It's not always about being funny.

The STD Test

Last week, I took an STD test.

Actually, let me start at the beginning. Two weeks ago, I was chatting on Skype with a friend in Japan. She was telling me about her most recent boyfriend when something she said caught my attention. “Do you use condoms?” I typed.

“No, we don’t.”

“Why not?”

“My every friend asks that question too . . . I am afraid that he might dislike me if I say no.”

“I’m guessing that you’re on birth control?”

“No, I am not using birth control pills yet.”

“Aren’t you worried about getting pregnant?”

“Yes . . . he always pulls out . . . I know that is not the best way.”

“Are you worried about STDs? Do you get yourself tested regularly?’

“I don’t get tested regularly. I think I should. Just I am afraid.”

After our conversation ended, her words kept churning in my brain. How can she be a woman in her thirties and be so worried about a man liking her that she won’t even bring up the possibility of contraception? Why would she put her body at risk for an unplanned pregnancy because she’s unwilling to ask an awkward question and too (stupid/lazy/ignorant/medically incapable) to go on birth control? Doesn’t she realize that she is putting herself and every partner at risk of sexually transmitted diseases because she’s too afraid to find out and take steps to protect herself, or abstain from sex?

And then it occurred to me that I was doing the same thing I was mentally berating her for doing. Since my divorce, I’ve been sexually active, with multiple people. I use contraception, but what if one of those partners had an STD and wasn’t aware, or, even worse, had one and didn’t mention it on purpose? Why would I expect that it’s her responsibility to tell me, whether or not I ask?

The reality is that I was trying to remain blissfully ignorant. Like my friend, I would rather pretend like I had nothing to worry about than actually find out. Whether it’s the stigma of being tested for STDs (so much for “innocent until proven guilty”) or the fear of adding guilt and reprisals to an activity that was undertaken without too much consideration, it just seemed easier to pretend that everything is, was, and forever will be okay. Hearing my friend’s fears helped me face mine. Regardless how confident I was that I was safe and healthy, it was stupid and irresponsible to make any assumptions when it comes to me, my health, and the health of my partners.

I researched the best way to get a test taken, made an appointment, and went in to give the requisite blood and urine samples. I wish I could say that I was calm and confident and happy to be there, instead of feeling guilty and wrong and dirty. I spoke in hushed tones with the woman who took down my information and cringed when she asked loudly if I had experienced any pain or discomfort as a reason for getting tested, even though my answer to every question she asked was “No”.

I’m writing this post because I think it’s an important topic to talk about. I think that as adults, it can be easy to think that we’re invincible, or that bad things only happen to “other people”. It can be easy to take that fear and shame and hide it away behind confidence and bravado. Doing that, however, only hurts you and the people with whom you are intimate. The fear and stigma of being tested for sexually transmitted diseases will pale in comparison to the absolute dread that would come from informing every partner that they too may be afflicted, thanks to your ignorance, stupidity, or cowardice.

When my results arrived, I had nothing but the utmost confidence that everything was fine. That didn’t stop my hand from shaking a little as I opened the envelope or my heart from feeling lighter when I read the results indicating that I was, in fact, completely healthy. I didn’t have any burning or itching or bumps or oozing. I didn’t have a partner tell me that I needed to get tested because they were positive. I didn’t have any reason other than the fact that I am an adult who has engaged in sexual activity with multiple partners. That’s all the reason that I, and any of you, should need.

Want to get tested? Call and make an appointment today. Try somewhere like Planned Parenthood if you don’t know where to start.

In other non-STD related Avita-news, today is the birthday of the wonderful, sassy, amazing Nancy, from Fear and Parenting in Las Vegas! Happy birthday, fucker!

42 thoughts on “The STD Test”

  1. I used to work for Planned Parenthood, and back in the day of first-timeishness, they were the place to go for the pill, because, quite simply, the pill was DAMN CHEAP there. So their practice of always doing two sti cultures with a pap is ingrained in my head. It’s like, SO in there, it’s rarely occurred to me that people have to go, like, ON PURPOSE to get tested for stis. That being said, I’ve totally bailed on hitting a gyno for about three years, so this whole speech ‘s purpose is kinda pointless.

  2. I take for granted my relationships last for years on end… (currently w/my hubby for 10 years so far…), and the fact I get tested at the gyno and when I got pregnant. Now a days the OB will test you for everything under the sun when you go in for that first exam after confirming pregnancy.

    Good for you gettin’ some and gettin’ tested!

  3. I am tested at the the gyno and because I had cervical cancer, I have to go more often then normal. And as far as birth control – I don’t understand how that could just be left to chance. I have the IUD, beats the hell out of the pill!

  4. october is the scariest month of the year so i always make my annual guyknee appointment in october…helps me remember to make it! anyhow, i have no problem getting the std check and i am glad you didn’t either. yay for being healthy!

  5. I too get tested every year at the gyno. Does she not go to the gyno either? Do Japanese gynos not test for STDs at annual exams? I can understand her being worried, but better to know than not.

  6. Thanks. One of the first things I did when I found out The Ex had mistresses was to get tested. I never felt more ashamed in my life that at that point. Hindsight has reminded me *I* did nothing wrong, though, so the shame is way past. (Reminds me, though, that I need to make my gyno appointment and get tested again…)
    And great job on getting some! Woo!

  7. By posting this ‘post’ on STD…you have made it l’ess-shameful’ for people to get tested because it is true….most people have fear, guilt and all the emotions you described. But really when it comes to our own health we shouldn’t hold back! Get TESTED people!

  8. Humans will take unbelievable measures to avoid awkwardness. To keep from having to have that conversation with your partner about whether s/he has had exposure to STDs, or (in the case of your Japanese friend) to keep from having the conversation about pregnancy. These are basic boundary and safety issues, but we are all so obsessed with avoiding awkward moments that we’ll run away from them without a second thought.

    Thanks for posting this, and thanks, to you from me, for taking care of yourself and getting tested. And for having those conversations in the future…right?

  9. I have always been really anal retentive about protection and only agreed to condomless with my current partner after a STD panel. We are currently monogamous and have no need for birth control, but I don’t ever think you can be too careful, so when I went to the gynecologist a few months back, I had them run all the usuals they run, plus more. It’s wise, since not everything has a symptom.

    Great post, Adam, I hope it urges someone to stop and think about their health, and maybe even to go ahead and make that appointment.

  10. “Why would she put her body at risk for an unplanned pregnancy because she’s unwilling to ask an awkward question and too (stupid/lazy/ignorant/medically incapable) to go on birth control? Doesn’t she realize that she is putting herself and every partner at risk of sexually transmitted diseases because she’s too afraid to find out and take steps to protect herself, or abstain from sex?”

    Oo, yes. You are right. What a stupid woman.

    What about him? Why is he so stupid he isn’t taking some responsibility? Sounds to me like they deserve each other.

  11. Even at 16, I wasn’t so dumb as to not have The Loser get checked before he dip sticked me.

    Of course, I ruined that whole “smart and safe sex at sixteen” thing by that whole getting pregnant thing. I was tested at that point but my doctor was friends with my mom so she wasn’t all judgey about it and I didn’t feel ashamed or anything like that.

    Don’t worry, Adam. I’m clean.

  12. As a naive divorcee returning to the single world, I have been flat out stunned by the sexual recklessness out there. I realize this isn’t Africa or anything, but hello, HIV! HIV is totally a thing, and often an asymptomatic thing compared to the others. I’m not saying it’s some huge risk, but that wouldn’t cheer me up if I wound up on the wrong side of the statistics, and a LOT of people are having a LOT of sex with non-exclusive partners. And yeah, testing is great, but the results only last until the next partner if you aren’t careful.

    Wrap it up, y’all. Every time. Without fail. At least until your crazy single days have ended and you’re with one (tested) person for a good long while. I honestly think that’s the only way to show real respect for your partner(s), much less yourself. In my opinion, doing otherwise, even with the other person’s permission, is irresponsible no matter how common or understandable or forgivable it is.

  13. I got tested when I met my (now) husband, and realized that we were going somewhere. I got tested again with each of my pregnancies, because it was standard. Even though I knew the tests would be negative, I was still relieved with the results.

    The grossly unfair thing is that normal, nice, healthy people get STDs, and then they pass them on to other normal, nice, healthy people. There is no reason to be ahamed, and yet so many people are shameful, both to know, and then to tell. Posts like these will (hopefully) change that one day.

  14. Maybe I came of age at just the right time, but two things have been consistent in my life: condoms and STD tests. The big press about AIDS started when I was in late elementary/middle school, so by the time I was of an age to be sexually active, we’d all been scared into it.

    Given my lifestyle choices, I test twice a year and all my partners do, too.

  15. Oddly, this post almost made me cry. In this day and age, with resources and availability, why would ANYONE risk their lives by having unprotected sex with ANY “at-risk” partner? We wear seat belts in our cars, we eat organic foods, we wear helmets on motorcycles, we exercise, we watch our cholesterol and eat our oatmeal – all in order to prolong and save our lives – only to possibly end it with one night of unprotected sex? I don’t care how good it is…herpes is forever and AIDS is real. Good for you for getting checked. EVERYONE needs to know their status.
    Thanks for being honest and posting this! I hope everyone takes it seriously.

  16. I’ve gotten tested a couple of times, and yeah, it makes you feel like the dirtiest creature alive. I can’t help but wonder why your friend doesn’t get tested when all gynecologists offer it as part of your annual. I hope she does, because it’s too important not to.

    I’ve been tested twice: once because I’d just come out of a cheating relationship, and then again because I’d been with another partner who, once I finally stopped and thought about it, didn’t seem too safe, even though we did use condoms.

    Good post. This is definitely something that needs to be talked about.

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