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Posts tagged "testing"


Every day is a good day to take care of your sexual health, but June 27th is all about HIV testing. In honor of National HIV Testing Day, we created e-cards to help you spread the word and remind the people you care about most to get tested and know their…

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frenchiemathwhiz asks:

Heather: I have a question about STD testing, but it’s together with a lot of other stuff, so I’m giving you some of the whole story.

My long-term boyfriend just broke up with me, seemingly out of the blue. We were together for several of the most tumultuous years of our lives—we dealt with so much stuff, I can’t even describe it. We lived together, we lived apart, we did long-distance, we came back, we kept going. We stayed together through moves, parents condemning our relationship, changing universities, changing friends, changing careers. I feel really stupid being broken up about it; my personal philosophy has always been: no mourning over guys. Only stupid women do that. (Obviously there’s some of my own internalized misogyny in there, but I’m also being practical. A woman mourning a man comes off as pathetic; a man mourning a women is soulful and sad. That’s just the way it is.) But I did (bleech, sounds so gross) really trust him. I let him in my, like, inner circle of trust.

He just broke up with me because apparently he HAS to sleep with this other girl, and he couldn’t even wait until he was going to see me in a few weeks. He started hanging out with this group of party guys and I kept saying it was changing him. He kept denying it—until it did. He just got his first job and then started freaking out: he started to get into drugs, to do all this stuff.

I was standing by him because I’ve freaked out about stuff before, and I thought he was there for me. But apparently not.

Anyway, we were each other’s first sexual partners—vaginal, oral, etc.

I’m moving to a new city and a new job in a few weeks (something I had planned before all this), and it does seem like a time to make a fresh start. The problem is, almost everyone I might sleep with now is going to have had previous partners, so I’m going to have to make them get tested before hand. But:

1) I hear that most generic STD tests don’t test for herpes (and other stuff?) and often it means that herpes can spread because people don’t know they have it. What all do I have to make sure is in the STD test I and others take? Is a more-thorough test going to cost more than a less-thorough one?

2) I’m not kidding myself that I’m going to be able to have a committed relationship again; I’m young, and all you hear in the news and on the blogs is hook-up culture, all men won’t do relationships, etc. I didn’t believe it because it seemed really weird—actually all my friends are in long-term relationships in this culture where everyone talks as if no one does relationships. But now I can see that obviously it is true. So, I can’t expect a man to necessarily tell the truth about the STD test; I’m going to need some proof. Is there a card of good-health or something the places give you?

3) How do you get people to take STD test for you anyway? I mean I can do it; I can put on my face and laugh and just out-blunt anyone so I don’t get hurt. I don’t know.

I always love your in-depth answers. Thanks so much.

Heather Corinna replies:

Before anything else, I want to address how you’re feeling, since it sounds, to me, like the most important, biggest stuff you brought to the table today. It’s also what you’re actually dealing with right now.

I assume you wouldn’t have told me the whole story if you didn’t want me to address it, but if I’m wrong in that, I apologize for unsolicited advice. Perhaps obviously, just like any advice or answers I’d give you, including about questions you’ve asked directly, you’re certainly welcome to take it or leave it.

I want to offer you a Bittervention.

It sounds like you were put through the mill with this relationship, recently, but also throughout. It sounds like you suffered a truly painful betrayal, and the kind where it was also paired with feeling like a really, really stupid, meaningless thing to have a relationship finally get tanked by. In my experience, big betrayals that occur because of someone doing something that seems so utterly small and meaningless in comparison to what they’re choosing to screw up make them feel so much worse.

I hear what sounds like trying to coach or push yourself into being very cavalier or hard about something you actually feel pretty deeply hurt by, and very sad and vulnerable — and probably also very angry — about. You bring up internalized misogyny playing a part in some of this, and I can see that, save that it doesn’t sound very internal right now: it’s looking pretty darn externalized to me. I have to tell you, I’m also not buying the toughness you’re putting out here. I suspect you’re instead feeling really fragile and broken.

I can only assume you were in that long-term relationship, and as invested in it as much as you clearly were, because you cared a great deal about your ex. I can only assume you tried to stick it out through very hard parts, even when you suspected things were going seriously south, because this person wasn’t just “guys,” he wasn’t just “a man,” but he was a whole person, not just some random member of a group made of billions of people, and a serious big-time love for you.

The loss of something like that? An experience like that? It’s going to knock anyone with a pulse to the ground face-first and leave them choking on their heart. It is going to shake our world up immensely. I am so very sorry this all happened to you, and I’m so sorry that you not only lost something it sounds like you put a lot of time, heart and care into building, but lost it in such a craptastic way, no less. I don’t think there’s anything gross about trusting people or opening our hearts to people. I’m guessing you are feeling gross about it now because that trust was so betrayed, and the love you gave and built sounds like it was really devalued. from the sounds of things, it also sounds like this breakup and how it happened wasn’t the first nail in the coffin, but the last, and like you’ve been carrying around some hard feelings and war wounds for a while now.

Mourning that kind of a loss, and grieving not only isn’t pathetic — and I disagree with you about the idea that only one gender gets to mourn a loss like this acceptably, and another is somehow pathetic and stupid — it’s a process you need to go through, and without closing yourself off to any of it, or trying to be tougher than you feel, in order to deal with and heal from that loss and come out the other side without becoming a bitter person you don’t want to have to live with, someone I’m highly doubting you really are.

I get it, that kind of posturing, even by yourself, to try and keep it together and to try and save face. I know all too well how that goes, both from seeing loads of other people do it, and even from doing it myself before. Plenty of us have done it, no matter our gender or the situation. It can be really freaky scary to feel wrecked, vulnerable, humiliated and gullible, and it can easily feel like the only way to get through that and be less likely to get hurt again is to get harder and stay hard.

But this is one of those “Oh, the humanity!” things for me. In the respect that I feel like yours is something you’re dismissing or denying, not honoring and nurturing. Not only is that unlikely to keep you from getting hurt, it’s more likely to keep you hurting like you are now for longer, and finding brand new ways to feel shitty.

I don’t think trying to be tough about this; trying to make yourself feel or seem more coarse and callous when you’re hurting a great deal is going to serve you. I think it’s going to make you ultimately hurt more, in a way that’s harder to get through and resolve, and leave you with some sticky, black emotional residue and busted ways of thinking that will make only finding crummy people who aren’t worthy of your love or trust a self-fulfilling prophecy.

That place? That super-tough, negative, any-feeling-but-snarky-anger-is-weak-and-stupid, this-group-of-people-are-just-all-lousy place? When we get hurt and angry, it’s a place we may, and often do, visit. But it sounds to me like you might be trying to move in there for good. That is SUCH a crappy neighborhood. You do NOT want to live there. Make a pit stop if you must, but do not unpack your bag or get a lease: do what you must to get OUT of there and leave that place in the rearview.

Read the rest at Scarleteen here.

A tough situation we deal with in now and then in direct service is this: a user comes in, and reports having contracted an STI; a user who also isn’t a first-time user of our site or services, and who, in a previous conversation with us about pregnancy risks, blew off also talking about STIs and safer sex and turned down help we offered to them to reduce their STI risks, not just pregnancy risks.

When this happens, a person like this will usually be very upset about having contracted an STI, often angry, and even mystified about how this happened to them. Of course, we’re rarely mystified and also are not usually surprised this happened, since we already identified risks of STIs when we were talking with them in the past, which is why we brought the importance of safer sex up with them in the first place.

This is one of those things where there’s no joy or pride in being right: it stinks to be right about someone getting any kind of illness and being unhappy. Even though the majority of STIs are treatable, many of our users are not contracting HIV, but the other, less deadly STIs, and have access to healthcare and treatment, and even though most feelings of upset with an STI are happening based more on social stigma than from serious, long-term health outcomes, we would greatly prefer our users didn’t have to suffer needless distress and fear, and that they avoid any kind of illness that can be avoided.

It’s frustrating for us when we know a user had an opportunity they refused to get more information about and help with safer sex; when they could have changed their habits before so they would’ve most likely avoided an STI entirely, since most of the time with most STIs, safer sex practices are highly effective at preventing STI transmission.

Even more frustrating is that sometimes, some of the users in situations like these still aren’t interested in prevention help, and clearly still aren’t going to rethink and change their habits. So then we have to know they’ll probably transmit or contract the same STI or another in the future. Even with treatment, that really can, and often does, take a toll on our personal health and well-being, and certainly takes a big toll on the public health.

Like most public health organizations and people who work in sexual health and aim to try and improve it for everyone, we really want to change this pattern. We also know this is an ongoing challenge, and something where we all just have to keep talking, keep trying, and keep seeing if we can’t come up with new or adjusted approaches in order to help people do better with safer sex. That’s what I’m trying to do today. This isn’t a finger-wag, a scold or an I-told-you-so, but an attempt to, together with you, I hope, just work on doing this better.

Today, before I suggest some things that might help you improve your safer sex practices, I want to specifically address two of the biggest players I often see in these situations: either when someone has been in a relationship for a while, and/or when condoms, which were often once used as contraception as well as safer sex, are replaced as a contraception method by other methods, like the pill or a Depo shot.

Read the rest at Scarleteen here.

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!

Do you feel anxious about the idea of getting tested for sexually transmitted infections and diseases? Some of our readers certainly do.

Some never had adequate sex-education and did not realize that sexual activity with a partner — and not just anal or vaginal intercourse — can pose STI risks in the first place. Some are not sure where to go for testing or how to ask for it. Others feel uncomfortable discussing STIs with a partner or potential partner. We get it: this stuff can be hard, and it is usually not the kind of thing where someone just takes us by the hand and leads us through.

This is why we’re doing this new series at Scarleteen’s blog. In it, some of Scarleteen’s volunteers share their own stories of how they deal with different aspects of STI testing and reproductive healthcare.

This summer, I went to my clinic to see a general practitioner (GP) for an annual check-up.

This clinic is affiliated with a local university so the way it works is a little different than many others. Officially I’m a certain GP’s patient, but I see the residents that she supervises whenever I go. This has meant that the level of care has varied, but in general has been fairly high. When I made the appointment, I did not have any particular concerns, but I wanted to get a pap smear and STI testing.

In the past, I have made some unsafe decisions, and I have also been in situations where a partner has not respected my condom-use wishes. Since then, I have had several clear results from pap smears and STI tests, but I have been going at least once a year as a precaution. My last pap and STI test were in February of 2011. I should also mention that I live in Ontario, Canada, and that this visit and the tests were covered by the Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP).

As I mentioned, this appointment was performed by a resident. Overall, she seemed a little awkward and I got the impression that she didn’t really like performing annual exams and all that they entail. She was however, very nice, nonjudgmental, and very good at checking in with me throughout and making sure everything was good — for example, "Is this ok?" "When you’re ready," "If that’s ok with you…" — which I really appreciated.

After checking my ears, throat, lungs, and heart, the doctor palpated my abdomen and performed a breast exam. Then it was time for the speculum exam…

Read the rest here!

Do you feel anxious about the idea of getting tested for sexually transmitted infections and diseases? Some of our readers certainly do.

Some never had adequate sex-education and did not realize that sexual activity with a partner — and not just anal or vaginal intercourse — can pose STI risks in the first place. Some are not sure where to go for testing or how to ask for it. Others feel uncomfortable discussing STIs with a partner or potential partner. We get it: this stuff can be hard, and it is usually not the kind of thing where someone just takes us by the hand and leads us through.

This is why we’re starting this new series at Scarleteen’s blog. In it, some of Scarleteen’s volunteers will share their own stories of how they deal with different aspects of STI testing and reproductive healthcare.

I was tested for the first time seven years ago, shortly after I had my first sexual experiences. Things did not go according to plan: though I’d insisted on condom use, the person I was with at the time had not honored my request. I wound up on Scarleteen to ask about pregnancy risks, and was advised to test for STIs.

An STI risk had not been on my mind at all. I was not in a very good space at that time, and already worried about the pregnancy risk, so when I heard about STIs, I immediately became convinced that I was going to die of AIDS. In a panic, I made an appointment to see my gynecologist, where I received the next blow.

In the German health care system, insurance coverage is required, so those who cannot afford private insurance are covered by government health insurance. And unfortunately, this health insurance does not cover STI testing. So when I asked my gynecologist for a full screening, she handed me the price listing. The cheapest test was the chlamydia test at 30 Euro ($37 US), the others were more expensive and cost up to 80 Euro ($98). I was floored. How was I supposed to afford even one of those tests, let alone all of them? If I was going to get only one test, which one should it be? I left without getting any tests at all.

Read the rest of Joey’s story here.