I’m clean

Not long ago, I wrote about getting tested for STDs.

I met with a nurse at my clinic, asked a few questions about the screening, undressed from the waist down and draped myself in paper. Here’s what I learned:

  • I would be screened for Chlamydia and Gonorrhea using a cervical culture, and for Syphilis and HIV via blood draw.
  • I would not be screened for HPV, the Human Papilloma Virus, or HSV, the Herpes virus. A blood test to screen for antibodies would not be particularly helpful, since many people have been exposed to these viruses and might have the antibodies indicating a healthy immune response. Unless I’d had an abnormal Pap test or was experiencing symptoms (I was not — and have not ever), it would be difficult to tell if I actually had either disease.
  • My beau, who’d had a bout with HPV awhile back, was not likely to be infectious. According to the CDC, “In 90% of cases, the body’s immune system clears HPV naturally within two years.” The nurse confirmed that we likely did not need to worry.

I was reassured after the chat with the nurse, and eager to share what I’d learned with my guy. I’d have to wait five to ten business days for results.

Last week, I received the all clear from my clinic. And I’ll leave what happened next to your imagination!

getting tested

Woo hoo! It seems I’ve made it past the interview stage, into not only hand-holding and smooching, but also into the stage of frank and mature discussions about health…that is, sexual histories, STDs and how to enjoy these blessed bodies in a way that’s respectful and safe.

My beau brought up the discussion under the guise of talking about dating. I thought we might talk about dating philosophy or have that discussion that two people who’ve met online frequently have about continuing to see and or meet other people. (Which, by the way, is fine with me…because I’d rather a fella meet a lot of people and feel absolutely certain that I’m the one for him.) Instead, he brought up sexual history, number of partners (for the record, I stopped counting more than a decade ago) and STDs.

For a moment, some of these questions seemed rather blunt…that is, until he followed up with, “I’ve had one.”

It turns out he was once exposed to HPV, the virus which, depending on the strain, can cause either genital warts or cervical cancer. Neither of which sounds all that appealing to me. Nor does this virus, which is carried and passed along by so many that middle school children are routinely offered a vaccination to prevent it, seem like a daunting hurdle to a healthy sex life. After all, I would expect that a man wear condoms anyway — at least in the initial stages of a relationship, before longer-term solutions are considered.

Still, there are many questions:

  • Does the risk go away? Is this something that, because he got it, he still has? Or might his immune system have rid his body of it?
  • Have I ever been exposed (I mean previously, by someone else)? Is it possible to have had and built up my own immunity?
  • How is it contracted? Might touch or saliva expose one to risk and how much?
  • What, if anything, might I have been exposed to or be carrying around with me?
  • What else don’t I know? What other questions should I be asking?

For the record, I’ve never had reason to suspect that anything was awry down there. I feel and, by all appearances, am healthy. My most recent relationship was long-term and monogamous…as far as I know. My annual exams have always produced “normal” results. And, since, I’ve had only a few partners and with whom I’d say I’ve had “safe” sex.

But I’ve heard stories, too.

The safest, smartest and most respectful decision I can make for both myself and my partner is to get tested, learn the facts and educate myself as much as possible about all the risks and issues of being sexually active. And that’s why I’ve scheduled an appointment at my OB / GYN’s office for this week. Cross fingers there are no surprises.