A sexual health test can be daunting, regardless if it’s your first time or you have had several during your past. What will happen to me? What if I have something? and What will others think of me? are just some questions that are constantly on your mind.
I can fully understand the feelings that you encounter when you arrive and are sitting in the waiting room waiting for your name to be called out. I’ve had several tests in the past and still feel nervous now. There’s often a misconception that if you wear a condom during sex, then you don’t need to have a test. Well, that is a load of rubbish.
The truth is that you can never be 100% safe, even with contraception. The chances are that if you have unprotected sex, you are at more risk of contracting an STI. Whilst that is dangerous and can lead to severe health issues if left untreated, it can also lead towards unwanted negative attention towards yourself.
Being an openly gay man, there’s still a lot of negative stereotypes that I hear on a regular basis with regards to promiscuity amongst gay men. I hear from many people within the gay community that they feel they are exempt from sexual health tests simply because they’re always ‘careful’. What does ‘careful’ actually mean? Well, in this context, it doesn’t mean a thing.
I’ve experienced first-hand how damaging HIV can be to someone. I’ve lost a dear friend to the virus and the fact is, a quarter of people living with HIV in the UK are unaware they are infected. My friend didn’t know he had it until it was too late. If he had gone for a routine test, then maybe things would’ve been different. So, I felt it only right that I did my part in raising awareness of World Aids Day and got tested for HIV.
I actually felt a little bit unsure of whether I wanted to do it – I’m scared of needles for one. Little did I know that thanks to technology evolving so quickly, I would find out my results within a minute. Whilst it felt like a weight had been lifted on my shoulders, it suddenly made me realise that the type of services we freely have access to can be taken for granted. The Terrence Higgins Trust in Coventry runs a number of confidential clinics, where you can go to find out more information about the services they provide, engage in confidential chats and of course, have a sexual health test.
Then, the question of what will others think of me occurred in my mind again. How can I tell someone I’ve been for a sexual health test? Will they judge me? What if they ask about my results? My advice is quite simple: be honest with yourself, and then be honest with others. There’s nothing wrong in telling somebody you’ve had a sexual health test. It shows that you care about yours and others’ health. It might encourage others to do the same.
Whilst some people are hazards towards themselves, now more than ever we need to make more people aware of the dangers that can lurk from one silly mistake.
Until next time,