joreth: (Misty in Box)

As I mentioned in my last post, I had heard there was a clinic who was offering the HPV test for men, but I was waiting for confirmation and more information before I posted about it.  I had looked up online on my own and only found more insistence that no HPV test existed except for that used in research.  One clinic in California was taking it upon themselves to use that research testing method to conduct their own study, thereby giving men who participated an HPV test.

Well, I found out that the clinic I heard of that may have had an HPV test for men does not, in fact, have an HPV test for men.  They seemed to have deliberately misled interested patients, as one particular patient tried to confirm several times, through several levels, that he was scheduling himself for an HPV test, and at each level was either told yes, or given an ambiguous or non-committal answer until he finally saw the physician personally.  That physician was the only person to say, flat out, that there was no HPV test for men and that their answering service gives out the wrong information all the time.  The person on the phone, the receptionist, the nurse or medical technician who prepped him for the appointment - none of them corrected the patient on the belief that he would be receiving an HPV test that day.

Remember, when you go in to be tested for "everything", you are not tested for everything.

Let me repeat that:  
When you go in to be tested for "everything", you are not tested for everything.

You MUST go in with a specific list of tests that you want to purchase and get confirmation from the physician herself that you will be tested for those things.  And, more than just saying "I want a herpes test", you have to say "I want the HSV PCR test" or whatever you're looking for.  Some STDs have different kinds of tests with different levels of accuracy and expense.  Make sure you know exactly which test you want and ask for it by name.  

And then be prepared to argue with them over the necessity of getting tested.  Many clinics and doctors still take the position that certain STDs like herpes and HPV are so prevalent, that there's no point in worrying whether you have it or not if you're asymptomatic, so you don't need to get tested.  They figure that if you don't have herpes or HPV yet, you will soon, so just don't worry about it until you start showing symptoms and need treatment.  If you're OK with that, then fine, but if you want to have test results in your records to show prospective partners, then insist that doctors provide the services that they offer to the patients willing to pay for those services, and if they won't, go elsewhere.

It is true that many people either have or will have HSV or HPV, and it is also true that, for the vast majority of those people, the virus is little more than an "inconvenience".  It is also true that stress about health and medical procedures can, for some health issues, be worse than the health issue itself.  Many people are worse off for worrying about things than they are for having those things, and for a great deal of things, too-often testing does not significantly increase your odds of survival or better health.  People who go looking for health problems will often find them, even when those problems are mild or things that the body can heal on its own.  Many people put themselves through unnecessary procedures and surgeries to take care of things "just in case" that probably won't hurt them and that are so mild that they'd never know they had if they hadn't gone looking for them.

All of that is irrelevant if you have done your research and you just want to have accurate and update medical records for your prospective partners.  I caution people against using test results as a way to justify and entrench their own sex-negative fears.  Some people hold onto their "clean" records as sort of a talisman to justify rejecting and being hurtful towards prospective partners who might have an STI.  I can't tell you how often I've heard statements like "I'm clean and I want to stay that way".  The fact is you won't.  STIs should be treated as any other equivalent illness.  You will get sick, whether it's the flu, strep throat, the measles, or warts and cold sores.  By all means, take precautions, but be consistent.  If you're afraid of getting a life-threatening illness like HIV, use condoms, get your flu shots and pertussis boosters, wash your hands regularly, don't go to work sick and insist that other sick coworkers go home, and get your physicals and preventative exams done on time.  

Being sick sucks, but STIs are no better or worse than any other comparable illness, so don't use your test results as a weapon against people with STIs, or to look down on people with STIs, or to think you're "safe" from life-changing surprises like illnesses.  Get tested so that your partners can make informed decisions, so that you can see patterns in your own health history, and to help you and your physician decide on appropriate medical  procedure schedules.  If you routinely have abnormal pap smears, for example, then you ought to be getting the HPV test regularly & often, like annually or semi-annually.  If you consistently have normal pap smears, have no history of cancer in your family, and your sexual network is fairly static, then you can probably get checked less often, like every other year.  

But, yes, definitely get tested "regularly" (for whatever definition of "regularly" fits your particular health circumstances) and definitely insist that your physician provide you with the proper services.  Just make sure to use those tests in the same way that you'd use any other health test - to evaluate your personal risk assessment and manage your personal health checkup schedules, not to freak out about being "unclean" or to ward off "dirty" partners.


For a list of the STIs that you can and should be tested for, download the Sexual Health & History Disclosure form, which includes spaces for you to add your latest testing dates & a record of your past and current partners, their testing status, & the transmissive activities you shared with them and can be found here, along with some other convenient charts & graphics
http://www.theinnbetween.net/polysex.html

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