I won’t sit here and preach about abstinence or protected sex, because I’m 20, and I know it doesn’t happen 100% of the time if we’re gonna be real with each other (not saying it shouldn’t, or that you should just say f*ck it to condoms, but I’m just acknowledging that it doesn’t always happen for whatever reasons it may).
With that being said, it’s important for you to keep up on your sexual well-being, and to always know what’s up when it comes to your status. Most STD’s are asymptomatic, so you may be walking around with one for weeks (or longer) and not even know.
I know there are obstacles, both practical and personal that may stop you from taking the plunge, but I’m here to talk about them, and possible solutions:
Fear: The thought of having something, whether it is due to stigma, or because it is something that is incurable is horrifying. Sometimes, people avoid getting tested for fear of finding out they they are positive for something. Even though it is scary, knowing is better than not knowing, because once you know, there is a clear course of action that cn be taken.
Insurance: I have been in postions where I didn’t have insurance to cover the cost of testing, but there are ways around that as well! Free clinics! Walk in clinics, Planned Parenthood! These places will work with you to try to have something done (especially Planned Parenthood, where they can work with you to at least try to get you your own insurance). There are places that do this because of its importance for free, you just need to look. Some organizations only run tests for one type of infection, others may do a full battery test, it all depends.
Naïveté: “I don’t feel anything so I’m fine.” NAH BOY!! Like I said above, most STDs don’t show symptoms, so it’s more important in that case, especially if you’ve had unprotected sex, to check yourself. Your partner may not know he or she has anything and may inadvertently pass it onto you, and you may pass one onto other partners.
Pride/Shame: I know it might feel embarrassing walking in somewhere and asking to get tested, but at least after the fact you have receipts on hand and can say you’re clean. That’s what’s most important.
Here are a few facts just in case all of that isn’t clear (all courtesy of the CDC via fact sheets):
Chlamydia (via CDC.gov)
- Chlamydia is the most frequently reported bacterial sexually transmitted infection in the United States
- A large number of cases are not reported because most people with chlamydia are asymptomatic and do not seek testing
- Almost two-thirds of new chlamydia infections occur among youth aged 15-24 years
- Chlamydia is transmitted through sexual contact with the penis, vagina, mouth, or anus of an infected partner. Ejaculation does not have to occur for chlamydia to be transmitted or acquired
- Known as a ‘silent’ infection because most infected people are asymptomatic and lack abnormal physical examination findings
- In women, the bacteria initially infect the cervix, where the infection may cause signs and symptoms of cervicitis, and sometimes the urethra, which may result in signs and symptoms of urethritis.
- Men who are symptomatic typically have urethritis, with a mucoid or watery urethral discharge and dysuria
- The initial damage that chlamydia causes often goes unnoticed. However, chlamydial infections can lead to serious health problems with both short- and long-term consequence:
- In women, untreated chlamydia can spread into the uterus or fallopian tubes and cause pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). Both acute and subclinical PID can cause permanent damage to the fallopian tubes, uterus, and surrounding tissues. The damage can lead to chronic pelvic pain, tubal factor infertility, and potentially fatal ectopic pregnancy.
Genital Herpes (via CDC.gov)
- Genital herpes infection is common in the United States. CDC estimates that, annually, 776,000 people in the United States get new herpes infections – Nationwide, 15.5 % of persons aged 14 to 49 years have HSV-2 infection
- HSV-2 infection is more common among women than among men (20.3% versus 10.6% in 14 to 49 year olds)
- Infection is more easily transmitted from men to women than from women to men
- Infections are transmitted through contact with lesions, mucosal surfaces, genital secretions, or oral secretions. HSV-1 and HSV-2 can also be shed from skin that looks normal
- Transmission most commonly occurs from an infected partner who does not have visible sores and who may not know that he or she is infected.
- Most individuals infected with HSV-1 or HSV-2 are asymptomatic or have very mild symptoms that go unnoticed or are mistaken for another skin condition. As a result, 87.4% of infected individuals remain unaware of their infection
- When symptoms do occur, they typically appear as one or more vesicles on or around the genitals, rectum or mouth.
- The average incubation period after exposure is 4 days (range, 2 to 12).
- The vesicles break and leave painful ulcers that may take two to four weeks to heal.
- Genital herpes may cause painful genital ulcers that can be severe and persistent in persons with suppressed immune systems, such as HIV-infected persons
- Both HSV-1 and HSV-2 can also cause rare but serious complications such as blindness, encephalitis (inflammation of the brain), and aseptic meningitis (inflammation of the linings of the brain)
- There is no cure for herpes. Antiviral medications can, however, prevent or shorten outbreaks during the period of time the person takes the medication
Gonorrhea (via CDC.gov)
- Gonorrhea is transmitted through sexual contact with the penis, vagina, mouth, or anus of an infected partner – ejaculation does not have to occur for gonorrhea to be transmitted or acquired
- Many men with gonorrhea are asymptomatic
- When present, signs and symptoms of urethral infection in men include dysuria or a white, yellow, or green urethral discharge that usually appears one to fourteen days after infection
- In cases where urethral infection is complicated by epididymitis, men with gonorrhea may also complain of testicular or scrotal pain.
- Most women with gonorrhea are asymptomatic
- Even when a woman has symptoms, they are often so mild and nonspecific that they are mistaken for a bladder or vaginal infection
- Initial symptoms and signs in women include dysuria, increased vaginal discharge, or vaginal bleeding between periods
- In women, gonorrhea can spread into the uterus or fallopian tubes and cause pelvic inflammatory disease (PID).
- In men, gonorrhea may be complicated by epididymitis. In rare cases, this may lead to infertility
- If left untreated, gonorrhea can also spread to the blood and cause disseminated gonococcal infection (DGI). DGI is usually characterized by arthritis, tenosynovitis, and/or dermatitis –> life threatening
Go get yourself tested!