it, it has to stress abstinence. Parents can read materials in advance and withdraw their children when it’s taught.

But for students who may be new to talking about their sexual health, employees stress that Student Health Services is a safe place.

Wangberg encouraged students to come in for testing, even if they’re afraid.

“It is understandable to be afraid,” Wangberg said. “But mostly people are afraid of being judged and lectured.”

The center aspires to be a “safe and welcome” place to students, Shoebottom said.

“It’s a nonjudgmental, nondiscriminating zone,” Shoebottom said. “We treat each person as an individual.”