New resources to help you and those you care about
By Andrea Arscott, Senior Columnist
“HIV? Oh, I wouldn’t have a disease like that. What are you crazy?”
“I don’t use drugs or needles.”
“My partner and I are practically married, so we don’t bother using a condom every time!”
According to the BC Centre for Disease Control, “thousands of people are diagnosed with a sexually transmitted infection (STI) every year in BC”—in part because of self-denial like this.
The lines above are perfect examples of people who shouldconsider getting tested for HIV and other STIs. All it takes is one time without a condom or even with a condom (because they have been known to break or slip off) to contract HIV or another STI.
Don’t know how to get tested for STIs, or what to do if you have one? Pay attention and make sure you know about these great resources that put the “sex” in sexy.
To get tested for “all of the above,” you have several options: you can go to your doctor, a public health unit, or a walk-in, STI, or youth clinic. Be aware that for women, a standard pap smear will not reveal if you are HIV positive. You have to request a blood test. If you’re under 21, the New Westminster Youth Clinic is right down the street from the New West campus at 38 Begbie Street and is open Tuesdays from 2:30 to 6 p.m. and Thursdays from 3:30 to 7:30 p.m. The newly located HIM Health Centre for gay men is also open at the same address on Mondays and Wednesdays from 4 to 9:00 p.m. HIM won’t discriminate though—if you feel this is the place for you, HIM likely won’t turn you away.
There’s also a new resource that allows you to get tested without even seeing a doctor first. Go to GetCheckedOnline.com, print the requisition form, show up at a lab, and get tested! How easy is that? The downside of choosing this option is that you won’t be tested for all the STIs, but you will be tested for the big five: HIV, hepatitis C, gonorrhoea, chlamydia, and syphilis. All of these tests are blood tests. Have no fear, it’s just a tiny prick!
When you get a physical, your doctor will examine you and if you’re a woman, will do a pap smear to check for signs of other STIs, like genital warts or herpes. So, ideally you want to get both the blood test and exam done. If you don’t know what a speculum is by now, you have some catching up to do.
Read up on speculum tests at this invaluable and fairly new website: SmartSexResource.com. Learn about symptoms of STIs, different swab tests, and confidentiality. Through this site, you can also chat with a nurse online, find an STI clinic, ask questions, and discover what illnesses you can contract if you have condom-less sex. The learning opportunities are endless.
So, now that you’ve been tested, what do you do if you test positive for something? You get back online and go to InSpot.org. Here you can send an anonymous e-card to notify previous partners that they’ve been exposed to an STI and should get checked. This is an excellent service and a fabulous way of preventing the spread of infection.
It’s important to know your status, and to take responsibility for your health and the health of those you have been intimate with, Taking advantage of these new resources can help you, but it’s up to you to take the first step.