I May Have Herpes. Now What?

Photo credit: Vratislav Darmek

Photo credit: Vratislav Darmek

Did you know that the Herpes Simplex Virus (HSV) is so common that many health professionals believe people should assume everyone has herpes and act accordingly?

Yet, as common as Herpes is, it is surprising that most of us remain misinformed about how the infection spreads and how it can be prevented. One prevalent myth is that there is a “good” type and a “bad” type of herpes, the latter being consider a result of irresponsible and careless sex. The truth is that there is little difference between the two strains. Having HSV of either type is not shameful, nor is it indicative of your worth as a sexual being.  As demonstrated in the article below, Herpes is at its core simply a skin condition.

If you are concerned that you’ve recently been exposed to Herpes Simplex Virus (HSV), this article by the CSPH (the Center for Sexual Pleasure and Health) will help you navigate what are the next best steps to take.

Here is a summary of important facts everyone should know about HSV today: 

  • While there is no cure for Herpes, it is considered a minor, yet reoccurring skin condition.
  • There are antiviral medications that may help manage outbreaks and treat or relieve symptoms.
  • HSV-1 is the most common form of Herpes and many people contract it through non-sexual contact. The majority of individuals affected HSV-1 contract it during childhood.
  • Like Human Papillomavirus (HPV), HSV can be transmitted even when condoms are used due to exposed skin at the site of contact.
  • Two thirds of people with HSV have no symptoms.  Furthermore, HSV may be transmitted even when there are no symptoms and between outbreaks. Check out this article for more about when different STIs are transmittable and when is the best time to get tested.
  • You can protect yourself from HSV by using barrier methods (condoms and dams) consistently and correctly, washing after sex with soap and water, and using lubricants during sexual activity to help prevent microtears (tissue damage that increase the risk of HSV transmission and triggering an outbreak).
  • Specifically ask for an HSV test when get STI testing. Most doctors will not test for herpes if no symptoms are present. Testing is crucial to prevention, especially considering that an estimated 80% of people with Herpes are undiagnosed.
  • For more information about living a healthy and fulfilling sex life with herpes, check out the resources at the bottom of this post.

This article was originally published on the CSPH.

BY THE CSPH | theCSPH.org

Image from the CSPH

Image from the CSPH

So I received oral sex from someone yesterday. Today that person has a cold sore. My understanding is that oral and genital herpes are caused by different strains, hsv-1 and hsv-2, and there’s also a strain that can cause both. So if it’s just hsv-1, I probs won’t get genital herpes, and if it’s the evil one that causes both, I could. This is clearly something that I should talk to my doctor about, but I was hoping you could give me some more info/tell me whether my info is at all factual. Thnx!

Herpes Simplex Virus (HSV) is one of the most common sexually transmitted infections, with HSV-1 infecting some 50 to 80% of people and HSV-2 affecting a projected 30% of adults.  Despite its prevalence, however, many misconceptions about this STI exist, and I hope my response will address most of these.  One herpes myth in particular that I hope to debunk is the idea that people are sexually and romantically “ruined” following HSV, which resources such as Love in the Time of Herpes help disprove.  For more information on living and loving with herpes, you refer to the resource list at the bottom of this Q&A.

If you’ve had a recent hook-up and are now concerned about having contracted HSV, feel free to skip to the final section of this article.

What is the Herpes Simplex Virus (HSV)?

Herpes Simplex is a category of sexually transmitted viruses that oftentimes results in infections of the skin and mucous membranes, manifesting itself in blisters/sores.  Following infection, HSV will establish latency within the nervous system, meaning the virus will attach itself to the cells of one’s sensory nerves, making it one of the few STIs for which there is no cure.  Despite this, HSV is in fact a relatively minor infection; it is literally a simple, yet recurring skin condition.

There are two strains of herpes: HSV-1, also known as “oral herpes” and “cold sores,” and HSV-2, which most often affects the genital and anal region.  Despite this colloquial distinction, it is in fact entirely possible for both strains to affect both the mouth and genitals, as well as other parts of the body such as eyes, fingers, and thighs.  Vulva-owners may also experience sores on the inside of their vaginal canal and on their cervix.  HSV-1 in particular is also associated with potential complications such as oracular herpes and conjunctivitis (pink eye).

Is There a Good/Bad Herpes?

While many people are under the impression that there is a “good” herpes and “evil” herpes, the distinction is minor: both varieties of HSV may be contracted both orally and genitally, and while HSV-1 in particular is known as “oral herpes,” it is quite frequently transmitted to the genitals.  However, it’s less common for HSV-2 to be transmitted to the mouth.

Furthermore, under the microscope, both strains are almost identical.  HSV-1 and HSV-2 also manifest themselves similarly and, following infection, becomes latent in the nervous system. Neither type of herpes is curable.

So, if the strains are so similar, why is there the misconception that there is a “good” virus and a “bad” one?  The stigma likely lies in the sheer prevalence of HSV-1, which the majority of affected individuals contract during childhood.  Due to the fact that a majority of individuals have HSV-1, it’s easy to write off the STI as “only a cold sore,” whereas the much less common genital herpes is vilified as a “sexually transmitted infection.”

What are HSV Symptoms?

Upon initial infection, HSV may cause small, painful blisters or sores at the site of infection, enlarged lymph nodes of the neck or groin, decreased appetite, muscle aches, general malaise, burning while urinating, and fever.  The first outbreak generally occurs within two days to two weeks after transmission or contact with infected areas, and symptoms can be quite severe should they occur at all.

A second outbreak may occur weeks to months following the first.  Subsequent outbreaks are often less painful and disruptive, and symptoms may grow more mild over time.  Some individuals, particularly those with HSV-1, may not experience outbreaks for months or years at a time.  The average rate of outbreaks for HSV-2 is four times a year.

With that said, not all people who have contracted HSV experience symptoms.  Indeed, estimates suggest that two thirds of people with HSV have no symptoms or mild enough symptoms that the infection goes unnoticed.  Furthermore, HSV may be transmitted even when there are no symptoms and between outbreaks; one study shows that more than half of asymptomatic HSV-2 carriers exhibit viral shedding.  Viral shedding is how HSV is transmitted through skin-to-skin contact even without contact with open sores or bodily fluids.

Finally, symptoms of an oncoming outbreak include fatigue and itching, tingling, and discomfort at the site of the outbreak.  HSV outbreaks can be triggered by a number of sources, including but not limited to: physical and emotional stress, sun exposure, injury, a compromised immune system, surgery, hormone changes such as those that occur during the menstrual cycle, and even the common cold.

How is HSV Contracted?

Herpes Simplex is transmitted through direct contact with a lesion, or from the body fluid of or skin-to-skin contact with an individual with HSV.  Unlike most other STIs, HSV may be contracted through kissing and even sharing drinks; it’s this reason that half of children under the age of six are infected with HSV-1.  Furthermore, like Human Papillomavirus(HPV), HSV can be transmitted even when condoms are used due to exposed skin at the site of contact.

As I previously discussed, many people who come in contact with HSV do not, in fact, show symptoms, or otherwise have symptoms so mild they go unnoticed.  However, whether the individual is asymptomatic or between outbreaks, there is still a risk of transmission.  Indeed, it is suggested that up to 70% of HSV-2 transmissions occur in the absence of symptoms.

It is also important to remember that while HSV-1 and HSV-2 are technically two distinct viruses, oral herpes may be contracted from the genitals, and genitals may contract oral herpes. Research suggests that HSV-1 in particular is commonly transmitted through unprotected oral sex, with up to half of all new cases of genital herpes occurring as a result of HSV-1.

Finally, it should be noted that vagina-owners more easily contract genital HSV than penis-owners.  Studies also suggest that HSV increases the risk of HIV transmission, due to the existence of open sores.

How Can I Prevent HSV Contraction/Transmission?

There are three main ways people can help prevent the contraction and transmission of HSV: use barrier methods during sexual activity; know your status and communicate it with sexual partners; and if you’ve already contracted HSV, consider managing future outbreaks through antiviral medication.

Other ways to help limit the possibility of HSV-2 contraction and transmission include sexual abstinence, washing after sex with soap and water, and using lubricants during sexual activity to help prevent microtears (tissue damage that increase the risk of HSV transmission and triggering an outbreak).

Unfortunately, due to the prevalence of HSV-1, it can be incredibly difficult to prevent transmission.  However, if you are concerned about contracting or spreading oral herpes, you can avoid kissing people as well as avoid sharing items like kitchen utensils and lip balms, namely when a cold sore is present or you feel one forming.  With that said, I understand that kissing for many people is an important component to sexual activity, but not kissing doesn’t have to be unsexy or awkward.  Whether you’re in a monogamous relationship or the type to hook-up casually and participate in orgies, you can sexualize preventative measures by incorporating an intentional “no kissing on the mouth” policy in your play, which may encourage some creative measures, or even using gags.

For both HSV-1 and HSV-2, contact with the sites of outbreak and/or kissing should be stopped as soon as individuals feel the warning signs of an outbreak.  You shouldn’t touch a sore; doing so runs the risk of transmitting the infection to another body part.  If you do touch the sore, wash your hands with soap and water.  Wait until seven days after the sore heals before resuming contact with the mouth, genitals, or anus.

Barrier Methods

While the unfortunate truth is that even condoms do not completely protect against HSV transmission, studies show that condoms do, in fact, provide considerable protection, in particular to susceptible vagina-owners.  For this reason, barrier methods are an incredibly important component of limiting the possibility of contractions and transmission of HSV.

In addition to external condoms, internal condoms are a great alternative barrier method.  Internal condoms potentially provide greater protection from HSV transmission, as they also provide coverage for the vulva and outer anus, thereby reducing the amount of skin-to-skin contact.

Due to the nature of HSV, barrier methods should be used during not only penetrative sexual activity, but also any sexual activity that engages with the mouth, genitals, and anal region.  This includes skin-to-skin frottage, also known as dry-humping; stimulation with one’s hands, during which latex gloves can be used; and oral sex.  Safer oral sex consists of using condoms over penises and dental dams over the vulva and anus.

Know Your Status

As with all sexually transmitted diseases, one of the best things you can do to prevent contraction and transmission is to know your status.  This can happen by being tested at a local medical care provider.  With that said, while providers consistently test for STIs such as gonorrhea and chlamydia, HSV is rarely tested for unless the individual is exhibiting signs of an outbreak.  For this reason, you’ll likely have to explicitly request an HSV test, which I will discuss later.

In addition to being aware of your STI status, it’s important to use that knowledge to empower you in your relationships by discussing STI testing and your status with sexual partners.  Not only is your status important, theirs is too!  Although this can be an intimidating conversation to initiate, I nevertheless strongly recommend that you do so; this shouldn’t be understood as a sign of distrust, but rather an important step in keeping you and your partner healthy.  This is especially important considering an estimated 80% of people with herpes are undiagnosed.

Consider Antiviral Medications

It’s important to note that while there is no cure for either type of HSV, there are antiviral medications that may help manage outbreaks and treat or relieve symptoms.  If, following an outbreak and/or testing, you learn that you have HSV-2 in particular, you may want to consider such medications.

There are currently three kinds of herpes antiviral drugs, all of which are available in pill form and can be taken for two purposes: treatment for outbreaks (to shorten duration and severity of symptoms), and suppressive therapy (to reduce the likelihood of outbreaks).

I’m Worried I Contracted HSV – What Now?

When it’s all said and done, it’s understandable that you may be worried about your hook-up’s cold sore.  For this reason, regardless of if you start showing symptoms of HSV, I suggest that you contact your medical care provider to discuss your situation and to get a professional opinion on the matter.

With that said, standard STI testing often does not include testing for HSV unless the patient has a blister.  This is because the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention does not currently recommend routine HSV testing for those in the general population who don’t exhibit symptoms.  If you are exhibiting sores, however, you should visit your healthcare provider as soon as possible as the test is an easy viral culture swab.  Unfortunately, false negatives are very common with this method.

If you are not exhibiting symptoms, you can still get tested.  Serologic, or blood, exams will allow your medical care provider to test for HSV.  There are two ways blood can be tested for HSV: polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests and antibody tests.  The PCR test is the most accurate, and can type which strain of HSV you have.  Antibody tests are less reliable and may yield false positives, so this may be a topic you want to discuss with your healthcare provider when being tested.

Finally, I want to stress that having herpes isn’t the end of the world. Figures suggest that some 50 million people in the United States alone have HSV-2, with even more people having HSV-1.  Considering how common it is, it is unlikely that you will be the only person you know with HSV, and many health professionals are of the opinion that people should assume that everyone has herpes and act accordingly.

Furthermore, people with herpes continue to have healthy, fulfilling sex lives and happy relationships.  In the greater scheme of things, herpes is merely a minor convenience for most couples.  Having HSV of either sort is not shameful, nor is it indicative of your worth as a person or sexual being.  Herpes is at its core simply a skin condition.

If you have any other questions about HSV, you can call the National Herpes Hotline at 919.361.8488.  In addition, you can contact the Herpes Resource Center at 1.800.230.6039.
For more information on leading healthy, fulfilling (sex) lives with herpes, you can visit the following websites:

HC Support Network: the largest and most active support website for people with herpes

(H)Life: a community forum that seeks to serve as a roadmap and guide for living and loving with herpes

How to Have a Sex Life Despite Having Herpes, by Dr. Laura Berman

Genital Herpes Sex Advice and Suggestions

condom ad condoms too loose

csphThe CENTER for SEXUAL PLEASURE and HEALTH (The CSPH) is designed to provide adults with a safe, physical space to learn about sexual pleasure, health, and advocacy issues. Led by highly respected founder and director, Megan Andelloux, The CSPH is a sexuality training and education organization that works to reduce sexual shame, fight misinformation, & advance the sexuality field.

Warts and Worries. What To Do?

Photo credit: Jamelah E.

Photo credit: Jamelah E.

If you were recently exposed to genital warts would you know what to do? Do you know what to ask your doctor? What tests and treatments are available? Are genital warts curable?

As part of their weekly Q&A series, the CSPH (the Center for Sexual Pleasure and Health) explains what to do if you think you’ve been exposed to genital warts, a common sexually transmitted infection caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV). HPV is so common, it has been called the “common cold” of STIs in the United States.

According to the CDC, the United States is facing an HPV epidemic, in which 50% of sexually active adults carry some form of HPV without any symptoms. Yet not enough people know what is HPV, what are it’s sympotoms (if any!), and how it can be treated and prevented.

In this post, the CSPH explains that:

  • About one person in 10 will have genital warts at some time in their life.
  • Because genital warts spreads by skin-to-skin contact rather than an exchange of bodily fluids, condoms are not 100% effective at preventing transmission.
  • Unlike many STIs which can be diagnosed with a simple blood test, genital warts are detected primarily through visual inspection. However, not everyone shows symptoms.
  • About two-thirds of people who are exposed to active genital warts will develop them, usually within three to six months after contact.
  • You can reduce the risk of HPV with consistent use of sex dams and condoms, creative outercourse that doesn’t put you in direct contact with genitals (dry humping, vibrator play, etc.), and regular STI testing to keep your status up-to-date.
  • Still confused about testing? Check out our post about when to get tested for STIs.

This post was originally published on the CSPH

BY THE CSPH | theCSPH.org

Image from the CSPH

Image from the CSPH

Each week, The CSPH answers questions asked on our site and through social media outlets like Twitter, Tumblr, and Facebook. This week’s question is:

Hi! I just recently found out that I was exposed to genital warts and might have it, though I am currently not showing any symptoms. I have a pap smear coming up at the beginning of August and I plan to bring up my concerns then (while abstaining from sex until then). Do you think that they’ll be able to test me although I don’t have any symptoms, only reasonable concern?

Genital warts is a common sexually transmitted infection caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV), which is spread by skin-to-skin contact rather than an exchange of bodily fluids. About one person in 10 will have genital warts at some time in their life. Unfortunately, this sneaky virus can be passed along even if you use a condom—for example, if your genitals touch during foreplay, or if your partner masturbates before fondling your naughty bits. Condom use is still recommended, as safer sex practices can significantly decrease risk, but it should be remembered that barrier methods are not a genital force field.

While HPV is a family of viruses often linked to cervical cancer, the particular strains that cause genital warts are different and distinct. With more than 100 permutations, the volume and variety of HPV could rival Nicki Minaj’s wig collection. Most genital warts, however, are caused by HPV types 6 and 11, which are lower risk but highly contagious. About two-thirds of people who are exposed to active genital warts will develop them, usually within three to six months after contact.

Thanks to high school health class, some people might associate genital warts with magnified images of mutant cauliflower, but in most cases these warts are inconspicuous, subtle, and benign. They can be flesh-toned or gray, raised or flat, singular or in clusters. For vulva-owners, these growths tend to appear on the vagina or cervix or around the labia majora, anus, or inner thighs. A pelvic exam is often necessary for diagnosis, since warts do not usually cause pain or discharge and can reside internally. Genital warts in penis-owners may surface on the shaft, scrotum, testicles, anus, or general groin area.

Unlike HIV and syphilis which can be diagnosed with a simple blood test, genital warts are detected primarily through visual inspection. No lab results can indicate the presence or absence of HPV 6 or 11 before genital warts appear. Once a skin growth is present, a biopsy may be required for confirmation since smaller warts can be difficult to distinguish from normal genital bumps or ingrown pubic hair.

Although there is an HPV test on the market, it was designed to detect high-risk, pre-cancerous strains of the virus (types 16 and 18) in women over thirty. Similarly, a pap smear would not reveal whether or not someone has genital warts. Due to a lack of effective screening and testing, it is hard to know if you or a potential partner might have this contagious, but harmless, skin condition; an estimated 50% of sexually active adults carry some form of HPV without any symptoms.

Fortunately, the Gardasil vaccine can protect against the HPV strains responsible for 90% of genital warts, in addition to the high-risk types associated with 75% of cervical cancers. No longer restricted to empowered women and girls who engage in radical activities like playing drums, skateboarding, or living in designer lofts, this vaccine is now available to members of all sexes and genders. While there are risks and benefits associated with Gardasil (or any vaccine), the recommended age of inoculation is 11 or 12, or prior to becoming sexually active.

The CDC recommends that vulva-owners ages 13 through 26 get HPV vaccine if they have not received any or all of the three doses when they were younger. Likewise, CDC recommends the vaccine for penis-owners aged 13 through 21 years if they have not been received it already.

If you happen to have genital warts, there are several treatment options available, including podophyllin solution, cryosurgery (freezing), and electrocaudery (burning). You can also wait and give the warts some time to disappear on their own; within three months, 20 to 30 percent of all cases of non-cervical warts usually clear up without medical intervention.

When genital warts are treated, symptoms often resolve within one to nine months. Although the virus is most easily spread when active warts are present, you may still be contagious following treatment or removal, especially during the six months immediately afterwards. If you have been with your current partner since a few weeks before the genital warts appeared, more than likely your partner has already been exposed to the virus and abstaining would not prevent an outbreak. However, before engaging with new partners, it would be important to discuss the risk of viral transmission (in addition to what turns you on!), and to use condoms until everyone is comfortable with the potential consequences.

Unfortunately, there is no way for your doctor to conclusively diagnose you with genital warts unless physical symptoms are present. However, it’s wonderful that you’re being responsible in the meantime by abstaining from sex and initiating dialogue on these important issues. Through consistent use of barrier methods, creative outercourse (dry humping, vibrator play, etc.), open communication, and annual exams with a qualified healthcare provider, you can take several proactive measures to help reduce your risk of genital warts and other STIs, while enjoying safe and sexy pleasure adventures.

Special note: Human papilloma virus (HPV), the underlying agent that causes genital warts, actually has over 100 strands, about forty of which can lead to genital warts. Other strains of HPV can also lead to cell division, which may be responsible for a number of throat, genital, cervical, and anal cancers. According to the CDC, nearly all sexually active adults will get at least one strain of HPV at some point in their life; however, when we state the “one person in ten” statistic, we were referring to having genital warts specifically.

condom ad condoms too loose

csphThe CENTER for SEXUAL PLEASURE and HEALTH (The CSPH) is designed to provide adults with a safe, physical space to learn about sexual pleasure, health, and advocacy issues. Led by highly respected founder and director, Megan Andelloux, The CSPH is a sexuality training and education organization that works to reduce sexual shame, fight misinformation, & advance the sexuality field.

When to get Tested for STIs/STDs

Photographer Helmut Hess

Photographer Helmut Hess

Did you know that when you’ve been exposed to a sexually transmitted infection (STI) there is a duration of time in which the infection cannot be detectable through testing? This is referred to as the window period. During this window period, the infected person can pass on the STI to others.

This is why, when you get tested, you are asked to fill out a questionnaire that asks for details about when you last had sexual contact, unprotected sex, etc. The clinic will help you gauge whether or not you’ve cleared the window period for various STIs. Very few STIs have the same window period. Compound this with the fact that clinics only test for STIs that are showing symptoms (unless you specifically request otherwise), makes it crucial that you know your window period for which STIs are being tested.

There is also the incubation period, which is how long the infection takes to show signs/symptoms. During both the window and incubation period an infection is contagious. An infection may never show noticeable signs or symptoms (most don’t), but they are always transmittable to others, and that’s why testing is so important.

As a safeguard against false negative tests due to these two very different periods- window and incubation -it is recommended that you get re-tested three to six months after your initial negative results.

Sound confusing? The following list will help. It’s a clear and organized way to identify STIs and their corresponding window periods.

As a side note from Jenelle Marie: This article is addressing unrine/blood tests and talks about infections for which there are common tests available. However, in instances where visual diagnosis occur (because there are no tests for the infection – low-risk HPV in men, commonly known as genital warts, for example) the incubation period and the window period are the same, thus diagnosis isn’t possible until symptoms are present. 

Read the full article here.

BY JENELLE MARIE | theSTDProject.com

Typical STI/STD Testing Windows Are:

Chlamydia Urine Test:
Possible Detection – Within the first week
Most Likely Detection – 2 Weeks
Highest Accuracy – 4 Weeks

Gonorrhea Urine Test:
Possible Detection – Within the first week
Most Likely Detection – 1-2 Weeks
Highest Accuracy – 2-3 Weeks

Herpes Simplex 1 & 2 Blood Test:
Possible Detection – 2-4 Weeks
Most Likely Detection – 6-12 Weeks
Highest Accuracy – 12-16 Weeks

Syphilis Blood Test:
Possible Detection – 1-2 Weeks
Most Likely Detection – 6 Weeks
Highest Accuracy – 12 Weeks

HIV Antibody Test *:
Possible Detection – 3 Weeks
Most Likely Detection – 4-6 Weeks
Highest Accuracy – 12 Weeks

HIV Early Detection Test **:
Possible Detection – 1-2 Weeks
Most Likely Detection – 3 Weeks
Highest Accuracy – 3-4 Weeks

Hepatitis A Blood Test:
Possible Detection – 2-3 Weeks
Most Likely Detection – 3-6 Weeks
Highest Accuracy – 6-7 Weeks

Hepatitis B Blood Test:
Possible Detection – 1-6 Weeks
Most Likely Detection – 6-10 Weeks
Highest Accuracy – 12 Weeks

Hepatitis C Blood Test:
Possible Detection – 4-5 Weeks
Most Likely Detection – 6-9 Weeks
Highest Accuracy – 10-12 Weeks

*According to the CDC, most people infected with HIV will develop detectable antibodies within 25 days of exposure and 97% of people will have HIV antibodies by three months after exposure.

**STD testing experts recommend confirming this with the ELISA HIV test , which is considered the gold standard in HIV testing, at 3 months post-exposure.

 

1533882_446848112083407_2051712922_n THE STD PROJECT is a multi-award-winning independent website and progressive movement eradicating STD stigma by facilitating and encouraging awareness, education, and acceptance through story-telling and resource recommendations. Fearlessly led by Founder, Jenelle Marie, The STD Project is committed to modern-day sexual health and prevention by advocating for conscientious and informed decisions. Find them on twitter @theSTDProject

What Is It Like to be Tested? STI/STD Testing in 5 Simple Steps

Easy-button

With all the stigma and fear surrounding sexually transmitted infections (STIs), going out of your way to specifically get tested can seem like a burden. According to the CDC, less than half of Americans ranging from 18 to 44 years old have never EVER been tested for STIs. This is a serious obstacle that cannot be overlooked when talking about sexual health.

Jenelle Marie, founder of The STD Project, takes on this social fear of getting clinically tested by demonstrating just how easy (and shame free!) it really is. She walks us through her real-life experience of going to the clinic (with her boyfriend):

Here are key points to learn from her STI testing experience:

  • Health practitioners don’t test for all STIs. You need to ask for specific test to be done, particularly for those which do not always show symptoms, like HPV, Gonorrhea and Syphilis.
  • STD testing is available for free!
  • Test results are strictly confidential. In most states, once you are 13 years old, you can get tested without a guardian’s involvement. The clinic cannot share your identity and results with anyone.
  • Depending on the STI, you may be asked to give a blood sample and a urine sample.
  • No single procedure or test will detect all STIs.
  • Getting tested is simple, quick (depending if it’s walk-in or appointment) and the trained staff do not make moral judgement on your sexual behavior.

This article was originally published here.

BY JENELLE MARIE | theSTDProject.com

Are you wondering what it’s like to be tested for STIs/STDs?

 Step One: Decide whether to schedule an appointment or go on a ‘walk-in’ day (wait is usually much longer, so patience is a virtue should you choose the latter) – I made an appointment as I have little patience 🙂

Step Two: Fill out some paperwork (this is the government we’re talking about) – HIV testing is the only test they can do completely anonymously (if they do rapid-tests onsite) where they do not require a name (they give you a number) or a lot of other information – this health department did their HIV tests on-site (which means results in 15 minutes), but I was also testing for 3 other STDs, so the paperwork was still required.

For those clinics that do not have rapid-tests, HIV tests will only be confidential. Confidential testing means you must fill out your name and birthday and answer questions about your sexual experiences. This DOES NOT mean they will call your parents or your partners and tell them your test results – test results are strictly confidential. The health department asks that you tell all future partners but does not make you retro-actively tell people, because, presumably, you wouldn’t have known you were positive for an STD until now.

Also, it is very important you answer the questionnaire with complete honesty – depending on the type of sexual activities in which you engage, they may do STD testing for additional types of STDs or they may test different areas of your body for STDs – chlamydia and gonorrhea can both be in the throat or anus, for example.

Lastly, the women my boyfriend and I met made no assumptions or judgments about the types of activities we enjoy – they simply share the risks and make sure you’re safe in all directions (your mind is whirling now, I’m sure). 🙂

Step Three: When your name gets called, a nurse takes you back, asks some additional questions, sometimes does a little preventative counseling and starts the tests by giving you a finger prick.

The finger prick begins the rapid blood test for HIV which is complete 15 minutes later.

Next, a traditional blood sample is taken from your arm for Syphilis testing. The Syphilis is sent to a lab and results are available 7 business days later along with your Chlamydia and Gonorrhea test results.

Step Four: Pee on your hand while attempting to pee into an impossibly small cup for Chlamydia and Gonorrhea testing (you do this in a private bathroom, so no one has to watch you wonder whether to pull up your pants with pee on your fingers or waddle over to the sink for washing – pants still at your ankles).

Important to note: the longer you hold your pee, the better – anything over not having urinated in an hour should be good.

The nurse said chlamydia and gonorrhea bacteria flush out and are harder to detect when having urinated recently; however, after a longer duration of time, they come back again.

Unfortunately, peeing profusely will not make your STD go away. Dang it!

Step Five: Meet the nurse back in the testing room, get your HIV results, and your FREE CONDOMS!!!! YEY!!!

Who doesn’t love free condoms?!?!

I say, you might as well go get STD tested just for the free condoms!!! (I’ll say anything – obviously – to convince you STD testing is totally harmless and will make you feel much much better!)

condom ad condoms too tight

1533882_446848112083407_2051712922_n THE STD PROJECT is a multi-award-winning independent website and progressive movement eradicating STD stigma by facilitating and encouraging awareness, education, and acceptance through story-telling and resource recommendations. Fearlessly led by Founder, Jenelle Marie, The STD Project is committed to modern-day sexual health and prevention by advocating for conscientious and informed decisions. Find them on twitter @theSTDProject