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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 series at Scarleteen. In it, some of our volunteers share their own stories of how they deal with different aspects of STI testing and reproductive healthcare.
The health center at my university is pretty awesome.
It provides free STI testing days throughout the year. Instead of making an appointment, students and non-students alike can just walk in, check in, and wait their turn, as it's run on a first-come, first-served basis. This particular event was for rapid HIV testing, where HIV results are given within just 10-15 minutes.
I visit my gynecologist annually, but I've never gone specifically to get tested for STIs/HIV. I attended this event curious about what the entire process was like.
I checked in at 12 PM and sat in the waiting area, which was empty at the time. I briefly wondered what I would do if someone I knew walked in and recognized me, and I immediately felt a surge of anxiety. I reminded myself that I don't have to explain myself to anyone because, for whatever reason I was here, I was taking charge of my health.
I was soon called into a multipurpose room, where the counselor waited for me.
She was laid back, and answered all of my questions about what was to come. I read and signed all the given consent forms, and then dove in immediately:
• She pricked my finger: it was quick and painless.
• A teeny bit of blood was drawn with a needle.
• The needle was then pushed into a marked container full of liquid. The test works like an at-home pregnancy test: the container would show either two lines or one, representing a positive or negative, respectively.
While we waited for the indicator to do its thing, I filled out a questionnaire about to my sexual history. And ten minutes in, there was one distinct line marked on the container. The counselor told me at this point it'd either be that, or one line and another faint line, so I was good to go.
From sitting in the waiting room and waiting for my results, it took about 20 minutes. In just 20 minutes, I achieved a sense of control and peace of mind.
If you're a student, I highly recommend familiarizing yourself with the services your health center may provide. For example, my school has a no-symptom STI clinic and a low-cost STI clinic, on top of allowing students to make appointments.
It's important to note that it's not safe to rely solely on testing, and that it's important to consider taking preventative measures. Scarleteen has oodles of articles pertaining to STIs and how one can prevent transmission; but here are just a couple to get you started:
STI Risk Assessment: The Cliff's Notes
Condom Basics: A User's Manual
It's recommended that one be tested between new partners, or every 6 months. If you plan on getting tested in the future, I hope you feel empowered like I did. You're being responsible and proactive about your health, and that's a great thing.