Health officials promote STD awareness

Krystle Wagner • Apr 16, 2016 at 11:00 AM

Throughout the month of April, officials across the country are placing a bigger effort to encourage people to take note of their sexual health.

With April being STD Awareness Month, Ottawa County Department of Public Health is using the time to highlight sexually transmitted diseases. In recent years, health officials have noticed an increase in chlamydia cases in Ottawa County.

Reported cases of chlamydia in the county have risen from 574 in 2011 to 854 last year.

The likely rise in reported cases could stem from several factors such as more testing and switching to urine testing, which is more sensitive.

Heather Alberda, a sexuality educator for Ottawa County Department of Public Health, said the majority of people with chlamydia don’t have symptoms and unknowingly pass it along to their partners. 

Alberda said it is a myth that you will know if your partner has an STD just by looking at him or her.

“That’s not the case,” she said.

To encourage and promote sexual health, officials are promoting: “Talk, test and treat.”

Since most of the Ottawa County cases are with people younger than age 25, the health department developed the Wear One campaign, which is aimed at increasing condom availability, creating awareness and promoting condom use, Alberda said.

To protect against STDs, Alberda said they recommend abstaining from sexual activity, being with one partner, using condoms, getting tested, and talking with your partner about sexual health.

The Ottawa County Department of Public Health provides testing for chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis, HIV, herpes and trichonomiasis. Alberda said they encourage STD testing as part of annual physicals and check-ups.


If someone tests positive, health officials assume their partner is also positive, and both people are prescribed a one-dose antibiotic to clear it up.


Per Michigan law, testing for minors doesn’t require parental consent, but Alberda said they encourage discussions between parents and their children. For parents uncertain how to begin discussions with their children about sexual health, the health department provides a guide on its website.

To make an appointment with the county health department, call 616-396-5266.

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