7:10pm Before the Test:
I was going to be taking my STI test with a friend today, with the idea we would both get tested and I could’ve written in the style of a comedy bromance movie like “Dude. Where’s My Car?” except with less sexism and more conversations about male STI testing anxiety and our feelings.
Alas, he has made other arrangements and I’ll be going solo to the testing clinic.
I would strongly recommend going with a friend if you think it’d make getting tested feel more comfortable.
Despite not following through with the plan, I really appreciate that our arranging the trip to the clinic allowed us an excuse to acknowledge that we had both prioritised our health in this way, and show to each other that we’d be supportive of one and other were we to find we had caught an oft stigmatised infection. Ashton Kutcher would be proud.
8:13 Waiting Area after Test:
I’m lucky enough to live in the UK and therefore (for now) having free access to an NHS clinic for full STI testing by appointment. But I came here to a community based clinic instead, which is funded by charity, because this project provides testing without appointment and I am extravagantly disorganised and appreciate how much easier this is for me. This clinic focuses on reducing HIV in the MSM (men who have sex with men) demographic, but is open to anyone, and so I’m here in the city centre where it is based. They test for HIV, chlamydia & gonorrhea and I’ve opted for all three.
On arriving, parking my bike and hopping up the flight of steps, I was seen immediately and filled out some information sheets, which also asked for my mobile number so I could be texted the chlamydia & gonorrhea results. I was handed a series of plastic objects for getting my pee into a vial. In the WC I got to use a pipette to make sure that the exactly correct amount was in the vial.
I was an expert. I only wish I had a white lab coat to complete the look.
As a side note, my friend who couldn’t join me had been asking me about the urban legend of some painful and unwieldy metal object that supposedly is pushed up the penis for STI testing. This object does not exist, what it may however refer to is the swab (a glorified cotton bud) used to take a sample of discharge as a way of testing for syphilis when symptoms are already presenting themselves and more commonly to test for gonorrhea. It’s not the only way to test for those things, though; my gonorrhea test only required a urine sample.
More importantly it’s good to remember that when seeking healthcare, you’re dealing with your body and you get to decide whether or not to do any test. If I don’t want to do something I find icky, I don’t have to, and can just ask for the tests I do want and am comfortable with. Historically, STI testing has been exaggerated, not just by urban myth but also by old fashioned health propaganda as a way to demonise sexual choices.
Testing, rather than being a punishment for sexuality, is, in practise, one of the many great things which help make fantastic, safer sex possible.
After returning from my laboratory — otherwise known as the loo — I handed my (perfectly collected) sample back to the nurse and was soon invited to a confidential interview room to receive my HIV test. To my surprise, the person who was to take my blood and test me was someone who I’d met at a local bar and we have mutual friends. Quite professionally this made the first topic ever so much more relevant, i.e. the discussion of confidentiality.
Read the rest at Scarleteen here!