Sexual health is something that is so important to monitor. STDs can potentially be very dangerous and STIs can leave you infertile, that’s why you have to stay on top of it. In this case, prevention is very much better than cure, which makes sense. Despite this being such a huge part of medicine, there’s sometimes still a stigma around having to check yourself for STIs, some people think they’re going to be judged for being promiscuous, or having cheated on their partner. It’s really important to make the point that no-one is going to judge you at sexual health clinics, the doctors and nurses are there to treat people, not stand in judgement on their life choices. So that’s the first thing to know. You can stay completely anonymous if you want, you don’t even have to give your real name and you can choose how you communicate with the clinic, if you need to. They take your privacy very seriously indeed, and whatever you’re going for, they will have seen it before, you won’t be the first!
With that said, there are still lots of people who find the idea of visiting a sexual health clinic too intimidating, or they can’t face talking about their problems face to face. With lots of issues, you can find generalised advice online, emergency contraception, for example, and you can go and buy what you need in a chemist with no further discussion needed. But if there’s something more serious wrong, or you can’t find the info you’re looking for, or you’re worried that you’ve been exposed to an STI, you can now find out your sexual health status in the privacy of your own home.
There are companies which will send you a testing kit after you’ve filled out your details online. You can check for:
- -Chlamydia (genital, oral and rectal)
- -Hepatitis B
- -Hepatitis C
So it’s quite the comprehensive service. You can do one blood test at home which will screen for HIV, syphilis, Hep C and Hep B, all in one go, you don’t need multiple separate tests. The idea of doing a blood test yourself might seem a bit daunting, but honestly, there’s hardly anything to it. Here are some tips from people who have done this blood test before.
Obviously it’s easy to get slightly overwhelmed by doing your own blood test at home, after all, it’s normally done by the professionals in a clinic. But don’t worry, there are no veins to find, or needles to insert, it’s just a finger prick test to get a small amount of blood out. So here’s some advice about prepping for this, good prep is essential to make the whole process go smoothly:
- Relax, be patient and if you’re nervous you can ask someone else to help out, or just be there as moral support.
- If you have long hair, then tie it back and take off any scarves or jewellery that could get in your way.
- Lay the test kit items and your two tissues on a clean, flat surface below your waist.
Helping the blood flow.
- Take a hot bath or shower, or you can hold your hand under warm water for a few minutes, (when your hands are warm, blood flows more easily).
- Stay standing up and keep your arm straight out, with your hand below your waist.
- Aim for the middle of the tip of your finger, but not too close to your fingernail.
- Push the lancet down firmly against your finger.
- Wipe the first dot of blood away with a clean tissue to stop the blood congealing.
- If your finger dries up, wait a while, warm up your hand, use another finger and make sure that you’re pressing the lancet down hard.
What details do I have to give?
If you’re ordering test kits for home, you will have to give some details about yourself and any relevant medical history. Normally this would be done by a doctor/nurse for you, but in this instance you’ll be providing all the info yourself. Typically, it will be your name, date of birth and post code, then you might be asked what gender you identify as (and you will have a few options for this) and what your sexual preferences are. They will probably ask about your situation, i.e. what has led to this, such as:
- -Have you had unprotected sex?
- -Do you currently have symptoms of an STI?
- -Have you been sexually assaulted?
- -Have you ever had treatment for an STI/STD before?
- -Have you ever been to a sexual health clinic before?
These questions are designed to give a clearer picture of your medical background, which helps them to give you the right treatment.
So if you’re someone who’s not sure about approaching a clinic in person, then this could be the solution for you. The really important thing is to seek medical advice and treatment if you need it, in whatever way you prefer. And the most important thing to take away from all this, is that prevention is better than cure, so investing in some high quality condoms is an absolute must.