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By Lori Lamerand
On the day that he started his first real job, W. got a call from his college partner who had just tested positive for HIV. W. needed to get tested.
The news was a sobering wake-up call for W. As a teen, he’d received sexual health education as a part of the Planned Parenthood Mid and South Michigan (PPMSM) peer education program, a leadership development group that trains teens about how to talk to their peers about abstinence, safer sex, healthy sexuality and healthy relationships. It was within that context that he came to accept and embrace with his own identity as a gay man.
“It was surreal that I’d spent so much of my time talking about safer sex, only to be faced with the consequences of my own unsafe choices,” he said. “I got tested and I was HIV-negative. I was stunned. That experience has given me a second-chance. It’s allowed me to recognize that even with all of the information and tools for safer sex, sometimes we still choose to be unsafe. We’re all human.”
W. epitomizes PPMSM’s core belief that people deserve quality health care with respect and without judgment. We are tireless in our efforts to provide education and information so that people can make their own health decisions.
We understand that the LGBTQ community faces greater obstacles to obtaining and benefiting from sexual and reproductive health services than the community at-large. In addition to high rates of stress due to systematic harassment and discrimination — which has been shown to effect physical and mental health — the LGBTQ community faces low rates of health insurance coverage, high rates of HIV/AIDS and cancer, and high rates of discrimination from medical providers. LGBTQ people of color are at an even higher risk for these disparities.
This is why our 17 health centers from Detroit to Benton Harbor are safe spaces for LGBTQ patients who come to us for everyday health care, including annual exams, cancer screenings, breast health, testing and treatment of STDs and HIV tests. And it’s why we touched more than 13,000 people last year with sensitive and accurate information, education, and resources on sexual orientation, gender, and gender identity to youth, parents, and men and women of all ages.
Don’t let the hetero name fool you. Planned Parenthood is about safe, healthy sexuality for all. Our 61,000 patients annually don’t comprise any one identity, and we’re grateful for the many volunteers, staff, and supporters of all genders and identities who work every day to ensure that people in Michigan get the health care and information they need–no matter what.
For appointments or more information on a health center near you, call 734-926-4800, or go to http://ppmsm.org.