The STD test (Sexually Transmitted Disease) - it has to be admitted that it's not a subject likely to generate a lot of amusement! That's no excuse for ignoring it though. The fact is, if you like sex then sexual health is something you need to think about. Please remember in what follows that this is not qualified medical advice. If you're worried or in doubt you must consult a medical professional.
OK, perhaps society hasn't yet reached the stage where people are completely open about STDs. Most casual conversations don't usually start with a "Morning - how's your sexual health today?" The problem is today people are far more flexible in their sexual relationships, and inclined to enter into them a little more casually and frequently than was the norm in previous generations. Whatever you believe to be the rights and wrongs of that, an increased prevalence of STDs is perhaps an inevitable consequence. So right at the outset, we all need to be clear about one thing - having unprotected sex even once could result in us catching an STD and needing an STD test.
What is protection?
There are three main ways to reduce your chances of catching an STD and passing it on to another person (excluding abstinence of course!):
• Reduce your number of sexual partners - ideally staying in an exclusive sexual relationship with a stable partner.
• Always use a condom or femidom to act as a barrier between bodily fluids - it is not a guarantee but it typically reduces the risks of infection.
• Having a periodic STD test and trying to persuade your partner to do likewise.
Why bother with tests?
If you're sexually active, however careful you've been in the past, there may still be a chance that you've picked up an STD. That's something that you really should want to know about and deal with before you have sex again. If you don't, you may have some very pointed questions to deal with from your new sexual partner in due course. It's also the case that some forms of STD can have serious long-term health effects. These may be mitigated if you identify the problem early and get it treated. Remember - some STDs can be largely asymptomatic and you may not even know you have one. Only an STD test can say for sure one way or the other.
An STD test and HIV/Aids
One of the great fears that can arise when thinking about an STD test is, of course, that you may discover that you're HIV positive. Contracting HIV is a risk if you have unprotected sex. The point is, not knowing won't make it go away. It needs to be identified as soon as possible both to think about treatment and so you can avoid the risk of passing it onto others.
It's a strange thing. In the modern world, many men and women will acknowledge openly that they've had multiple partners and discuss the intricacies of their sexual lives. Yet they'll then crease up with embarrassment when the conversation moves to STD testing. Fortunately, there are STD testing centers that understand the sensitivities of this subject. They offer highly confidential and discreet facilities for taking an STD test and the results will be made known to you and you alone. You therefore don't need to worry about being 'exposed' as someone that's taken such a test.
What does a test involve?
The exact practice may vary between centers and medical practitioners. Generally they'll consist of a range of swabs of your bodily fluids possibly combined with some blood tests. A physical examination may also be made at the same time. The procedures are typically quick and hopefully largely painless.
Perhaps it's in this area that some of the biggest challenges may arise in terms of taking an STD test. It's never going to be easy to say in a carefree fashion "Hey - let's go out for an STD test!" You may also find it tricky to suddenly announce in a routine way that you've decided you alone need one - that's likely to take some explaining, particularly if you're in a stable and exclusive relationship. That's why confidentiality in testing is useful. It may also be advisable to suggest to your partner at the outset of a relationship that you both take a test. That way there can be no recriminations or suspicions.
Peace of mind
In the final analysis, a test of this type can only result in one of two things:
• Peace of mind and reassurance.
• Recognition that you have a problem and the start of you forming a strategy to deal with it.
In that sense, you can't lose by taking that confidential STD test.