Sexual Health Education
We understand that sexual health can be a private and sensitive topic to discuss for some people. However, communication between you and those you have intimate relationships with, and you and your healthcare providers is essential for your health. Our providers are focused on prevention, health promotion, and treatment. We cover areas such as sexually transmitted infections (STI) testing, PrEP (Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis), contraception, and cancer screening. We provide personalized healthcare for every individual’s needs.
Information obtained directly from the CDC, GVSU, and our providers.
Did you know?
- The number of STIs has increased dramatically from 2014 to 2019.
- Only 67.5% of students who had intercourse used a condom during their last encounter.
- 68% of students reported that parents never talked with them about what to expect when it comes to sex.
- Half of all STIs occur between the ages of 15-24 years.
- 1 out of 2 sexually active young people will have a sexually transmitted infection (STI) by the time they are 25 years old.
- Toilet seats and washcloths do not spread STIs.
- STI Testing
- PrEP and PEP
- Cervical Cancer Screening
Myths About Sexually Transmitted Infections
Myth: “Only gay men and drug users get HIV”
- Men who have sex with men may be disproportionately affected by HIV, but it does not matter what sexual orientation or gender you are, or whether you have had one or many sexual partners. Anyone who is sexually active is at risk of acquiring HIV or other types of STIs.
Myth: “I can avoid STIs by only having oral sex”
- STIs can be transmitted through any form of sexual contact including oral, anal, and vaginal sex.
Myth: “I won’t get an STI because I’m on the pill”
- Oral contraception (birth control pills) helps to prevent unplanned pregnancy, but it does not protect against STIs. The only form of birth control that offers any STI protection is using condoms every time. Condoms protect against some STIs, but not those spread by skin-to-skin contact, like herpes.
Myth: “If my partner has an STI, I’ll see it”
- Many STIs, such as chlamydia, gonorrhea, or syphilis can be asymptomatic or dormant for years. This means an individual with an STI may not show signs of an infection. Even if there are no obvious signs, an infection can still be transmitted to any sexual partners.
Myth: “If I get checked and am STI free, my partner doesn't need to get checked”
- Your partner(s) should also be checked. Since many STIs are initially asymptomatic, they may have an infection and not know it.
Myth: “If I get an STI, it will go away on its own”
- It is unlikely that an STI will go away by itself, and if you delay seeking treatment the infection will likely cause long-term health problems. Many STIs can be treated with antibiotics. If you go untreated there is a high risk of passing on the infection to other sexual partners, even if you do not have any signs or symptoms at the time.
STI Prevention, Testing and Treatment
Risks which increase the chances of obtaining an STI:
- Insufficient education on sexual health and misconceptions about STIs
- Inconsistent use of condoms
- Having multiple/anonymous sexual partners
- Reluctance to discuss sexual health with partners and healthcare providers
- Use of alcohol, drugs, and other mind-altering substances
STI testing is quick and painless
- Typically for STI testing a urine sample is collected. If you have physical symptoms, a visual inspection and swabbing of the affected area may be needed. In some cases, a small blood sample may be collected.
- Testing can be completed with your yearly physical, or anytime by making an appointment.
STI Testing Recommendations
- Anyone who is experiencing symptoms of an STI should be tested. Some examples include genital discharge, difficulty with urination, lower abdomen pain, or sores around the mouth or genital area.
- All adults and adolescents from ages 13 to 64 should be tested at least once for HIV.
- All sexually active persons younger than 25 years should be tested for gonorrhea and chlamydia every year.
- Everyone 25 years and older with risk factors such as new or multiple sex partners or a sex partner who has an STI should also be tested for gonorrhea and chlamydia every year.
- All pregnant women should be tested for syphilis, HIV, and hepatitis B starting early in pregnancy. At risk pregnant women should also be tested for chlamydia and gonorrhea starting early in pregnancy. Testing should be repeated as needed to protect the health of mothers and their infants.
- All sexually active gay and bisexual men should be tested at least once a year for syphilis, chlamydia, and gonorrhea. Those who have multiple or anonymous partners should be tested more frequently for STIs (3 to 6-month intervals).
PrEP and PEP
We offer PrEP (Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis) and PEP (Post Exposure Prophylaxis)
- PrEP or Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis is a medication that can reduce your risk of getting HIV. If you take PrEP as directed, it can reduce the chance that HIV will be able to infect your body. A once-daily pill is available for patients seeking PrEP.
- PEP or Post-Exposure Prophylaxis is a medication regimen that you can take if you believe you have just been exposed to HIV. If you take PEP as directed within 3 days after exposure, it can prevent HIV from infecting your body. If you had unprotected sex with or have been exposed to the blood from someone you think may be HIV positive, please make an appointment.
Cervical Cancer Screening
Cervical cancer screening is also an important preventative care for health maintenance. This screening is completed by performing regular Pap smear and HPV testing. Anyone who has a cervix, including transgender men who have not had their cervix removed, are recommended to have regular screenings. Below are the recommendations of when and how often screenings should be completed.
- Under 21: if you have been sexually active for 3 or more years.
- Age 21 to 29: Every 3 years with cytology (Pap testing), regardless of age of onset of sexual activity or other risk factors.
- Age 30 to 65: Every 5 years with HPV cotest (Pap + HPV test) OR every 3 years with cytology.
When NOT to Screen
- Younger Than Age 21: Screening is not recommended for women younger than age 21.
- Older Than Age 65: No screening past age 65 if adequate prior screening can be assessed accurately (three consecutive negative cytology results or two consecutive negative HPV results within 10 years before screening cessation, with the most recent test occurring within 5 years) and not otherwise at high risk for cervical cancer.
There are many forms of contraception (birth control), some include: male or female condoms, oral pills, patches, and Depo-Provera shots. You should talk with your provider about your goals to find out which type of contraception is best for you.
We do require individuals to establish care here at the GVSU Family Health Center to provide care, or STI testing and treatment. If for any reason you are unable to do so, please refer to Ottawa County Health Department or Kent County Health Department. These facilities offer free testing, even if you do not have insurance! They also provide treatments for gonorrhea and chlamydia free of charge. More information is posted on Kent County Health Department’s website, under personal health services.