Sep. 16th, 2013


Sep. 16th, 2013 12:09 am
joreth: (Nude Drawing)
Did you know that STD screening only requires a blood & urine test? No invasive procedures, no penis swabbing, just a blood and urine sample. That's it! And did you know that they ONLY test for the specific STDs that you're paying them to test for? Nothing else. No "everything" test, no drug test, no genetic defect test, just the specific STD tests that you request. NOTHING else will show up on these tests.

Which means that you have to request specific STD tests. You can't just ask for "everything". They can't test for "everything". If you ask for "everything", they'll just give you those tests they think you ought to be tested for, which actually leaves out quite a few STDs because most clinics don't think you need to worry your pretty little head about silly things like STDs unless you're showing symptoms.

Also, you can get the most important tests at your local Planned Parenthood (while offices are still open, which won't be for long if the Rethuglicans have their way - PP is my primary health care provider, which means I'm screwed if I move to an area where the offices are getting shut down) or county clinic for fairly low rates. For a little more, you can get even more tests from several online services that will just send you to a local lab for your convenience.

All sexually active adults should get tested regularly, just the way we do other regular maintenance tests. If you're in a long-term monogamous relationship and you're not showing any symptoms, then your maintenance schedule will be different from someone with multiple partners, someone showing symptoms, or someone with shorter-term relationships.

My personal recommendation is to get tested prior to engaging in sexual activity with a new partner, and then again 6 months after first contact with a new partner. I also recommend actually trading test results with your prospective partners. After that, consult with your doctor about what kind of maintenance schedule is right for you. In most cases, women will only need a pap and HPV test about once every 2 or 3 years (guys can take their HPV status from their female partners) and that's it until/unless there's a change of partner or you're showing symptoms.

Speaking of HPV, ask your dentist about oral HPV screening. It's an important first defense in catching throat and mouth cancers caused by HPV.

Speaking of specific STDs, here's the bare minimum that I recommend getting tested for, all of which are available at PP, and the first four (what I call The Big Four) are usually available at your local county clinic:

~HSV 1 & 2 (you have to specifically ask for both 1 & 2 or they won't give you 1)
~HPV for people with a cervix (no test for cismen except orally at the dentist)

If you haven't ever been tested for it, you might want to get tested for Hepatitis just to start out your record keeping with a full baseline set of records, but unless you're showing symptoms or think you've been exposed, this does not need to be done as often as the others.

I also recommend getting the Hep A&B vaccine, as well as the HPV vaccine if you can afford it. You can still get the HPV vaccine even if you're over 30, you just have to pay for it out of pocket and probably will have to go to a private physician instead of a clinic. The only reason the FDA approved it for under 30 is because it loses effectiveness if you've already been exposed, and if you're over 30, then you've probably been exposed. But that doesn't mean it's worthless.

The diseases with the highest mortality rate (i.e. likely to kill you) are also the easiest to avoid by using condoms and not sharing needles. Everything else is manageable, so don't stress out about STDs. Get tested so that you know where to start from and keep records just like your other health maintenance routines. It's nothing to freak out about, but it should still be done, just like going to the dentist or changing the oil in your car. It's better to know what your status is so that you can make appropriate decisions about your personal health practices. Routine maintenance for the responsible, sexually active adult.

To follow-up on the PSA about STI testing, here's a Sexual Health & History Disclosure form that's useful for helping you keep track of your sexual health records: Right-click on the link and save the file to your computer.  From there, you can fill it out and save and/or print it.

Even if you never share this with anyone and just use it to keep your own records, it's important that you know your medical history, and sexual health is just one aspect of your medical history.

This applies even to monogamous people, although if you've been monogamously married for a whole bunch of years, it's probably less important to share this with your partner, as I'm assuming you have already shared this info with them at least at some point over the years. But, as I know people who think "what happened before we met doesn't count", that's probably not a safe assumption for me to make.

It does count - get tested!

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