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The Birds and the Beavs is a weekly column answering your questions on the topics of sexual health, consent, and relationships, written by the Oregon State University Sexual Health Team.

This week’s topic is on STI (sexually transmitted infection) testing. The only way to know your status is to get tested. Here at OSU Student Health, we often refer to STI testing as TasP, which means “Testing as Prevention.” Like any health problem, knowing early if you have an STI will make treatment easier and prevent the further spread of the infection to partners.

Q: I think I may have an STI, where could I get tested?

A: You can make an appointment to see a clinician or request your own labs, also known as self-referral testing, to get tested for chlamydia/gonorrhea, syphilis, or HIV at Student Health Services (SHS) Lab in Plageman Hall. The SHS Lab offers low-cost service and discreet billing. So if you are concerned about your parents seeing that you were STI tested, you don’t need to worry. Charges show on your account only as “lab”, similar to if you had a throat culture for strep throat.

For self-referral testing, you can come directly to the lab on the first floor of Plageman Hall to make a request. There is no appointment needed and the whole process only takes 15-30 minutes! Results are posted to your account on the secure patient portal here!

Q: How often should I get tested?

A: One should get tested every 3-12 months depending on the frequency of changing partners. Ideally, we recommend testing between every partner. If in a committed and in a monogamous relationship, we also recommend testing before going condomless and then again every year at an annual check-up. 

Additionally, you should get tested if you are symptomatic. Common symptoms include: painful urinations, vaginal/penile discharge, pain during sex, lower abdominal pain, and more. If you are unsure if you have an STI or something feels “off” you can make an appointment with a clinician or do self-referral testing. Keep in mind that not everyone has symptoms when they have an STI, so we recommend testing between every partner.

Q: I just was STI tested and am still being told by my clinician to use a condom. What gives?

A: It is important to note that it sometimes takes 3 months for an STI to be detectable on an STI panel. So you may test negative, but may still have an STI. Using a condom is a good way to prevent spreading an STI to a partner and also helps protect a person from getting an STI.

Tune in next week for Part 2 on STI Testing!

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