Get checked before you itch
It’s true that you can’t always tell if someone has a sexually transmitted disease. Of course, if you see blaring red sores on your partner, it might be best to recommend that they get tested.
However, even if there are no obvious signs and you wore protection there is no guarantee that you’re STI free. Luckily for us, in Canada, STI testing is completely free and not as harrowing as you might think. Just to demonstrate, I’ve done it myself.
I personally had a partner request that I get tested, and I suggest that you do the same for all new partners with whom you want to have unprotected contact between two mucous membranes, sex, with.
However, it is especially important to be able to identify the symptoms of STIs. You need to talk to a doctor if you have any kind of unusual discharge from your genitals (women should pay attention to green or yellow mucous) or if your genitals are itchy or if you see any blisters, sores or bumps.
Lesser known symptoms include pain during sex, bleeding during sex outside of menstruation, and pain in the testicles for men. Another sign to look out for is black powder or tiny white dots, which might be the eggs of pubic lice.
If you are unsure and worried, it is always better to get checked out as soon as possible.
It may seem daunting to go in and ask a strange doctor for an STI check, so I recommend that you see your family doctor. On the other hand, many students no longer live in their home town or are not comfortable with their family doctor to begin with.
Waterloo does have a health clinic on campus where you can go ask doctors about any health issues that you have, STI issues included. Alternatively, you can go to a public clinic in the area. My personal family doctor was on maternity leave, so I went to a walk-in instead.
At the beginning of my adventure, it was your routine walk-in clinic experience. I brought my health card, told the receptionist my reason for visiting and waited. When I told the doctor he gave me information about safe sex practices. This is understandable; I think that everyone should have knowledge about what they can do to protect themselves, as long as the doctor isn’t demanding that you conform to their moral code.
However, that was the most uncomfortable part of the experience. I went to the basement of the building for the blood test and actually got lost, but the x-ray technician was friendly and pointed me in the correct direction.
I gave my requisition sheet to the blood works receptionist and waited among the other patients. If you feel nervous or embarrassed, try to remember that no one has any idea why you’re there, except for the receptionist who is likely nice, or who is at least sworn to secrecy.
In my case the woman who drew my blood was polite, quick, and surprisingly good at locating my challenging veins.
You might keep in mind that if you have been at risk for HIV you may have to go back for this test a second time, as the results are not guaranteed to be accurate unless three months have passed since your exposure.
However, in my case I had an appointment with my family doctor two weeks later, who returned from maternity leave – with good timing – and assured me that all was well. If all does not go well for you, it is important to consider that most STIs can be treated, although usually not cured, and there are steps that you can take to prevent infecting others, including, in some cases, a shot that can make you nearly non-contagious, though it’s not completely protective. Your doctor will have this information for you.
The whole process wasn’t as daunting as many present it to be and, while it was a bit of extra running around, it was certainly worth it for my partner’s comfort and our mutual safety.