Let me start by congratulating you.
You’ve made yourself accountable for your sexual health. You’ve opted for braving potential fears and social stigma in favor of knowledge and responsibility. And you probably did that all by yourself, given that doctors spend on average 36 seconds talking about sexual health during health maintenance visits.
If you’re wondering why I’m so enthusiastic about this, it’s because although testing should be part of every sexually active person’s routine, it’s not a priority for most millennials. Amongst those who reported to be single (hence potentially more likely to have multiple partners), only 30% of them reported getting tested before their last encounter.
According to where you are located, there are options for you to get tested in the comfort of your home
There are multiple reasons that might explain such a low number. Some may believe that if they had something they would know, but waiting for symptoms to alert you that there is something wrong with your body is not the way to go as most STIs are asymptomatic in the first place. Others may feel uncomfortable going to the clinic, potentially having to undergo judgmental comments from medical providers or receive subpar care according to their gender identity or sexual orientation. According to where you are located, there are options for you to get tested in the comfort of your home–either ordering a kit online with myLAB Box or Private iDNA, or even pick it up at CVS or Target with Everywell.
But hell! If you’re reading this, you’re probably passed that step. You found something that rocked your boat and oof, it’s now all behind you. Except, it’s not.
If you’ve ever gotten encouraged to get tested, has anyone prepared you for that time in between your test and your results? For never-ending what-ifs? Sudden hypochondriasis? Mild to severe anxiety depending on what pushed you to getting tested? If not, take a deep breath. Here’s a quick survival guide–inspired by my own experience and that of about fifteen serial testers whom I’ve interviewed on their best tip to face the waiting game like a pro.
1- Binge on self care.
You’ve just done something extremely valuable for your body, now reward your mind by doing things to pamper it. Do your nails, go for a run, head to the movies, have a beer with a friend, meditate for 10min, enjoy some ice cream with a friend. A YouTube channel viewer of mine shared going to the steaming room because it’s a meditative place for them–telling themselves that if a diagnosis were to arise, they are way too smart, cute and accomplished to let it define them. Whatever your happy place is, head over there and help your mind be a good sport for what your body may or may not be going through.
Seeing someone new can often be the trigger to get tested, but the main beneficiary here is yourself.
2- Remind yourself there’s more to lose by not knowing your status.
Untreated chlamydia and gonorrhea can leave uterus owners infertile. Untreated syphilis can eventually lead to significant damage to several organs such as the brain and heart. Unmonitored HPV can leave you at an advanced stage of cervical cancer. Regret is far worse than fears, most of all when a simple routine test could have helped de-escalate its progression. Knowing your status will help you control its severity and get the treatment available to ensure as little damage is done to your body. Seeing someone new can often be the trigger to get tested, but the main beneficiary here is yourself.
3- Do some research on what living with an STI could actually look like.
You might have already taken this step and encountered the most alarming images and stories the internet has to offer regarding STIs. We’ve all been there. Beginners’ mistake. Now try again, but this time, use this list of people to inform your perspective on how life with an STI would actually be. See for yourself that dating, being open about your status, and overall enjoying your best life with or without an STI can be achieved, drama free. In case you are a hard fact kinda person, I’ll leave you with this study which reported that even after being told their partner had an STI, 68% of respondents went ahead and hooked up with them anyways.
4- Remember that most STIs are treatable
Sure, HSV or HIV don’t have a cure. You can’t take a pill and make them go away. But you can take a pill to limit their effect. For HIV, antiretrovirals like PreP allow the status of people living with HIV to become undetectable which means untransmittable. This means that if someone living with HIV with an undetectable status has unprotected sex with someone not living with HIV, there are 0% chances for them to transmit the virus to their partner. For HSV, let’s remind ourselves that we’re talking about a minor skin condition that a majority of the world population under 50 years old has. The antivirals available on the market won’t guarantee transmission-free sexual interactions, but they reduce frequency, severity and duration of an outbreak which cuts the chances of transmission by half, and they are pretty low in the first place.
Agonizing over emotional apocalypse will not change your test results, nor it is a productive way to work through the social stigma you probably have internalized.
5- Go crazy on distractions!
Many are the times where we’ll find distraction to be a curse. But in our specific context, let’s welcome distraction as a blessing. Agonizing over emotional apocalypse will not change your test results, nor it is a productive way to work through the social stigma you probably have internalized. If you’ve taken the steps mentioned above, now is a good time to seek every opportunity to get your mind far away from thinking about your results. And throughout that time, bring awareness to the plethora of things your body allows you to do and know that none of these things would change in case of a positive result. Your cerebral, bodily functions and mobility abilities will be fine. You will be fine. However your results come back, they can never define the amazing person that you are.