Sexual health for CMU students
Central Michigan District Health Department
Heading to college, students have many questions, but there is one that seems to be considered taboo: How will you take care of your sexual health while at school?
For students at Central Michigan University, the Central Michigan District Health Department is here to help.
From sexually transmitted infection (STI) and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) testing and care, to free condoms and pregnancy tests, CMDHD works to ensure Michigan citizens (including CMU international students) receive the care they need when it comes to a person’s sexual health.
CMDHD in Mount Pleasant offers a multitude of services, one of which is confidential STI and HIV testing at their facilities. These tests are on a sliding fee scale at little-to-no cost with students paying what they can afford at the moment, and are available to everyone regardless of sex or gender.
“If at any point (you) cannot pay, we would never deny (you) services, we just continue doing what we need to do,” Shelby Pasch, CMDHD Health Promotion Supervisor, said.
Testing for STIs and HIV includes results for chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis, HIV and hepatitis C. This testing is available without the need of parental consent if the individual is 13 years of age or older.
Both call-ahead and walk-in appointments are accepted. If students don’t feel comfortable going to the health department for testing, CMDHD allows people to order free, at-home HIV test kits.
Why Should I Get Tested for STIs or HIV?
According to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, sexually transmitted infection, or STI, diagnoses were as follows.
For every 100,000 people in Michigan in 2022, there were:
- 428.9 cases of chlamydia
- 163.2 cases of gonorrhea
- 18.2 cases of latent syphilis
- 9.7 cases of primary and secondary syphilis
As a point of reference, the U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts database shows there were just over 10 million residents in Michigan in 2022.
Of these STI cases, a large percentage of those diagnosed were 25 years old or younger -- 63% for chlamydia, 46% for gonorrhea and 20% for syphilis.
What is HIV?
HIV is a virus that destroys CD4 T cells, or “white blood cells that play a large role in helping your body fight diseases,” according to the Mayo Clinic. In short, HIV attacks the body’s immune system. If not treated, it can develop into AIDs, or acquired immunodeficiency syndrome.
According to the Mayo Clinic, HIV is spread by multiple pathways: through sexual contact, through the sharing of needles, from mother to child during pregnancy or breastfeeding, or through any other contact with HIV-infected blood.
Currently, there is no cure for HIV. But that doesn’t mean symptoms can’t be alleviated.
CMDHD offers a treatment program to those living with HIV or AIDS called the Ryan White Services. Here, each individual is assigned their own case manager who works directly with them to develop a care plan that makes the patient most comfortable.
Case managers can provide medication to those who have HIV that makes the virus unable to be transferred to anyone else. Case managers also provide a variety of other services, including regular check-ups to make sure medications are working as they should, mental health support, food assistance with a licensed dietician, help for working out payment with insurance providers and programs to help people quit using tobacco products, among others.
Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis Medication, or PrEP Medication, is another service offered at the Health Department. PrEP is taken as a preventative measure to reduce an individual’s chances of contracting HIV. If you’re concerned you’re at a higher risk of getting HIV, book an appointment with CMDHD to discuss PrEP Medication.
Along with testing, CMDHD offers annual exams at their clinic. During these exams, you can get tested for STIs, discuss birth control options or talk with a healthcare provider about any other concerns you might have.
CMDHD provides urine pregnancy tests and free condoms. To order free condoms, a person can fill out a form at CMDHD.org/testing.
According to UnplannedPregnancy.com: “More than 2 million women between the ages of 18 and 24 become pregnant each year, and college pregnancy rates mean that about 26% of undergraduate students are parents.”
Unplanned pregnancies can be scary.
Pasch said CMDHD offers a comfortable, confidential, and most importantly, low-cost environment for students to access the help they need if they find themselves in this situation. If a test comes back positive, CMDHD will work to connect the student to pre-natal support and discuss with the patient what their options are.
For young women, a pap smear may be something they’ve heard their friends or their mothers getting, but they’re unsure as to what exactly it is and why they need it.
A Pap smear, or pap test, is a service provided to females to test for cervical cancer. The sooner cervical cancer is detected, the greater the chance is for a cure for the individual, according to the Mayo Clinic.
How do you know if you should get a pap smear? The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends that all females get pap smears every three years starting at age 21. If you’re 21 or older and haven’t had one yet, no worries: It can be scheduled at CMDHD by calling (989) 773-5291.
Request Sexual Health Education
If you want to know more about the best way to take care of your sexual health, CMDHD has a form on their website you can fill out with your contact information for a staff member to reach out to you and answer any questions you may have.
“We really take into consideration … how vulnerable you have to be to walk through our door,” Pasch said. “You’re going to see a friendly face.
"The best part of our job is providing that safe space for an uncomfortable conversation. … I promise you we’ve heard it all, we’ve seen it all, and we don’t care. We are here to help you have the best sexual relationships that you can have.”