Flint, MI — The Genesee County Health Department (GCHD) now offers free sexually transmitted infection (STI) self-testing kits.

GCHD Public Health Nurse Supervisor Jessica Parks said that the department decided to get the kits in response to a growing number of STIs in the county.

“[We wanted] to increase access to STI testing to address the rise in STIs, making access, you know, easy to meet individuals where they are, because we understand that … people sometimes have barriers to accessing care,” she said.

The kits allow individuals to test for gonorrhea, chlamydia, trichomoniasis, HIV and syphilis from home.

Gonorrhea, chlamydia and trichomoniasis are all tested via a urine sample, Parks explained, and HIV and syphilis are tested through a blood sample.

All of the supplies needed to collect the samples are provided in the kits, and once the samples are collected, individuals can use a pre-paid mailing package from the kit to send the sample in to get their results.

According to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, some STI case numbers in Genesee County have been increasing, while others have remained steady.

For example, in 2013, the number of gonorrhea cases reported in the county was 916, but by 2022 that number was 1,270. Alternatively, in 2013, the number of HIV cases reported in the county was 24. In 2022, it was down to 21.

Mikayla Benbow, an epidemiologist with the health department, wrote in an email to Flint Beat that case rates of STIs are higher across the board in Flint compared with the rest of the county.

According to data from GCHD, 70 percent of the 1,792 Genesee County chlamydia cases reported so far in 2023 are in Flint or Flint Township. For gonorrhea cases, 77 percent of the county’s 694 cases are in Flint or Flint Township.

Benbow noted the highest case rates for gonorrhea and chlamydia in the county are among people who identify as Black or African American and who are between 19 and 24 years old. She also wrote that syphilis is increasing across all demographic groups.

Parks said it’s important for people to get tested because it can help prevent further spreading of STIs. And, she said, it’s also just good for people to know their STI status.

“We want to normalize sexual health because it’s important, just like … getting your primary care checkups,” Parks said. “You need to get your sexual health taken care of as well.”

The STI test kits can be picked up from GCHD’s Burton, Mich. location at G-3373 S Saginaw St., or shipped directly to Genesee County residents. Parks suggested calling ahead (810-237-4538) for a pick up, as individuals are required to fill out a short consent and sexual health questionnaire before they take their free kit.

Parks said the questionnaire collects contact information for notification of test results, and answers are otherwise used for data collection and providing additional resources to a respondent.

If a resident receives a positive result from their STI kit, Parks said that GCHD will reach out directly to talk with that individual about treatment options.

Sophia is Flint Beat's City Hall reporter. She joins the team after previously reporting for the Livingston Daily and the Lansing State Journal, along with some freelance work with The New York Times....