Everyone has an STI status and it's important for you to know yours. It's a huge piece of being a sexually healthy and responsible adult. Getting tested on a regular basis will help you avoid any long-term health risks by helping you to address any problems quickly and before they cause any serious damage. It also helps you keep your sexual partner(s) safe as well by reducing the risks they have of contracting anything.
What kind of routine you have for getting tested should be dictated by your lifestyle. Whether you go once a year, before every new partner, or as frequently as once every three months should be a personal choice that is in line with keeping yourself safe and healthy.
Getting tested doesn't have to be a scary or anxiety-invoking experience. Just remember that no matter what the results are, you are taking important steps to protect your long-term health. Many people don't like going to the dentist but we do it, all the same, to keep our mouths and teeth healthy. Getting tested is like going to the dentist... for your genitals.
Where Do I Go to Get Tested?
When it comes to STI screening, you have lots of options of where you can go. If you have a family doctor, they can order the test for you. If you don't have a family doctor, you can ask for the screening to be done at any walk-in clinic.
Another option is going to a sexual health clinic. If you're feeling at all anxious about getting your screening done, a sexual health clinic may be the better way to go. Many of the professionals at these clinics are experienced in helping those with anxiety around STI screenings. They will also be almost guaranteed to have up to date information on sexually transmitted infections and be able to answer more complex questions. General practitioner doctors may be less prepared as they do not specialize in that information.
Finally, in some regions like BC, you have the option of requesting the exam from an online service. Get Checked Online is a website that allows you to create an account with an email. You will be able to create a lab form that you can take to a Life Labs participating location. You provide the samples they need for the tests and then your results will be available online to the account that you created.
What Happens During the Exam?
What occurs during the exam will depend on what sexually transmitted infections are being tested for. Tests can range from samples taken from a cheek or genital swab, urine, blood sample, or if any active symptoms are present. If you are testing for everything, you may need to provide one of each.
The tests break down in the following ways for each STI:
Chlamydia is usually tested for with a urine test or swab around the genitals. If you have had any unprotected oral or anal sex, a swab in these areas may be necessary as well. It is something you should mention to your health professionals. It is possible for the mouth or anus to be infected without urine samples testing positive.
Gonorrhea is tested for with urine or a swab around the genitals. Like chlamydia, gonorrhea can infect the mouth or anus without testing positive in urine. Be sure to discuss this with your health care professional if you have been having unprotected oral or anal sex.
HIV is tested for with a blood test or a swab inside the mouth.
Genital Herpes can be tested for with a blood test. If you are not showing any symptoms, be sure to ask for a specific IgG test and not an IgM test. If someone is experiencing symptoms, a swab can be taken of the infection area. If a test is being performed on an outbreak, it's important that it occurs within 48 hours of the outbreak. As more time passes, the culture may not read accurately.
Syphilis can be tested for with a blood test or sample taken from a sore.
Trichomoniasis is tested for with a swab of the infected area, a physical exam, or a sample of discharge. It's important to note that it's harder to diagnosis trichomoniasis in vulvas than in penises.
HPV is typically only tested for in vulvas, although people with penises can be carriers. HPV can cause genital warts which are visually diagnosed. It can also cause cervical cancer which is typically found in abnormal cells found through PAP tests.
What if the Doctor Refuses to Test Me?
If you have gone to a walk-in clinic or visiting your family doctor, sometimes it can happen that the doctor feels the test is unnecessary and that you are not at risk. It's important that you fight for your basic rights to health care. STIs are a lot more common than most people believe. You are one of the best people to determine your level of risk as you are aware of what activities you have been engaged in and what safer sex methods have been utilized.
Getting tested more than once every three months is considered a bit redundant because many STIs take time to show in your system. Getting tested more than once every three months can be a waste of money and resources. Aside from this, no doctor should be refusing a screening.
It does happen though. I once argued with a walk-in clinic doctor for over half an hour because he believed that I was not at risk but I had gone in requesting a screening prior to starting a new relationship. Experiences like this can be off-putting and discouraging but if that happens, don't let them stop you. As we have discussed, there are lots of options for getting tested. You can easily go to another clinic, go to a sexual health clinic, or try the online feature if it's available in your region.
It's your responsibility to look after your sexual health. Be sure to fight for your right to have regular screenings.
Getting the Results
Once the test is complete, it can take some time for the results to be in. Depending on where you are located and how busy the local lab is, results can be anywhere from a few days to up to 3 weeks.
An important thing to know is that results will never be given to you over the phone. It is against the clinics' rules to release any sensitive information like that over the phone. In many cases, if the tests come back clear, the clinic simply will not contact you. If you wish to have a confirmation of results, you will have to make an appointment.
If the clinic does call you back, don't panic. Sometimes the clinic may have found something else in your blood or urine that they may wish you to know about. Occasionally, this can be signs of another type of infection such as a urinary tract or bladder infection.
If you have tested positive for an STI, it is not the end of the world. You just need to take the next steps to restore yourself back to health. The doctor will walk you through the next steps. All you need to do is follow their instructions to the letter.
If you have tested positive, it's important that you inform your sexual partners. They should also go in for a screening to find out if they are positive for the STI. If you are nervous about contacting previous partners, a lot of clinics have a courtesy program. If you provide the names and contact information they will discreetly contact any partners and ask them to come in for screening. They will not mention any names as to who identified them as a sexual partner. You can always discuss this with the clinic to see if they provide this courtesy service.
Take the Fear Out of Getting Tested
One of the easiest ways to take the fear out of getting tested is to establish it as a routine. It will only be scary the first couple of times you go. Each time you go, you will get more comfortable and be more at ease with the process. You can take charge of your sexual health and general health in a whole new way. You may also wish to consider having a friend that you go get tested with. Sometimes it can be easier to go with someone else. Share this article today and find yourself a buddy to go get tested with.
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