The intention behind this photo is not for you to focus on my beautiful vulva (puppet), but to notice the bandage on my arm. It's STI/D screening day for little 'ol me! And I thought I should share this with you as I believe most people tend to get checked out ONLY when they think something is wrong as opposed to taking preventative measures in knowing the status of their health beforehand. In my case, while I do not have any red flags, I've made a few life changes - one being that I am recently single - and thought it would be a good idea to check in with my body so I can safely and comfortably share it with new partner/s ;)
Note that the last time I was tested was when my most recent partner and I decided to be monogamous in the beginning of our relationship. We had been practicing the safer side of safer sex by using condoms all the way up until the test results came in. I like to give myself a pat on the back for being so responsible with that one, especially because I find many people are equating committed monogamy with a clean bill of health. And as most of us know but often deny, monogamy does not have the ability to wipe out one's sexual past, and a person's word can only go so far.
My point here is this: no matter what your relationship status is, red flags or not, if you have never been tested and are sexually active or have been in the past, or if you are the least bit uncertain about your sexual health, or just want to be that responsible sexual being that can proudly say, "I got tested" and live comfortably in your skin, then why not do it?
With that said, here's a very relevant Ask Amy question (answered by Lollie) on testing 101:
My question concerns locations, and prices, for getting some good, in-fashion, testing done?
I would like to get tested to ensure that I am disease-free and healthy. What is a good resource to find centers for that testing, and am I looking at a large expense? Are there centers offering these services for free (ala Planned Parenthood maybe)? Do I need insurance?
Unfortunately, I don’t think there are very many free STI screening options now that Planned Parenthood has lost so much important funding. Low-cost testing may be available, but many folks are finding that unless they have good insurance, a comprehensive set of STI tests can be somewhat pricy. Each of the lab tests can run up a good $100 or more, and there are at least seven STI/D's to test for: chlamydia, syphilis, gonorrhea, herpes, human papillomavirus, HIV, and hepatitis A, B, and C (note- herpes tests are done through blood work and often come back inconclusive). I recommend getting an estimate of the cost before you dive into it. Be sure to ask about financial assistance or low-income options as well. I do know that you can still get HIV tests done for free (plus same day). Here’s a great list of HIV testing centers and services offered in Santa Cruz County.
While the tests themselves can be costly to come by, they are definitely worth the check-up. And once you know the status of your sexual health, you can take precautionary measures to protect yourself and/or your partner/s. With new partners, use a latex barrier, such as a condom or a dental dam. Sometimes using protection can be a challenge, but remember that it is always worth it to protect your body and your health!
Educate yourself about the various STIs, their symptoms, and how they are transmitted so that you are always prepared. If you do have an STI, tell your potential partners before having sexual contact with them so that they can attend to the risks with you.
Good luck and stay safe!