Health Education and Promotion

Communicable Diseases, HIV and STIs/STDs

What are Communicable Diseases?

A communicable disease is one that is spread from one person to another through a variety of ways that include: contact with blood and bodily fluids; breathing in an airborne virus; or by being bitten by an insect. Communicable diseases include Sexually Transmitted Diseases/Infections, HIV, Viral Hepatitis and Tuberculosis.

Why is this a focus of Kent County Health Department (KCHD)?

Communicable diseases are a major public health problem in Kent County and the state of Michigan. According to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services:

  • There are an estimated 1,110 people living in Kent County who are infected with HIV.
  • 1 out of 8 people infected with HIV do not know they are infected. Nearly 1/3 of the transmissions in the United States come from those who do not know they are infected.
  • Alcohol and other drugs can lower a person’s inhibitions and create risk factors for HIV, STI and Viral Hepatitis transmission. Vulnerable populations (people living in poverty, those who are mentally ill, and those with a history of abuse) are more likely to have high rates of alcohol and substance use.
  • In addition to increasing the risk of HIV transmission, substance use can affect people’s overall health and make them more susceptible to HIV infection. In those already infected with HIV, substance use can hasten disease progression and negatively affect adherence to treatment.
  • Injection drug users (IDU) account for 13% of HIV in the US.
  • The primary modes of HIV transmission in the HIV/Hepatitis C co-infection (having both diseases) group were IDU at 35.0%, MSM (Men who have sex with men) at 30.0% and heterosexual contact 15.0%.
  • Injection drug use in 18-29 year olds was reported in 87.2% of hepatitis C patients. From 2004-2014, the number of cases of chronic hepatitis C among persons aged 18 -29 years has increased over 484%. Deaths due to acute and chronic hepatitis C alone increased by 116% between 2003 and 2012.

How is KCHD addressing this issue?

KCHD provides prevention education and risk-reduction classes on various communicable diseases to substance use disorder recovery clients and other agencies that provide services to clients determined to be at higher risk, such as homeless shelters and Juvenile Detention. Presentations vary based on the needs of the audience. Substance use disorder treatment/agencies and other providers may schedule group educational classes to fit the needs of their clients. The curriculum that is utilized was developed by the National Institute on Drug Abuse‘s National Drug Abuse Treatment Clinical Trials Network (CTN) Gender Specific HIV Intervention Protocol Team. The curricula are listed in the CDC’s Evidence-Based Interventions (EBIs) and Best Practices in the Compendium are identified by the CDC’s Prevention Research Synthesis (PRS) Project through a series of ongoing systematic reviews.

Communicable Disease Prevention and Risk Reduction initiatives offered by KCHD:

Men’s Recovery Group curriculum: Real Men Are Safe (REMAS)

The Real Men Are Safe (REMAS) intervention is a workshop of several group sessions of approximately 5 to 15 men per group. Lectures, role-plays, peer group discussions and motivational self-assessment exercises are conducted with almost equal focus on information delivery and skill building, and a lesser focus on motivation. Topics include HIV/AIDS information, HIV risky behaviors (both sexual and injection practices), condom demonstration, identifying triggers, risk reduction problem solving, enhancing sex without drugs, and responsibility and communication in sexual relationships.

Women’s Recovery Group curriculum: Women on the Road to Health (WORTH)

WORTH (Women on the Road to Health) is a group-level intervention of approximately 5-15 participants. Core components include HIV/STI knowledge, risk-reduction problem-solving and negotiation skills, condom use intentions, outcome expectancies, self-efficacy, partner abuse risk assessment, safety planning, social support, identification of service needs and linkage to services, and risk-reduction goal setting.

One-time Presentations

Topics include:

  • HIV
  • Sexually Transmitted Infections
  • Viral Hepatitis
  • Tuberculosis
  • Risk Reduction

For more information, contact:
Tracy Fahner | | (616) 632-7271

Fact Sheets