Taking Charge of My Sexual Health With STD Testing & Communication
Originally Published: April 15, 2014
Revised: April 15, 2014
Though I’ve never had an STD scare, I’ve always gotten tested before having sex with a new partner. The first time I was screened I was still in high school and living at home with my religious parents who I didn’t want to know I was sexually active. I knew they would disapprove and likely punish me or make my life very difficult if they knew I was having sex.
I had done my own research online about sex and sexual health, which is pretty much the only reason I was educated enough to know that it was important to get tested, that I could have a sexually transmitted disease (STD) even if I didn’t show symptoms and that Planned Parenthood would provide confidential testing. My sex ed in middle school had been lacking, and the one week in my high school health class had been even worse. I got lucky because I found a lot of sex-positive education sites and blogs, like Sexetc.org, and good online resources, like Planned Parenthood’s website. The information I got from these resources gave me a really strong conviction that I wanted to be in charge of my sex life and sexual health and showed me ways I could do that, like getting tested regularly and talking to my partners.
I’ve always made sure to have a talk about our STD statuses and what we’re each comfortable with sexually before ever engaging in sexual behaviors.
STD Testing at Planned Parenthood
I’d heard about Planned Parenthood from my friends and other girls at school, so I made an appointment there. At the time, I was in my first relationship in which I could have been at risk of being exposed or exposing my partner to an STD. So before having sex with my then-partner for the first time, I wanted to be completely sure I was STD-free and could keep me and my partner safe. I knew the best way to go about that was getting tested and talking to my partner.
At Planned Parenthood I got tested confidentially and inexpensively. Plus, they were really supportive and informative when I went to them. I remember nervously making the phone call to the clinic in my car so my family wouldn’t hear me. I was reassured and encouraged when making the appointment was much simpler than I imagined. All I had to do was reserve a time, and when I went in, I filled out some paperwork to qualify for free care as a minor. When it came time for my appointment, I gave a urine sample, so they could test me for chlamydia and gonorrhea. Since I didn’t have any specific concerns, they just tested me for two of the most common STDs
After the test, I had a short consultation with one of the clinic doctors about my general sexual health. The doctor provided me with some condoms and lubricant, as well as a prescription for birth control pills, which didn’t cost me anything. As a part of their “Take Charge” program, I got birth control for free because I was a minor.
Talking with the staff about my sexual health and getting birth control and safer sex methods to help myself and my partner prevent pregnancy and/or the transmission of STDs was extremely liberating for me. It gave me a sense that I was in control of my own sexuality. And it still makes me feel that way.
The last time I was tested was before engaging in sexual behaviors with my current partner. I was tested again for the same STDs at my doctor’s office. Because I had a comfortable environment to be tested the first time, it really encouraged me not to be nervous about getting screened for STDs in the future. And now it’s no big deal to have it done!
Talking With My Partner about STDs
Getting tested is only part of the story, though. With each new partner I’ve always made sure to have a talk about our STD statuses and what we’re each comfortable with sexually before ever engaging in sexual behaviors. At a point when I know I want to take the next step with a partner and have sex, I always initiate conversations with my partners when we aren’t doing anything sexual—one was while driving, another in the park. It gives me the chance to be honest with my partners about wanting to be sexual with them and broach the subject of us potentially having sex at some point. We talk about whether they would want to have sex too, what specifically they would be comfortable with as well as making sure we plan to practice safer sex and get tested for STDs.
STD Testing Was Worth the Work
I’ve been lucky to be with people who have already been tested since their last partner and who are completely willing to get tested if they hadn’t. While I may have been nervous going into some of the conversations—because it’s always bound to be a little nerve-wracking to straight up admit that you want to have sex with someone, even if you’re dating—every time it has been a positive experience. It has always been a relief to hash things out like that, and each time I’ve done it, it has brought me closer to my partner and improved our communication as well as intimacy.
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