By Maddy Siriouthay, Co-founder
So, you’re getting an STI test. Whether it’s a part of your routine checkups, or it’s 3am and you’re panic-googling symptoms, it can be nerve-wracking. But it doesn’t have to be! We find that preparedness is the foundation for a mind at ease, so we’ve built an STI-test-know-how guide with the help of our friends at Fig.
First things first: how do I know when i should get tested?
We believe that everyone should get routinely tested at least every six months. Now, that may vary depending on your relationship status, how many partners you’ve had, etc., but the bottom line is: if you’re having sex, you should also be getting frequently tested.
Beyond routine measures, if you’re experiencing any abnormal symptoms (like burning, itching, bumps, etc.), or a partner recently tested positive — you should get tested.
Why do you need a test?
Routine testing, whether or not you decide to go to your doctor or order an at-home test, should be pretty straightforward. You’ll want to get a test that typically covers the most common STIs which are chlamydia, gonorrhea, trichomoniasis, syphilis, and HIV. If going to the doctor, they might ask things like:
"When’s the last time you got tested?"
"Do you practice 'safer' sex?
"Have you ever had an STI?"
"Are you pregnant?"
"Do you have any symptoms, such as any bumps, pain when having sex, or anything else not feeling quite right 'down there?'”
They may also ask if you’re having oral or anal sex, how many partners you have and what gender they are.
If you’re experiencing symptoms and you suspect you may have been exposed to an STI, step away from Google and go talk to a doctor.
If there’s anything you’re even slightly unsure of, or need clarity on — ASK! Trust us, doctors are used to fielding a lot of questions, and you won’t say anything they haven’t heard before. Besides, wouldn’t you feel so much better knowing the answer than be left wondering?
Your doctor or clinician may ask you some additional questions to the ones above.
These can be uncomfortable questions, but it’s crucial to answer them honestly. Lying or withholding important information from your doctor only hurts you in the end! Remember, their job is to provide you with the best medical attention, so your honesty is key to ensuring they do that to the best of their ability. It’s okay to feel uncomfortable or embarrassed, but remember: they’re there to care for you, not judge you!
Bills, bills, bills
More specifically, your insurance bill. Unfortunately, getting tested isn’t always free or covered. There’s two primary questions you’ll have to ask yourself: how much is it going to cost me? How much can I afford to pay? This requires some research on your end, and it can get pretty meticulous, especially when it comes to navigating your insurance plan. But again, knowing what steps to take before getting tested and racking up unexpected costs can save you some trouble.
If you’re using insurance:
This is something you should do regardless of whether you’re preparing for an STI test, but: get familiar with your insurance plan. Know what’s covered and what’s not, because not every test (or each time you get one) is covered by insurance. Call ahead. You don’t want to be surprised with any unexpected charges!
What if I don’t want to use insurance?
There’s plenty of reasons why someone may not want to use insurance. Maybe your coverage isn’t so great, maybe you don’t want it on your records, or maybe you don’t want it to show up on your parent’s records. If you have these concerns, paying out of pocket may be a better option.
These tests ain’t cheap, though (but they should be!!!). Tests can cost up to several hundreds of dollars, so again, call and ask how much out of pocket costs could be. If you’re strapped for cash, don’t fret, and definitely don’t skip getting tested. There are usually a few organizations that do free or reduced cost testing, like Planned Parenthood and Fig. FreeSTDCheck.org and the CDC also have search services that check your zip code for places that provide free testing. If you’re a college student, be on the lookout for free campus-wide testing events or see what your student health center provides.
But there’s a catch: free or low-cost clinics can have longer wait times due to a higher volume of patients, results may be slow to get to you, and depending on income eligibility, you may still have to pay some amount.
Now that you’ve got your ducks in a row, what about your thoughts?!
Getting tested can be nerve-wracking. On top of all of this, there’s already a taboo surrounding sexual and reproductive health and even more stigma around STIs. Getting tested and continuing to getting tested on a regular basis doesn’t mean you’re “dirty” — it means you’re sexually healthy and responsible.
If you do end up testing positive for an STI…
It’s NBD. It’s scary, but the good news is, all STIs are treatable. The most common ones (chlamydia and gonorrhea) can be gone within days if you receive the correct treatment.
And please — tell your partner(s). It’s never a fun conversation, but it’s important for both you and your partner’s health. Remember the real goal of this convo: be honest, communicate openly, and keep you and your partner healthy and safe. You will be better for it in the end.
Get tested regularly. More so if you have multiple partners.
Testing is like going to the dentist — you can go when you know something’s wrong, or you can go to prevent something from going wrong in the first place!
Be honest with your doctor.
Be honest with your partner(s).
Know what your insurance covers.
Know what (free or cheaper) resources are available to you.
And, most importantly: it’s going to be okay.
Tested positive? You're not alone.
Read more: the Ovee Community talks about testing positive for HPV