Last Updated on June 4, 2020 by Debra Rose Wilson, PhD, MSN, RN, IBCLC, AHN-BC, CHT
This guest post was written by Elissa White, an STD testing counselor at getSTDtested.com.
As an STD testing counselor at getSTDtested.com, some might argue it’s a profession worthy of an episode of Discovery Channel’s ‘Dirty Jobs’. Being an STD testing counselor is certainly not for the faint of heart, whether I’m serving as a shoulder to cry on or I’m listening to a patient vividly describe their symptoms.
Regardless, STDs happen every day, and they aren’t a matter to shun or ignore.
I’ve learned a lot during my time as an STD testing counselor and heard some raucous sex stories, but here are my five most notable takeaways:
Education is key.
When it comes to sex and sexually transmitted diseases or infections, education is important—times a million. Proper sex education can mitigate unnecessary worrying and fears.
After fielding phone calls as an STD testing counselor for a couple years, I’ve noticed there a lot of misconceptions around STDs, especially surrounding transmission. I’ve had dozens of calls (among thousands) from extremely worried individuals who were concerned about an exposure from sharing a towel, swimming pools, a massage, handjobs, or a lap dance.
Keep in mind—STDs are sexually transmitted, whether from oral, vaginal, or anal sex. STDs are not spread through casual contact or inanimate objects; if we could catch STDs from everyday contact or a toilet seat, these infections would be much, much more widespread.
Knowing the facts helps people avoid worrying about non-issues and realistically gauge their risks.
Note from The STI Project’s Admin: getSTDtested.com tests for Chlamydia, Gonorrhea, Hepatitis B & C, HIV, Herpes (HSV1 & HSV2), Syphilis, and Trichomoniasis – all STDs commonly referred to as STDs. The STI Project includes additional STDs which straddle the STD boundaries – they are commonly contracted through casual contact too and are not always referred to as a sexually transmitted disease due to how they were transmitted – albeit, they are not as contagious as the common cold or flu and can be contracted through sexual activity as well (Cytomegalovirus-CMV, Mononucleosis – ‘Mono’, and Molluscum Contagiosum are examples). If a reference site lists one of these infections as being sexually transmitted, The STI Project tries to include information on those infections; therefore, some of the sexually transmitted disease and infection information will differ on The STI Project because we are including a larger group of potential STDs.
We all make mistakes; no one is perfect.
We are all human, and we all do things we regret at points in our lives. I had one conversation with a married woman in her 50s who had an affair—without protection—and needed an HIV and STD test. As a mother, this woman constantly promotes safe sex and condoms use to her teenagers; so not only was she aware of the risk associated with her actions, but she was also burdened with feelings of guilt and hypocrisy. But by STD testing, she was taking responsibility for her actions and moving forward. I’m not a judge of right or wrong, but prompt STD testing prevented this problem from escalating.
It’s ok to talk about STDs, sex and everything in between.
This isn’t the Victoria era—sex is everywhere! Still, it’s rare for people to openly discuss sex.
Many times, people call our phone line because they don’t have anyone else to talk to about their personal issues. We understand that some people are sensitive about these matters or come from communities where these behaviors are frowned upon, but we’re here to listen to your concerns regardless of your situation and provide unbiased, fact-based information.
No one is immune to STDs.
This anecdote comes from another 50-something-year-old woman. After her husband of 20 years passed away, she was ready to start dating again. She and her new partner were ready to get intimate, but they wanted to test for STDs first. She then said something very interesting, ‘The last time I dated—in the late 1970s—HIV didn’t exist and no one worried about chlamydia.’
Clearly, times have changed and everyone needs to keep sexually transmitted diseases or infections on their radar, both young and old.
STD testing provides relief and peace of mind. Always.
Whether you are positive or negative, testing provides answers. A negative result often signals a sigh of relief.
One fellow who I walked through the STD testing process—from beginning to end—promised he would take me out for a drink if he was negative, despite being states apart. When his results came back negative, drinks never happened (a pipe dream from the start), but he did express his relief with an emphatic ‘I LOVE YOU!’
On the other end of the spectrum, a positive result still provides answers and enables treatment to start promptly. Keep in mind—a positive diagnosis does not mean your life is over, regardless of the diagnosis. I’ve never spoke with anyone who regretted STD testing, despite their results.
To reiterate my first point, knowledge is power—especially when it comes to your health.
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This guest post was written by Elissa White, an STD testing counselor, content contributor and drinker of tea at getSTDtested.com. To contact Elissa or learn more about STD testing, follow getSTDtested.com on Twitter.
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What did you think about the some of the misconception Elissa hears while counseling people through STD testing? Have you been similarly scared to get tested? Share your thoughts in the comments section below!