Most people are having some kind of sex. Unfortunately, sexuality often comes with the added baggage of fear, guilt, and shame. For a lot of us, we are having sexy times without the necessary honest communication required. This is often the case when it comes to discussing STD testing. We don’t want to talk about awkward or “unsexy” things. It might spoil the moment or make us feel uncomfortable. So we cross our fingers, hope for the best, and take the gamble that everything is going to work out.
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The Importance Of STD Testing
Gambling with your sexual health is too risky at a time of skyrocketing STD rates, coupled with antibiotics becoming less effective. It simply isn’t a gamble worth taking. We need to get more comfortable with the “uncomfortable” conversations. We need to jettison the shame we carry unnecessarily when it comes to our sexuality. The more we practice open and honest communication, the easier it becomes.
Of all the positive character traits I have, feeling perfectly comfortable discussing the so called “uncomfortable” things in life is right up there. This willingness to address difficult topics gives me a edge when it comes to my sexual health and well being. I have always believed in regular STD testing, open frank conversations, and no shaming. I write about such topics regularly. So I was delighted when online STD testing service STDcheck.com approached me and asked if I would like to try their service.
Would I ever? Yes please!
STDcheck is an online service that has been getting great reviews. They offer multi-panel as well as individual tests at over 4,500 locations across the U.S.. Why would one bother with such a service if they already have health insurance and a regular doctor? Very fast turn around times in test results and the tests you want without question is why. Sometimes doctors are reluctant to order all the tests you might want, for whatever reason. A service like STDcheck allows you to be fully in control of your own testing. No arguing for tests. No waiting for weeks for results.
Preparing For Testing
After checking out their site, I opted for their full 10 panel test. According to their website they are the only online STD testing service that offers an:
inclusive 10 Test STD Panel that tests for all the most common bacterial and viral STDs—including HIV type 1 & type 2 antibody/antigen (4th gen), herpes type 1 & type 2, hepatitis A, hepatitis B & hepatitis C, chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis.
I was surprised that they were offering a test for herpes as one of the items in their panel. In the adult industry the standard STD testing that is used does not test for herpes. I have also had friends not involved with the adult industry say their doctors are reluctant to run these tests when requested. I was under the impression that they don’t test for herpes because the tests are unreliable without the presence of an active outbreak and had a high rate of false positives. To satisfy my curiosity I contacted the company. I wanted to find out exactly what tests they were using, what the reliability of these tests were, and why it seemed like no one else was was offering these tests. Here is the very detailed response that I received from their representative:
We offer the HerpeSelect IgG type specific antibody testing ELISA (Enzyme-linked Immunosorbent Assay) for our herpes type 1 and herpes type 2 tests. These tests detect antibodies specific to either HSV-1 (Herpes Type 1) or HSV-2 (Herpes Type 2). Our herpes tests are 97%-99% accurate between 4-6 weeks post exposure (even without an outbreak). The test will remain 99% accurate after 6 weeks.
Our herpes 2 test can differentiate between herpes 1 and herpes 2 and looks for antibodies to herpes 2 in the blood. But, it’s really important to understand that HSV-1 and HSV-2 can both be located in either the oral or genital region of the body. Just because some show positive for HSV-2, does not mean that they have genital herpes. Additionally, it’s possible to have either strain herpes and not show symptoms for up to 30 years.
An extreme example: Someone who was kissed by their aunt when they were a baby could potentially receive HSV-2 (orally) and not even show symptoms until they were in their 30’s.
It is true that doctors have begun to discourage screening for herpes, largely due to the CDC. Here is a direct quote from the CDC page: “There is no evidence that diagnosing genital herpes with a blood test in someone without symptoms would change their sexual behavior and stop the virus from spreading. In addition, without knowing the benefits of testing, the risk of shaming and stigmatizing people outweighs the potential benefits. For these reasons, testing everyone for herpes is not recommended at this time.”
Stigmatization is right. Herpes is definitely seen as life-altering by most who receive a diagnosis which is simply not the case. About half of teens and adults under age 50 are infected with the oral herpes virus, and about 1 in 8 have an infection with the genital herpes virus. Meaning, it’s really not too big of a deal!
We like to give our customers the choice of taking a herpes test because everyone deserves the right to know their status, but we really find it important to stress the fact that having herpes is never the end of the world.
The stigmatization around herpes is huge! As I discussed in a past advice column, disclosing genital herpes to a sexual partner is second only to disclosing HIV. I am happy that STDcheck is giving people the ability to make up their own minds about determining their status and working towards ending the shame around this disease.
Getting My Blood Drawn
I took the time to look up the draw stations near me. My veins are delicate and shy, unlike the rest of me. Accommodating for their fussiness is a time consuming and necessary part of my getting tested. I read the reviews until I found one that had someone skilled with blood draws. I decided on a nearby Labcorp based on the high praise for the skill of the phlebotomist Sheri.
As someone who does STD testing regularly, I am used to idling in crowded and run down waiting rooms, sometimes for multiple hours. The long waits were never a highlight of my day. There are only so many well thumbed and coughed on magazines that one can read. Happily, the Labcorp I went to had no such issues. The waiting room was clean and completely empty and I was seen immediately. Sheri was the person that checked me in and she was as good with blood draws as the reviews had claimed.
I was done in under 10 minutes. One quick stick, three vials of blood, a band-aid, and a bathroom trip was all it took. I actually spent more time chatting with Sheri afterwards about ideas for her granddaughter’s birthday than I did getting tested. I walked away delighted with the ease and comfort of the experience and full of hope that services like STDcheck.com will become a regular part of more people’s lives. It is both a handy and a necessary part of our modern age.
Getting My Results
While the test results usually take around 48 hours, I tested too close to the weekend and it ended up taking 3 days to receive my results. They were delivered discreetly by email and described in full detail my results and ranges. STDcheck also offers phone consultations with one of their doctors (for an additional fee) if you have questions about any of the test results. In some cases the doctor can call in prescription medication for you. Additionally, they also offer a free anonymous notification service. Through this service you can anonymously alert a sexual partner via text or email if your tests come back positive.
Overall the process was incredibly easy! But don’t take my word for it, try it yourself and see. I encourage every sexually active person to get regular STD testing. The sooner one drops shame and fear around sexuality, the better the whole experience becomes. Know your status. Get tested regularly. And talk about it to those that need to know. Change for the better happens when shame is removed.
Update: Since writing this article I have partnered with STDCheck.com to offer a $10 discount on any of their tests. You can receive the discount by using THIS LINK or any other link to STDcheck in this article.