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.
Welcome back to Sexually Transmitted Infections: Part 2! Here at OSU Student Health we recommend getting tested regularly if you are sexually active. Most of the time, STIs do not have any symptoms. Getting tested is the only way to know your status and can help you get treatment earlier to prevent the further spread of infection to partners.
Q: I’ve never been tested for an STI before and don’t know how to talk to my health care provider about it. Do you have tips?
Yes! There are a couple of things to keep in mind if you plan on getting STI tested. This does not matter if you plan on getting STI tested through Student Health Services or by an outside provider. Here are some tips:
• Be honest. The first thing you want to discuss with your provider is what kinds of tests you should be get. It is important to be honest about the kind of sex you’re having (eg. oral sex, anal sex, vaginal sex, etc.). Remember, clinicians are there to help you, not judge you! Depending on the type of sex, you may need samples collected from different parts of the body like the mouth, penis, vagina, anus, or even a urine sample.
•Be specific. Not all providers offer STI tests in a package, so if you know that you may have a particular STI make sure to discuss this with your doctor.
•Costs per test. If you are paying out of pocket, sometimes students are surprised on how much each test may cost. Do not let this discourage you as STI testing is a really important health test, like getting your yearly physical. Student Health Services offers low-cost STI testing that is available to all students.
•Insurance/Billing. Depending if you carry your own insurance or are covered by a parent or partner, you may want to ask how it will show up and under what name. Student Health Services Lab offers confidential testing, but some providers may bill for specific tests that may show up on a billing statement.
•Results. Ask when to expect results and if you will need to make a follow-up appointment to have your results read.
Q: I just tested positive for an STI and don’t know what to do. Any advice?
Don’t panic! Remember, STIs do not discriminate-- anyone can get an STI no matter the type or amount of sex experiences they are having. This is not the end of your sex life. According to the CDC, ten million people ages 15-24 get an STI every year, so you are not alone, “dirty,” or “wrong.” Important next steps is talking to your provider about treatment options. It is important to contact past partners so they can get tested too. Also continue using barriers to prevent the spread of the STI. Lastly, make sure you ask your provider if/when you can go without a barrier.