Get Yourself Talking!

Did you know that Chlamydia is the most commonly reported Sexually Transmitted Infection (STI) in the US? Or that over 50% of sexually active people will get HPV (Human Papilloma Virus) at some point in their lives? Now, I’m not telling this to scare you. If you know you don’t have these, or any other STI, you’re ahead of the game. Already have an STI? Well the good news is that, if caught early, most are treatable or even curable.

How do I know if I have an STI? Many people have STIs and don’t know it because they don’t have any symptoms. The only way to know for sure is to go to a health care provider and ask them to test for STIs. They may have you take a few different tests, and you’ll have to wait for the results, which normally will get back to you in a couple of days to 2 weeks.

Try asking your partner to go with you and make it a team effort. It doesn’t have to be an awkward conversation. If you feel uncomfortable bringing it up, just think how relieved your partner might be that you brought it up first!

As the Get Yourself Tested website suggests, try starting the conversation along these lines:

  •  “I’m kind of nervous to put this out there… but I think it’s important that we go get tested together.”
  •  “1 in 2 sexually active people in the U.S. will get an STI by age 25 — and most won’t even know it. The only sure way for us to know is to get tested.”
  •   “Getting tested before we have sex will protect both of us. Why take a chance when we can know for sure?”

You can always ask your doctor at your annual physical to test for STIs (you MUST ask, they won’t do it automatically) so it’s convenient to you, whether or not you have a partner. Even if you’ve been sexually active in the past and don’t think you have an STI, you might want to get yourself checked out anyway because as stated above, many of these infections have NO symptoms.

Where can I get tested? When you’re ready to get tested, here a few places you can go on campus:

Get Yourself Tested Day
2/14 Sykes Student Union Ballrooms 10am-2pm
Cost: FREE, plus a free t-shirt for the first 200 people to get tested!
Sponsored by the Women’s Center and the Office of Wellness Education

Student Health Services STI Testing (610) 436-2509
Wayne Hall, 2nd Floor by appointment Mon-Fri 8am-6pm
Cost: $10 visit fee, not including cost of tests (many are free or low-cost)
Don’t forget to pick up some free condoms to help protect yourself and your partner!

And here’s where you can get tested in West Chester…

Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania (610) 692-1770
8 South Wayne Street, West Chester, PA (See website for hours)
Cost: Sliding scale based on income

Chester County Health Department (610) 344-6225
Government Services Center, 601 Westtown Road, West Chester, PA
Cost: FREE

What do I do if my test comes back positive? It is important that you speak to your health care provider as soon as possible to determine the best method of treatment. Most common STIs can be cured with antibiotics, but some STIs like Herpes, HPV and HIV have no cure, but can be treated so the symptoms are manageable. Being infected with any of the above STIs can increase your risk of contracting other STIs so it’s important to seek treatment if you test positive. (For more info on these common STIs and their symptoms, check out this page.)

Communication is key! Being able to communicate with your partner will make any conversation easier. Whether or not either you our your partner has an STI, you should be able to talk openly about getting tested together, be honest and open about your sexual history, and birth control and STI prevention methods. Getting all of that out of the way will allow you to have a more fun and healthy relationship in the long run!

Written by April Pagliassotti, Peer Educator

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