Friday, January 16, 2009

Q: I want to get tested for "everything" A: No dice!

The OraQuick HIV test.

Dear Go-To Girl,

I'm in a new relationship and want to stop using condoms with my boyfriend, so he and I are going to get tested to make sure we don't have anything. How do I get tested for everything?

Safety Girl

Dear SG,

The good news is that, Congratulations! You're totally responsible. The bad news is that there is no one test for "everything." Usually, when you go to the doctor and ask to be tested for STIs, they'll do a urine test that tests only for gonorrhea and chlamydia. So if, in the past, you've had a urine test for STIs, that's all you've been tested for.

To test for HIV, you can either do traditional blood test or an oral swab test. The blood test gets sent out to a lab and results can take a few days to come back, but the oral test can be read in 20-30 minutes. Syphilis is also a blood test, though to be tested for both HIV and syphilis you'll need to give 2 little vials of blood. Sorry about that.

Herpes is a slightly more complicated test. Most physicians are reluctant to test for herpes unless you have symptoms, because the test is very expensive. If you do have symptoms, the doctor can take some cells from a sore in the infected area and test them but if you're not having symptoms, they can do a blood test to check for antibodies.

If you haven't been vaccinated against Hepatitis A and B, you should get tested for those, too.

Women are screened for HPV via the annual Pap smear--and an abnormal Pap can show abnormal cells that are assumed to be caused by HPV, but the Pap doesn't test for HPV itself. According to the CDC, "yearly anal Pap tests [are recommended] for gay, bisexual, and HIV-positive men, since anal cancer is more common in these groups." (Thanks, O)

So, in short, to be tested for "everything," you need to be specific with your healthcare provider that you want a urine test, and HIV test, and a herpes test. If you haven't been vaccinated against HPV or the Hepatitises, do it.

And beyond just getting tested, you should get treated for any STIs you do have. Chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis are all curable with antibiotics; Herpes can be treated with Valtrex; HIV is manageable and treatable.

Go forth and fuck appropriately.



mary lingwall said...

i think that sign-off line should be a standard from now on. it is so appropriate. definitely my new motto!

You'll Never Know said...

I was just arguing with my friend that you usually have to have a sore for a doctor to be able to test for Herpes. She asked me why I'd never been tested and I said, well, if they wanted me to I'd do it but I've never had a symptom and am usually very safe. I shall have to show her this. Love the blog, will be linking it to mine so I remember to come check on it every now and then!