Freaky Friday: Passing the Test

Nov. 23, 2012, 1:37 p.m.

Combine an adequate serving of protection and a mutual respect for each other’s boundaries in a large bowl. Slowly fold in regular testing. Pour into a greased glass pan and bake at 350 degrees for 40-45 minutes. Top with whipped cream if you so desire.

In my sex life, all these ingredients are essential (yes, even the topping). But when I ask friends whether they’ve been tested recently, more often than not I get a shrug, or a shake of the head, or an “I’ll get around to it one of these days.” Getting screened for sexually transmitted infections (STIs) is so important, so why aren’t more people doing it at Stanford? This week, I’m here to talk about why, when, and how to get tested.

So why do it?

Do it for your health! If left untreated, STIs can cause really unpleasant symptoms, serious health problems, and even death.

If you were to end up contracting an STI, the worst thing you could do is sit around (or sleep with more people!) without realizing you have one. Many common STIs can actually cause infertility or cancer if you don’t catch them and treat them in time. So if you do contract something, it’s important that you find out about it before you infect someone else or before it leads to irreversible health problems.

Knowing for sure that you’re STI-free can be great peace of mind for you and your partners. When a guy tells me he’s been tested, I’m a lot more likely to think he actually cares about his health and the health of his partners, and that he’s safe and responsible when it comes to sex. Knowing someone is clean can be a big turn on, since I’m more able to live in the moment and fully enjoy the sex when I know I’m not at risk of contracting anything.


When should you get tested?

Start getting screened as soon as you’re sexually active! You can contract STIs from oral sex as well as from anal and vaginal, so if you’re only having oral it’s still a good idea to get tested.

If you tend to have only one sexual partner at a time, I recommend you get tested after each partner and before your next one! Last year, a high school friend of mine found out that she’d contracted chlamydia. Fortunately, this STI is curable, and since she caught it early on, it didn’t affect her fertility. But she’d slept with two people since her last STI test, and wasn’t sure which one of them she’d contracted it from. She felt morally obligated to call both of them and tell them about her positive test result. She told me afterwards that she really wished she’d gotten tested between partners to save herself one of those awkward phone calls.

At the very least, make sure you get tested at least once a year! If left untreated longer than that, many STIs can start putting you at risk for pelvic inflammatory disease, cancer or infertility.


Some common misconceptions about STIs and testing

The odds of contracting an STI are low, so I’m not really worried about it.”

The truth is, STIs are more common than people think. They seem so incredibly rare because people usually avoid broadcasting it when they have one. There are 19 million new cases of STIs in the U.S. each year, and around half of those affect people are aged 15-24. You don’t have to be promiscuous or sexually experienced to contract one; for example, I know a girl who contracted herpes from a serious boyfriend, her first and only sexual partner. If you’re sexually active, the only way to make sure you don’t have an STI is to get tested.

“I always use condoms, so I know I’m clean.”

Unfortunately, condoms aren’t foolproof. They’re the only method of birth control that protects against STIs, and you’re much less likely to contract an STI if you use a condom correctly each time you have sex. But some STIs are spread through skin-to-skin contact, and condoms don’t exactly cover everything. Even those who use condoms regularly can acquire STIs. It’s important to get screened regularly for STIs in addition to using the condom barrier.

“I don’t see the point of getting tested, because I’d definitely notice if I had an STI.”

The reality is that many STIs are asymptomatic for a long time and can only be diagnosed through an STI screening. Asymptomatic STIs are just as detrimental to your health if left untreated, so even if you don’t have any symptoms, make sure you get tested often.

“Getting tested sounds like a really big hassle.”

It’s really, really not! It’s taken me less than 10 minutes at Vaden to get tested for everything. And it’s free! You urinate in a cup to test for most common STIs and get your finger pricked for blood if you want the HIV test too. It’s that simple. They get your results back to you within the week through a completely confidentially link sent to your Stanford email.

Once you’re sexually active, you’re putting yourself and others at risk if you don’t get screened for STIs regularly. The process is quick and easy, and it gives you peace of mind. There’s really no reason not to do it. So go out and get tested! Add a healthy dose of STI screening to your own safe sex recipe. Make your appointment today.

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