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Community Spotlight


Educating providers and youth about sexual health in Muskegon County.

“We are lucky to have the low HIV rates that we do in Muskegon County; but the STI rates are very scary because HIV and other STI’s can go hand in hand”, stated Shelia Wilson, Nursing Supervisor at Public Health Muskegon County. Shelia oversees the STI and HIV Program at Public Health. Along with that, come many other responsibilities. She is a State certified HIV counselor and tester, is State certified in Partner Services, and advocates for sexual health education in Muskegon County. She believes that youth and adults of all ages and of different disparities should have access to accurate education about sexual health. If youth are educated, then they are able to make positive choices that can directly affect their health. That is also why Shelia is the Co-chair for the UpFront Education and Awareness Coalition.

Shelia’s education does not end with UpFront. In 2017, Shelia visited 22 provider offices, educating providers and office staff on current trends, testing, etc. Due to the overwhelming rates in Muskegon County, Public Health holds quarterly meetings with Mercy Health staff to discuss current issues, data trends, and STD treatment reporting. The reporting forms are recommended by the CDC for the state to use while reporting communicable diseases. The Infectious Disease Specialists collaborate with all health organizations to make sure that all reportable STI’s (syphilis, chlamydia, gonorrhea, and HIV) are reported to the state.

Shelia works with provider offices to verify they are accurately reporting communicable diseases, patient evaluation, treatment, and education. Providers can access the report form on the Public Health Muskegon County website. Providers and Labs have 24 hours to report any of these STIs. Muskegon County is averaging at least 160 cases per month of chlamydia and gonorrhea.

When Shelia is not educating providers and the community, she is handling the groundwork of testing and seeing patients. Shelia spoke on the new HIV 4th generation technology, which scans for antigens and antibodies. The 4th generation testing can be done by doing a finger stick and running a rapid HIV test, or by drawing blood from the arm and sending it to the lab.  In these tests, the antigen being tested is a major HIV protein called p24.  p24 is produced 2-3 weeks after infection and before antibodies are produced. So now, HIV can be found in some people within 2-3 weeks of infection.

To prevent HIV, PrEP (Pre-exposure prophylaxis) is for those who are at a very high risk of contracting HIV (i.e., IV drug use, the homeless, teens, MSM ages 18-26). PrEP is an HIV medication that is taken daily to lower chances of getting infected. PrEP can stop HIV from taking hold and spreading throughout the body. Post Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP) is also offered.  PEP is an antiretroviral medicine (ART) that is taken after potentially being exposed to HIV to prevent becoming infected. PEP should be used only in emergency situations and must be started within 72 hours after a recent possible exposure to HIV.

Mercy Health Prevention Practices and McClees Clinic offer PrEP and PEP.

If Public Health receives a new HIV diagnosis, it is Public Health’s responsibility to make sure the state receives a case report form, which covers the patient’s medical history/testing history. Public Health has a relationship with McClees Clinic, where they are referred into medical care. If a client is diagnosed with HIV in a different state or county, it is Public Health’s responsibility to make sure they are connected with medical care and offer Partner Services.

Both Public Health Nurses and Disease Intervention Specialists (DIS) from Public Health receive training from the state and work with HIV cases.

“One of the best ways to reduce the risk of contracting HIV and STIs is knowing your partner’s status” says Art Matten, DIS at Public Health Muskegon County.

Reinfection rates with other STIs in Muskegon County have also become a concern. Public Health tracks the reinfection rates of anyone who has previously been infected. If a patient is reinfected after 30 days, it is a new case to the state. Due to a partnership with Health Project, Public Health has been able to receive doses of Cefixime (One of the antibiotics used to treat gonorrhea) to distribute to patients and their partners who test positive. The STD free antibiotic treatment voucher can be used by anyone in Muskegon County who needs treatment for chlamydia or gonorrhea and cannot afford the prescription or the co-pay. The voucher is only valid at participating pharmacies (listed on the voucher) and with a doctor’s prescription, whether it is hand carried by the patient or called in to the pharmacy by the doctor’s office. Shelia was partially responsible for this partnership through a previous STD committee at the Health Department.

Having 35 years of experience working in the medical field, Shelia has found her passion in Public Health and is having an impact on her community members. Shelia is very family oriented. She is married, has three adult children and five grandchildren. She enjoys watching movies, gardening, taking nature walks and enjoying Lake Michigan. Shelia holds a bachelor’s degree in Nursing from Grand Valley State University.