Preventive Services Task Force says everyone should get tested -- so I did
Sex is fun. In all its various forms and wild positions, it's the single greatest thing you can share with another human being (or multiple human beings, if that's your bag). But you can share more than fun. So that's why I decided to go to the Denver Metro Health Clinic at 605 Bannock Street to find out if I was clean and clear. Yes, waiting for the results can be scary -- but getting tested is definitely the right thing to do.
In fact, on Monday the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force called for people between the ages of 15 to 64 to all be tested -- whether or not they fall in high-risk groups for HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.
Next to actually having safe, consensual sex, getting tested is the best thing you can do to maintain a healthy and honest sex life. With this in mind, I trekked over to the Denver Metro Health Clinic to have some blood drawn and pee in a little cup. But as I walked into the waiting room, which contained only five people at 11 a.m. on a Tuesday, I suddenly became fearful. What if I have AIDS? What if I have chlamydia? What if I have gonorrhea? What if I have anything other than a working penis?
Since Denver Metro Health Clinic is a research facility, it does not test for much beyond HIV, gonorrhea and chlamydia, unless you have a specific request because you've had sex with an intravenous drug user -- or you are an intravenous drug user.
As I filled out the form I was handed, I started thinking about all the questions it didn't include: "Can you get this from this?" "What happens if this happens while I am doing this?" "What if she does this, will my this do this?" But I didn't have much time to think, because I was soon called to get my blood drawn for the HIV test.
The phlebotomist was a very sweet aspiring nurse, and the process was relatively painless. After that, I was sent back to the waiting room to await the nurse with her very real questions. This was the scary part:
"How many people have you had sex with in the past three months?"
"How many people did you have unprotected sex with in the past three months?"
"Do you use cocaine, heroin, marijuana, cigarettes, ecstasy, meth, etc?"
"Do you have sex with men, women, or both?"
"Do you only engage in vaginal intercourse with women?"
"Do you give oral sex?"
"Do you receive oral sex?"
"Have ever received or paid money for sex?"
"Have you ever had sex with someone from the Internet, but not from Facebook?" (Yes, I made sure to clarify this because I did have this run-in with an old friend via Facebook once....)
These are very private questions, but since this is technically a research facility and all answers are confidential, I tried to be completely honest. Besides, lying will not change the results of your test -- and these fine men and women at DMHC have heard it all.
After I was done with the questions, I was asked to urinate in a small receptacle for the gonorrhea and chlamydia test. When my cup was filled and sent off, I returned to the examination room and dumped all of my own questions on the nurse, who was more than willing to answer them. My questions mostly revolved around symptoms and things to look out for, ways to avoid certain things, and what to do in case something comes back positive.
My nurse couldn't have been kinder. She smiled about my ignorant inquisitions, gave me information on how to quit smoking cigarettes (for good, instead of just when I am sleeping), hooked me up with a very large bag of condoms (one that would make trick-or-treating me circa 1996 very jealous of its girth) and then sent me on my way with a little Internet code to check in the next couple of days.
Keep reading to see what I learned from my tests.
Here, besides my own results, are some of the things I learned from my visit to Denver Metro Health Clinic:
- The safest sex is abstinence, but since not everyone wants to do that, getting tested is the smartest and safest thing you can do.
- Some people don't like oral sex, and that's okay.
- The Gardasil vaccination for HPV is now available for men, but insurance companies only cover it if you are between the ages of 19 and 26.
- 80 percent of people either have or have had HPV. The body's immune system can usually beat it within two years.
- If you don't have insurance, the HPV vaccination requires three different shots ranging from $300 to $500 per shot.
- Hepatitis C testing is primarily for intravenous drug users, but that doesn't mean you should overlook it entirely.
- The HIV test is only relevant for partners outside of the past ninety days.
- A follow-up HIV test is $50.
- If you think something might be wrong, find out so you don't give the same fear to someone else down the road.
- It's okay to have consensual sex with anyone you want; just be safe about it.
- If you don't know if your partner is on birth control, don't run the gauntlet.
- Don't be stupid with sex. But smart, consexual sex is awesome: fun, exciting, intimate and explosively climactic.
- Phlebotomists, despite their job, are the kindest people on earth.
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