Sexual Health Q&A

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How often should I get and STI or HIV test?

While that answer may vary from person to person the general CDC guidelines are:

  • All adults and adolescents from ages 13 to 64 should be tested at least once for HIV.
  • Annual chlamydia screening of all sexually active women younger than 25 years, as well as older women with risk factors such as new or multiple sex partners, or a sex partner who has a sexually transmitted infection
  • Annual gonorrhea screening for all sexually active women younger than 25 years, as well as older women with risk factors such as new or multiple sex partners, or a sex partner who has a sexually transmitted infection.
  • Syphilis, HIV, chlamydia, and hepatitis B screening for all pregnant women, and gonorrhea screening for at-risk pregnant women starting early in pregnancy, with repeat testing as needed, to protect the health of mothers and their infants.
  • Screening at least once a year for syphilis, chlamydia, and gonorrhea for all sexually active gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men (MSM). MSM who have multiple or anonymous partners should be screened more frequently for STDs (i.e., at 3-to-6 month intervals).
  • Anyone who has unsafe sex or shares injection drug equipment should get tested for HIV at least once a year. Sexually active gay and bisexual men may benefit from more frequent testing (e.g., every 3 to 6 months).


Where can a person go for STI or HIV testing or birth control?


There are a few different places in the local community a person can go for STI and HIV testing. Here are some places a person can go for testing, and some of the costs* that may be involved. Call for more information on what is available.



Health Center on campus (906)227-2355

Planned Parenthood (906)225-5070

Marquette County Health Department

Personal Physician

STI Testing



Yes, affordable, cost varies

Usually - call for confirmation

HIV Testing




Usually - call for confirmation

Birth Control




Yes - prescription

Emergency Contraception




Available over the counter, no physician needed

Gardasil (3 shots)




Call for confirmation

Health Insurance Accepted


Yes - also Plan First, UPHP, Medicaid, Private Insurance

Yes - also Plan First, UPHP, Medicaid, Private Insurance


What is HPV? How spreadable is it and does it affect men?

HPV (Human Papilloma Virus) is a group of over 100 different viruses. Some types cause warts on the hands or feet, and other types can cause genital warts. Some types have no outward symptoms but cause cell changes that can lead to cervical cancer and other cancers. HPV is spread through skin-to-skin contact, and can be passed along from partner to partner even if symptoms are not present and/or the person is unaware they are infected.

HPV is very common. It is estimated that at least half of all sexually active people will get HPV at some point in their lives. Many people have no symptoms and their immune system will fight HPV off naturally. Others may have the visible warts or may not have visible symptoms but will experience cell changes that can lead to cancer.

HPV is spread through genital contact. If warts are present, the chance of contracting HPV is much higher. Genital warts may be present on or around the vagina, vulva, anus, upper thighs, or penis. Condoms do not necessarily cover the infected area so they do not prevent transmission. Many people pass HPV on to partners without knowing they are infected.

HPV affects both men and women. HPV has been linked to cervical cancer and other types of cancers, including cancer of the anus and penis. HPV has also been linked to throat cancer if the virus was passed on from oral sex.

(Centers for Disease Control, 2009).

If a person already has genital warts, should they still get the Gardasil vaccine for HPV?

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), even if a person has already come in contact with HPV, whether it is a strain that causes genital warts or not, they can still benefit from getting the HPV vaccine.  The vaccine protects against four of the most common types of HPV, some which could lead to cervical cancer.  The vaccine will not be effective in treating a current HPV infection, and it may not work as well if a person has already been exposed to HPV, but it can help protect against other strains.  The vaccine is not meant as a replacement for regular cervical screenings because it does not cover all HPV strains, and because an infection may have been present before vaccination. 

For more information on HPV and the Gardasil vaccine, including recommendations for and its effectiveness, go to the CDC website above, the American Cancer Society, or the Gardasil website.

Is it possible to transmit Herpes if symptoms are not present?

Yes, Herpes (Type-1 and Type-2) can be spread if there is not a current outbreak, although the chance of transmission is much greater when sores are present.  Some people may experience itching or tingling in an area before sores appear.  These are known as "Prodromal Symptoms" and can warn that the virus is present on the skin.  From the time these symptoms appear until after the sore is completely clear on the skin, risk of transmission is the greatest.  Some people have no symptoms and may even be unaware they have the virus and can still transmit Herpes to a partner.  This is called "Asymptomatic Transmission" and is much less likely than transmission when recognizable symptoms are present, but can be possible.  For more information on Herpes transmission, go to or the Centers for Disease Control.

Where can you get the Morning After Pill?  What does it really do?


The Morning After Pill, also referred to as Emergency Contraception (EC) or Plan B, is used to help prevent a pregnancy after a woman has had sex without using birth control, or if the birth control method used failed.  If you are already pregnant, emergency contraception does not work.


Emergency Contraception is a series of pills that should be taken as soon as possible after unprotected sex.  It is recommended the pill be taken within 72 hours, but it can be effective up to 120 hours (5 days).  Emergency Contraception does not work if a woman is already pregnant.


Emergency contraception should not be used as a regular form of birth control. It also does not protect against sexually transmitted infections (STIs).  Other birth control methods are more effective at preventing a pregnancy and may have less side effects.  Talk to your doctor to find a method that works for you.


EC is available over-the-counter to anyone over 17 years of age.  It is available at local drugstores and pharmacies.  We called a few local places and put together an idea of prices.  This information was current as of September 14, 2009.


                   Planned Parenthood                    $25.00

                   Marquette County Health Dept.     $25.00 (sliding fee scale)

                   Health Center on Campus             $34.00

                   Walgreens Pharmacy                   $49.99 (Generic - $45.99)

                   Wal-Mart Pharmacy                     $53.00


For more information on Emergency Contraception, go to or

What if I am pregnant and I am not ready to have a baby?


Up to half of the pregnancies in the U.S. are unplanned.  If a person discovers they are pregnant, they have 3 options - parenting, adoption, or abortion.  It is important that a person carefully think through the options and have the information necessary to make the choice.  It is helpful to have a supportive person to talk with regarding your options - a friend, family member, partner, or counselor.


Getting the necessary information to make the best choice should not be put off too long.  For someone deciding on parenting or adoption, they should begin prenatal care as soon as possible.  For a person considering abortion, the risks increase as the pregnancy progresses.


In Marquette, women can go to Planned Parenthood for information  and support on making the choice that is right for them.

Can you get pregnant if the condom falls off in the vagina after ejaculation?

Yes!  The condom falling off can allow semen to get into the vagina and sperm to reach the female's egg.  If the condom does slip off and there is not a second method of birth control being used along with the condom, emergency contraception should be considered to help prevent a pregnancy.
To prevent the condom from falling off inside the vagina, remove the penis before it comes flaccid (soft) after ejaculation.  While removing the penis, hold on to the base of the condom so it does not slip off.

How long does it take birth control to start working?

This would depend on the method of birth control used and when in the woman's cycle it was started.  Many hormonal methods, if started at the beginning of the woman's cycle, are effective immediately.  Some methods can be started up to a week into the cycle and may take a week to be effective.  Other methods may take up to a month to be effective.  It is important to talk to your doctor when they prescribe birth control to determine when it should be started and how long it will take to be effective.


While we hope that you will find this information helpful, please be aware that this information should not be substituted for professional advice. By submitting a question, you agree that the Northern Michigan University Health Promotion Office is not responsible for any situation that occurs as a result of, or is negatively influenced by, advice or answers given.If your situation puts you or anyone else in danger or potential danger, please seek professional help.Your question and the answer from the staff at the HPO may be edited. Your name and any identifying details will be removed. If you would prefer your question not be posted, please indicate this in your original question. We cannot guarantee we will answer every question, and we reserve the right to discard any question deemed to be unsuitable at our discretion.