Originally posted as a Guest author in the PornHub Sexual Wellness Center
Getting an STD test—or STI test, as it’s now referred to—probably makes you think of going to the doctor and peeing in a cup. Most of us are avoiding leaving the house, never mind visiting the doctor, but even in the Covid-19 pandemic, we need to prioritize our sexual health too. In the same way that we still need intimacy, connection, and pleasure during lockdown, we need to prioritize our sexual health, which includes getting an STI test if you are sexually active with a partner or multiple partners.
Before the pandemic, many provinces and territories were already concerned about rising STI rates. Chlamydia and gonorrhea rates are growing steadily, and new HIV and syphilis cases are once again on the rise. We don’t say this to scare you—STIs are common and curable or treatable. Just like going to the dentist, getting tested regularly is a great way to look after your own health, and the health of your partner(s). In addition, there are many ways you can reduce possible transmission, like using condoms and dental dams, and incorporating other safer sex practices into your sex life. Solid communication skills with your partners—be it a new hook up or a longstanding partner—can also help you figure out what level of risk you are each comfortable with, and then make decisions on how to practice sex that you are comfortable with. Taking these steps in addition to regularly getting tested ultimately makes for better, pleasurable sex!
So, What Does Getting Tested Look Like?
Getting tested can be done using a combination of methods. Most commonly, it’s as simple as peeing in a cup to test for many of the most common STIs like chlamydia and gonorrhea. A blood test can also be used to test for STIs like HIV, syphilis and hepatitis. Sometimes, a swab of your throat, genitals or anus will be performed, depending on what you are testing for. Pap tests don’t always include an STI test—be sure to ask your healthcare provider if you’d like to get an STI test at the same time as your Pap!—but they do check for abnormal cell changes that could indicate an HPV infection.
If that sounds like a lot, don’t worry. The first thing that happens when you get tested for STIs is having a short conversation with your healthcare provider (doctor, nurse or clinician) about the type of sex you are having and whether or not you are using condoms. They will ask you a few questions and help you assess what type(s) of test you should get based on the likelihood of having particular STIs. Different STIs are generally transmitted via particular body parts or sex acts.
What About Results?
You usually won’t receive your results on the spot, as your samples will often be sent to a lab. If you receive a positive result (indicating that you do have an STI), your clinic or provider will contact you, usually within a week. STIs are common, but because people generally don’t talk about having them, it’s easy to feel alone in this. Remember that having an STI is a common part of being sexually active. Most sexually active people will experience having an STI in their lifetime. You likely won’t be notified if your results are negative (indicating that you do not have an STI), but you can contact your clinic or provider if you want to be sure.
How Often Should I Go?
Not all STIs have symptoms, so it’s not possible to know just by looking at your genitals. A good rule of thumb is to get tested every time you switch partners but you can also check out this tool to help you figure out the right frequency of testing for you.
Make it a regular part of your health routine, like going to the dentist. The peace of mind that regular testing and knowing your STI status can bring can result in more pleasurable sex—you can sit back and relax, or in the case of having an STI, treat it or manage it and get back to having the best sex possible!